The strong south wind hits our faces again,
sunsets are fiery red
and the waters of wells are clear already-
there we are, under the mango tree,
in the old house, amid the drift of things,
the vase on the bookcase
with shadows of swifts reeling round it,
and we don't know whether we are alone any more.
But each day
we watch the swifts come and go,
watch the still-slender, teasing whore
who shuffles down the crowded road and finds out
that the middle-aged man surreptitiously following her
is only listening to the slowing sounds
of his own heart; and we sit and long
for the child who left in 'seventy-three,
and behave like our bitch that catches a scent
and sniffs about in the air.
We look around today and the day after tomorrow,
remembering those who caught us like irrigation-canals
across the dry nights in the distant countryside,
and remembering, suddenly, someone
who once envied us and our bodies
so impudent, glistening with rain.
Ah, this voice I hear now,
what answer do I owe you?
The tree trembles in the wind,
the house where we once made love
now weakens at the knees. And all the time
that gathered into those moments
fills the grave of the vast vase with dust.
Let us see what is he doing with the flower vase? What a flower vase to him? A modern poet and that too from physics faculty he will just take poetry in his way rather than the beaten one as is the case with most of the modern Indian English poets so privately personal and individual.
It is October, the strong south wind seems to be hitting the faces, sunsets are fiery red and the waters of wells are clear. Under the mango tree, in the old house, amid the drift of things, the vase on the bookcase lies it there with the swifts of shadows reeling it around and they are not sure of if they are really alone, passing time, looking the things around mindfully or unmindfully. What is that takes his mind, engages it? How the things of consciousness, the impressions and sensations doing the rounds? The heart of things, how to feel it, the heart of hearts?
Times come and go so do the swifts and turns and rounds of man, things and situations. But still, he can see the slender whore passing through and the middle-aged person following her stealthily stealing the moments; and on the one hand he keeps seeing the whore and the person after while on the other personal things keep engaging him. And so, the things of flesh and blood take over making him sensual and remindful of it on the personal level what it happened to him in sometime in seventy-three when something untoward happened it with the leaving of the child. If they can make love, can he not? God knows, why the bitch keeps sniffing and smelling? What has it found? What has it smelt?
The poet remembers the old house, the old country and the old mango tree. The tree trembles it in the wind. But the days are almost extinct. Old love remains it not. But the mind still feeds on those memories. The old house too seems to be giving away as has got old enough, needs to looked after and repaired, renovated.
What it troubles us most is this that Mahapatra grows personal and sensual so full of the twitches of the body. Flesh and blood contact leaves him not, give and take relationship, attraction and repulsion felt in love. Luscious kisses and lustrous eyes leave him not behind as well as human treachery and coquetry. The intricacies of our complex human relationship, how to unravel them? Man-woman relationship is the main story of the poem, the lust and fascination for the body, satisfaction felt in love. There is something Freudian, Lawrentine, Vatsyayanaian and Rajneeshite in it. How is love, the love of the body? How is mind, human mind? Where does it go to? How is its thinking? Our speeches are full of defects and we try to correct to socialize them when we say it. So are our feelings and emotions so animalistic, abnormal, primitive and aboriginal. Jayanta Mahapatra delves into the abnormal psyche of man and his mind.
Life is not life if not with love, the house not a house if not cemented with relationship. The album will speak of it. The items spent together, how to forget them, the moments lived and enjoyed, shared together under the tree shade, in the old house ever making us remember of? As the irrigations canals are sometimes dry and sometimes full of waters so the emotions of relationship and lust, affection and bonding, sympathy and attraction.
The poet is physical, bodily, sexual as well as sensual here in this poem. The changing times, climates, scenes and situations intrigue it in the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra and so is human mind and heart so treacherous and wicked. There is nothing barring love and sex and animalism in it. Human heart is but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s heart and now conclude you what you want to.
The flower vase is just a a symbol. It will remain if fresh flowers are placed in, but the same in course of time gets buried with the falling old house. It gets dust-laden if not cleaned. The vase of life, how to keep it? As long as we are, the vase is, as long as our heart is lively so long will it and the moment we desert it, the vase too turn into an ordinary pot. The vase will remain attractive only into the hands of an interior decorator, a beautician if she wishes it to be there with the flowers placed into the pot and kept in the house and if the decorator of dreams is herself not, how will the house be decorated in her absence? Who will take care of? Similar is human life. If things are, but love is not, how to take to life? Something also loses lustre when it gets old.
In Mahapatra’s poetry whores take a major part and engage the poetic space of his poetry. What is the matter we understand it not. Are we pure from our within? Are we true to ourselves? Are we enchanted or disenchanted with the body?
What does the vase symbolize it? Is it loveliness or the scent of relationship? Is it fragrance or the loss of beauty? What are we up for? Why do the things ramble in consciousness? How the titbits of our abnormal consciousness? The passing impressions of the mind, how to catch them for an interpretation just as a trail of imagery, the train bogies of thought and idea passing by? What do they leave it behind as the residues of meaning? How do the things get distilled through the abnormal layers?
On reading him, we sometimes question it, why is there the whore imagery in a plenty in him? Why is his poetry replete with it? Is the woman a whore in the eyes of the poet? Is he a poet of male domination and possessive love? What is the thing? What is the matter? We understand it not.
Human mind cannot go beyond the man-woman relationship. The Lawrentine scent of blood is so strong in him. Even the siesta he describes smacks of the scent of blood, the sweat of humid, warmer, summertime relationship and bonding when it blows the hot wind, we mean the loo, the sun blazing hot, the heat ruffling it well.
Jayanta Mahapatra is a poet of the dream children, the dream children of the single Charles Lamb as well as the story-teller, Martha of Walter de la Mare and the horseman and imaginary listeners of the haunted house with the horse chumping green grass one moonlit night near it and he as an unknown guest trying to know who is in the house and the ghosts as listeners murmuring, whispering with the stranger appearing on the scene and hearing them just as the horseman he keeps knocking at the locked door of the house of some unknown location.
Jayanta Mahapatra is a poet of the ‘achetana manna, asamanya manna’ and his poetry the poetry of the Konark temple, the poetry of sculptures at war, in love, relationship and affection, reflecting ‘dharma-artha-kaama’ motif.
How will it be the vase of life and love, how to say it? What to say about the house of affection and relationship? What it the base of life? The vase is as long as we keep nurturing it, nourishing with.
It is a poem of human lust and affection. The poet is very personal here. Here the love of the body is quite possessive of his mind and heart and he dwells therein into the dark world of man-woman relationship. Where to go leaving the body?