I waddle daily
to the carefree laughter
of youth—freshly flowered—
beneath the casuarinas,
The staccato banter and songs
drifting down the corridors,
The brightly sparkling eyes
that gaze upon endless vistas,
The polite smiles and good-mornings.
You kick and twist and drag me down,
rippling beneath my pulled-down dupatta,
Altering my life’s centre of gravity;
But I brush away the cobwebs and smile,
Acknowledge their greetings,
Maybe in memory of days
not long ago when I too
was one of them.
They say of woman:
And on top, pregnant.
And on top, forged in fire.
I see the passion
pulsing in their veins,
that deck their hair,
The stars in their eyes.
Not so far removed in age,
But alas! I care no longer
for the sprezzatura
of roses and cards
and moonlit verses
and all that jazz.
I talk to them of human frailty
And beauty and infinity;
I teach them the nightingale’s rhapsody,
The desire to cease upon
the midnight hour with no pain,
To soar upon the viewless wings of poesy;
Metre and alliteration, stress and sprung rhythm,
Dialect and diglossia.
I see their eyes glaze over, some of them,
Lost in illusory enchanted lands . . .
I wish I could gently shake them
and teach them
The clanging, jarring
The falling tone of vanity and ideals
and hopeless romance,
The enjambement of disillusionment,
The deconstruction of truth.
But then I know I mustn’t.
I must let them feel it, taste it, live it
For what is life, if not these brief preludes
before grimness punctures the heart
and greyness punctuates your laughs?
If not the steely resolve that rises
like a phoenix to soar over the ruins
of the present to swoop down on that
liminal land of luminosity
that lies between knowledge and despair?
And I know that is what I must teach
these tender blooms before winter comes,
And you, my child, in the years to come.