Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1861) Unclaimed
To make love with a stranger is the best. There is no riddle and there is no test. -- To lie and love, not aching to make sense Of this night in the mesh of reference. To touch, unclaimed by fear of imminent day, And understand, as only strangers may. To feel the beat of foreign heart to heart Preferring neither to prolong nor part. To rest within the unknown arms and know That this is all there is; that this is so.
I've never been big on Vikram Seth as a poet. Sure, his poems are clever enough (and some of his translations are exquisite) - he's witty and has a good ear for rhyme - but his poems always seem to me to lack something vital. As a poet, Seth takes the easy way out too often, lapses too quickly into cliches, has too pronounced a tendency to be trite or banal. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED Golden Gate, but as an exercise in verse, not poetry (oh, and I think he's an incredible novelist - An Equal Music has to be one of my favourite books - but that's another story). This poem is the one exception - a poem so beautiful, so heartbreakingly perfect, that it makes me forgive all his other silliness. It's a simple enough poem - the entire idea flatly stated in the first line (and what an incredible honest idea it is, reminding me always of Joan Baez's Love Song to a Stranger - another song that deserves to be on Minstrels) - but its plain couplets (such a wonderful use of form - the two by two rhythm of desire and receive, demand and surrender, reach and completion) capture perfectly that sense of restless and deeply physical intimacy that exists between two people discovering each other through touch. Seth takes something we usually think of as cheap and turn away from and converts it into something achingly lovely - a touchstone of desire freed of all other obligations. There are some beautiful phrases here "not aching to make sense / of this night in the mesh of reference" but somehow what comes across is not the (somewhat clunky) cleverness of the words, but the honesty with which Seth speaks of something so pure, so elemental. Aseem. P.S. I can't believe you don't already have this!