Title: Under Neruda

Author: Sudesh Mishra

In: Sport 12: Autumn 1994

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 1994, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

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Sport 12: Autumn 1994

Under Neruda

Under Neruda

The poet cannot be afraid of the people. —Memoirs

And today my mind’s full of you, Kavi,
Not for any reason in
Particular but because … because all
Night I have lived in sin,
A wild genital fire charring a forest of lovers,
A dream that old divers
Insist augurs death:
The pricked bubble, the bruising ocean,
The cessation of breath.

And have changed nothing in the world but a few verses
That the poor, quite rightly,
Ignore: for these are not in their language
Nor about them: you see
I cannot boil my shlokas to your lava-pitch,
Raise beggars from the ditch,
Arm them with a pride
That’ll pause for neither man nor treaty
Till they measure our stride,

Or we measure theirs in seraphic supermarkets
Where each trolley chooses
Its own millenium as we trundle
Down an aisle banked with roses,
Crooning shanties from one or another reef,
Yet never profaning the brief
Of a species that can make
A difference to this injured earth,
If only for its own sake.

page 55

All night they broke containers on our wharves,
The muscular stevedores;
At daybreak the spidery cranes folded
Their proboscis, and the laws
Of trade saw the Tasman Asia drifting out to sea,
Taking the ten and three
Containers of whatever
It is we export, leaving behind
A city the size of Java

Constructed from metal dominoes, populated
By crates of caviar, claret,
Fleets of Reebok, celestial Toyotas,
Dyes the colour of carrot
And a thousand Bibles, Billy Graham’s Version,
To supplement their vision
Of the peasant’s official diet
Of bele and dalo and third-grade tea.
O to keep out the light!

Shyar, I must shed this bourgeois vestment
If the slums are to shrink,
If we’re to walk with the shoeless
Shoe-maker to the brink
Of a valley that is the underside of capital,
Where a petal’s a petal
And not commodity,
And the earth praises us, its creatures,
And life’s sweet as lychee.