Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul
(Poem #1735) Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher
To force the pace and never to be still Is not the way of those who study birds Or women. The best poets wait for words. The hunt is not an exercise of will But patient love relaxing on a hill To note the movement of a timid wing; Until the one who knows that she is loved No longer waits but risks surrendering - In this the poet finds his moral proved Who never spoke before his spirit moved. The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more. To watch the rarer birds, you have to go Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow In silence near the source, or by a shore Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor. And there the women slowly turn around, Not only flesh and bone but myths of light With darkness at the core, and sense is found But poets lost in crooked, restless flight, The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.
I've never been a big Ezekiel fan. I see why he's so important to Indian English poetry and am happy to pay him the respect due to a literary ancestor who made so much of what followed (Mahapatra, Ramanujan, Kolatkar) possible, but I'm generally unimpressed by his poems. I find him a little too desperately modern, as if he were writing more out of a desire to be witty or different than from any real poetic vision. Which is why it's somewhat ironic that this should be the one exception - the one poem of his that I truly treasure. To be honest, I don't even like the whole poem - I think the last few lines are kitschy and trite, but I'm willing to overlook that for the sake of that breathless, exquisite first paragraph (and the first five lines of the second one). I cannot think of a poem where a fairly complex triple metaphor is carried off more effortlessly, more gracefully. The images of poet, lover and birdwatcher seem to fuse seamlessly together; the effect is almost visual - like watching a camera fade gently from one to the other. The language itself seems relaxed, patient. The clever rhyme pattern combines with the ebb and flow of the lines to give that first paragraph a strangely lilting, uplifting quality, combined with a sense of great peace. But it's not just the sound or the imagery of the poem that makes this poem work, it's also the idea. To find the one common trait between these three very different activities is genius enough, but Ezekiel expresses them beautifully, finding exactly the right phrases to make the comparison come alive. And there is, in that idea, something deeply moving (at least for me). This is not a poem I admired simply for its beauty or wit, this is a poem that has stayed with me through the years, become a part of the way I think and act and feel. It's a poem that comes back to me every time I find myself trying too hard to write; it's a poem that informs my relationships. "In this the poet finds his moral proved / Who never spoke before his spirit moved", Ezekiel writes. This is one of the few times in all his poems that I think he's seriously sticking to that advice; and the evidence is, literally, overwhelming. Aseem.  I've never been much for bird-watching, so that's one part of this poem I can't really speak to.