Who is on the plum tree?
In this week’s “In The Sandbox,” Dr. Koshy introduces a theme which I am sure many of us poets are familiar with: Depression and Suicide. For some of us, those moments when the soul is in despair are the richest in terms of inspiration…
By Ampat Koshy
Sometimes in life one is depressed beyond measure. This may come from either having messed up one’s own life or having messed up the lives of others also. Whichever the cause, and by the way the ones I have stated are only two of many such causes for depression, reading poetry in such times or writing it consoles us.
What they read in such instances varies from person to person but I turn to very dark gloomy poetry from Grecian or Roman times, the poetry of people like Sextus Propertius or Ovid or Sappho, or Malayalam poetry sometimes, that is; poetry in my mother tongue or by someone from my home state in Kerala who writes in English. Today I remember two poets in this context, Balachandran Chullikad who writes beautiful lyrics and K Satchindanandan. Satchindanandan once said that insanity was his muse in Atta Galatta, an interesting bookstore in Bangalore. Satchidanandan has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize.
I quote a poem of his that strangely enough buoys me up.
I CAN TALK TO THE DEAD
I can talk to the dead:
dead men, trees, rivers.
Sometimes I see my ancestors:
My granny flies on proverbs,
my grandpa crosses rivers on riddles.
Some swing on quartrains and couplets,
some ride chessmen.
Some play in circles, ploughing fields,
some pluck the betel leaves of heaven.
Sometimes I come across my dead friends.
They have not changed much; only
their bodies have turned into glass.
We can see their hearts inside.
No, they have not stopped, they beat
faster than our hearts.
They cry in the voice of drizzles and
laugh softly like falling leaves.
they are not very different from us,
the so-called living; only sometimes
they choose to fly. Their desires, anxieties,
disappointments: everything is like our own.
Death is not the end of doubts;
questions still haunt them.
But they lost their language long ago.
Their sun rises like a skull in the east.
Mushrooms grow on their foreheads.
When I am talking to myself,
I am really talking to the dead.
When I am talking to you too.
Sun has set in our language.
( Translated from the Malayalam by the poet )
Why I like this poem is because of its dirge like and elegiac atmosphere whereby it lays our hopes about what happens in the afterlife to rest, showing it as a continuation that is not better or worse, only different. The last stanza especially captures my attention as a lament for the death of indigenous languages, language, poetry and for – to end up where I started out – oneself in not being able to become better or for not being able to stop hurting others which accounts for the notion that we are already dead, you and I.
For those who want to read more of and about K Satchidanandan you can on his site which is also where I took this poem from – “http://www..com/picantalktothedead.html” and for those interested in Balachandran Chullikad, another beautiful Malayalam poet, you can look up his poems here – “http://www.kritya.in/0511/En/poetry_at_our_time5.html”
And today’s challenge? Why not try writing a poem with the title I Can Talk to the Dead in the comments box, dear friends?