Παρασκευή, 25 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

Αγία (σιχαμένη) οικογένεια


Small-scale reflections on a great house


Sometimes I think that nothing 
that ever comes into this house 
goes out. Things that come in everyday 
to lose themselves among other things 
lost long ago among
other things lost long ago; 

lame wandering cows from nowhere 
have been known to be tethered, 
given a name, encouraged


to get pregnant in the broad daylight 
of the street under the elders' 
supervision, the girls hiding 

behind windows with holes in them. 

Unread library books 
usually mature in two weeks 
and begin to lay a row 

of little eggs in the ledgers 
for fines, as silverfish
in the old man's office room 

breed dynasties among long legal words 
in the succulence 
of Victorian parchment.

Neighbours' dishes brought up 
with the greasy sweets they made 
all night the day before yesterday 

for the wedding anniversary of a god, 

never leave the house they enter, 
like the servants, the phonographs, 
the epilepsies in the blood, 
sons-in-law who quite forget 
their mothers, but stay to check 
accounts or teach arithmetic to nieces, 

or the women who come as wives 
from houses open on one side 
to rising suns, on another 

to the setting, accustomed 
to wait and to yield to monsoons 
in the mountains' calendar 

beating through the hanging banana leaves 
And also anything that goes out 
will come back, processed and often
with long bills attached, 

like the hooped bales of cotton 
shipped off to invisible Manchesters 
and brought back milled and folded 

for a price, cloth for our days' 
middle-class loins, and muslin 
for our richer nights. Letters mailed 

have a way of finding their way back 
with many re-directions to wrong 
addresses and red ink-marks 

earned in Tiruvalla and Sialkot. 
And ideas behave like rumours, 
once casually mentioned somewhere 
they come back to the door as prodigies 

born to prodigal fathers, with eyes 
that vaguely look like our own, 
like what Uncle said the other day: 

that every Plotinus we read 
is what some Alexander looted 
between the malarial rivers.

A beggar once came with a violin 
to croak out a prostitute song 
that our voiceless cook sang 
all the time in our backyard. 

Nothing stays out: daughters 
get married to short-lived idiots; 
sons who run away come back 


in grand children who recite Sanskrit
to approving old men, or bring 
betel nuts for visiting uncles 

who keep them gaping with 
anecdotes of unseen fathers, 
or to bring Ganges water
in a copper pot 
for the last of the dying 
ancestors' rattle in the throat. 

And though many times from everywhere, 
recently only twice: 
once in nineteen-forty-three 
from as far as the Sahara, 

half -gnawed by desert foxes, 
and lately from somewhere
in the north, a nephew with stripes 

on his shoulder was called 
an incident on the border 
and was brought back in plane 

and train and military truck 
even before the telegrams reached, 
on a perfectly good 

Chatty afternoon. 

A.K. Ramanujan 


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