Song of the Earth by M. Gopalakrishna Adiga

BOMB 18 Winter 1987
018 Winter 1987

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

My birth was at the bottom rung of the Western Ghats
   at a distance of three rolls only from the boiling
                                                                cauldron sea.
She welcomed me waving her outstretched coconut
                                                                            branches,
She shook the rattle of arecanut bunch.
In the sugarcane press she sat at the teeth and made
   me drink the ceaseless flow of affection.
In the paddy, wheat and maize fields with fleshy
   songs she fed,
On the fragrant peaks of Jasmin, gorate and Mandara
   she lulled me to sleep.
She sieved me with the Jamoon sounds that flowed
   from the throat of birds.
To the universal form of the cloud in sky
   she added the protoplasm of the Earth.

Under everytree in the underwood the thickly fallen
   Dhoopanut sprouts, shrieks and cries;
Wherever the rain wand has touched the ups and
   downs there are sprouts, saplings and grass;
The rainbow intoxicating bulb like gorate flirts and
                                                                          giggles;
The bee with tinkling anklets lifts the cup of Nanda-
                                                          battalu to its lips.
Sitting in the backyard, I the pearl diver dived down
                                                             and deeper still;
The green waves swashed and foamed; there were
   winds and thunder;
Blinded by the maddening colourful pearls at the
   bottom I dallied till the evening;
Though I pulled the winebag sticking to my lips,
   my fancy searched its spring.

On the fence, at the edge of the field, on every inch
                                                                      of the grove
There are maternity homes, pain, anxiety and laughter;
   the log sprouts—what beauty, what shrieks and cries!

Nurses and Doctors move in and out—
   four persons always follow them;
In the cradle shop the bamboo is cheap;
The priest who christens children knows better the
                                                                funeral rites;
Packs and packs of worms crawl down to the earth
   from the slimy bark,
Flap their wings in the vacuum, clap and dance in the
                                                                            gutters;
Under the scorching sun leechlike worms dwell on
                                                            decaying carrions.

Oh what a thirst at the dawn for light.
In the dark waters of Yamuna shines a stone on
   the hood of the dark serpent;
Doors, windows, houses, towns and forests looked
                                                                    in wonder,
The childlike camera eye clicked from every angle.
In the darkness driven room reel after reel was shown
                                                              on muslin curtain.
In the ins and outs of the estuary played a chain of
                                                                                waves;
Pearl, gold, emerald, amethyst, red and yellow;
Wherever I fell I was in a snake-coupling;
Lips had the itch and thirst for an ocean;
I opened my eyes and listened to many colours,
My ears were full of green, white, yellow and red.
The cat with ghee smeared forehead was turning like
   a top with its tail in the air;

She hugged me more like a mother;
She suffered me repeatedly in her womb;
She throttled birds to sing for me;
She cut the throats of saplings to feed me.
This Dhritarastra love crushed this Bheema;
Nowhere was Krishna’s grace.

My feet have roots in her, vainly I hitched my wagon
                                                                      to the stars.
Like a spineless coward, I explored the endless path
   in the bathroom of my mind.

I am stricken with the secret sin of Oedipus.
I rode a tractor, ploughed and thrashed
I sowed and grew atom bombs
Deadly bacteria was all my joy.

They call me on and on, those heavenly birds
With sixty invitations to the court of wind;
They whisper in my ears, haunt me again and again.
This magician was ineffectual; I got angry with myself,
I dashed my brain against the pillars and windows.
Beating my wings against the walls I shrieked.
I pecked out my feathers and piled them on the
                                                                    dinner plate.

The colt neighed and danced, all round was grass
                                                                    and gram.
With the bridle of gold and golden rein,
With a crown of colourful quills over the head,
Harnessed to a coach it danced till its ribs were
                                                                    broken.

And then
‘The body was heavy, the mind was heavier’
‘How can the bride go to her in-laws?
Only the God of Tirupati should help her’
‘Those who pay for ale will all go to heaven’

Study of veda, shastra, purana, prayer and worship;
When the stock of oil is over
   She makes a wick before a broken lamp;
Even then this Matron won’t leave me, she raises the
   smoke of chillies and scratches the shell for its
   Kernel.
When I am carried in a bier, she can’t come out;
She brings forth another child.

In the lac—magic—house of Mother Earth
Memory of Hastinapura was not kindled.
Whether it was constructed by Maya of Suyodhana
I need not doubt till I scratch a match.
I enjoyed myself there: I skated on the slippery floor
   from the front yard to the inner darkness.
      “Who goes there? My mother?”
      “Mother? what is this madness? you stupid
                                                                    fellow”

     “Are you fury or fire, pray what can I do?
      “If you are manly, kill me, can you?”
Who pushed me into her gutter-womb? which
   trained-in-miscarriage witch?
Karna was swept by the waters; Radha became his
                                                                    foster mother;

   Kunti comes only to kill.
Her whole body is a maternity home and cemetery;
  She indulges in autosexuality;

Tiger, Cheetah, Elephant, Ox, Ram, Mule, Donkey,
   Mango ‘Nerile,’ Jack-tree, Jaaji and ‘Jaali’
   These are her natural offsprings.

Why did the demon of heterosexual thirst rise in her
                                                    the moment I came in?
They have left me blindfolded in the forest;
They have raised a fence of wires;
They serve me salt water to drink and live coal
   to eat;
They chain my leg and expect me to dance.

When the guest arrived, came six friends to
   greet me;
The candle burns, all around is melted wax,
Finally the wick will only be cinders.
Mother Earth is only a step mother.
She is Suruchi to Uttanapada
The forest is the only direction left for Dhruva,
Aranyaka paved the path.

Take away all the colourful clothes you offered,
Take this coat, this shirt and this pyjama
Even this broken cottage is yours; Take it away.
Unless I give away everything
   there is no other way for me.
Otherwise how can I hold my head high,
   and walk shoulder to shoulder with my equals?
Isn’t it only by giving up the god-given armour and
                                                                                sword
   I can bare my heart’s ambrosia?
Viswamitra signalled “Trishanku, you move towards
                                                                            heaven”

  He hung in mid air like a bat.
It is as difficult to take out your feet from slough
As the struggle that goes on in the sky-cage of golden
                                                                                  wires.

Mire is dirty, as soon as one is born there
                is the bier of the uterine fluid.
If it were all earth, a toy of mud, that would have
                                                                been something.
But even in this toy, there is a mechanism of breathing;
Beyond this mechanism there is the conspiracy
                                                of mysterious light.
The path of air has no footprints.

Look here, this is difficult:
What does anyone lose if dust goes to dust
Wind to wind, fire to fire,
Water to water and the element of sky to the sky?
   Something remains—
   an electric wire—
News from beyond the stars and nebulae,
Weird shapes coming from the netherworld;
There is a trickster that mixes and plays them
Some say they don’t know where the switch is
   having forgotten the head office address.
The remaining say it is still here.

In the dark narrow blind alley
We have to move groping the walls;
The lame on the shoulders of the blind
We have to watch our progress.

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Read the issue
018 Winter 1987