Thursday, May 18, 2006

Traveling in Time's Labyrinth

Octavio Paz was a traveler. He knew quite a bit about mankind's solitary voyage in time's labyrinth and the many struggles to defy it. Legends, rituals, myths and sometimes even history are contrivances devised to counter the onslaught.

His impressions as an urbanite traveling across cities that endure afflictions of memory have a deeper and personal resonance with a displaced reader like me. The poem "Last Dawn" says more than the few words it ever needed to take shape, with its interludes of broken images from the elements of nature and an imaginary alter life into the loveless entanglement of urban living. It draws a starkly surreal but evocative and intimate visual. The personal rituals and myths in cities germinate and perish momentarily leaving the quest for another day:

Last Dawn

Your hair lost in the forest
your feet touching mine.
Asleep you are bigger than the night
but your dream fits within this room.

How much we are who are so little!
Outside a taxi passes
with its load of ghosts.
The river that runs by
is always
running back.

Will tomorrow be another day?


Cochin is a port where distant seafarers could get a short respite. St.Thomas came, and then came Nestorians from the east, Jews, Portuguese and then the colonial buccaneers - a microcosm of genome trails traveled by the sea and lagoons.

Paz trekked in Travancore as a poet and a heretic who happened to be the ambassador of the Aztecs (Mexico) to India. Notice Paz's sketch of Syrian Christian ladies decked in ancient splendor shuffle down the street to 6 o' clock mass when his heretic heart beat furiously and Shivaite cows seemed to take it in their stride:


Standing on tiptoe
to watch us go by,
among the coco-palms
tiny and white,
the Portugues church

Cinnamon-colored sails.
The wind picks up:
breasts in breath.

With shawls of foam,
jasmine in their hair
and earrings of gold,
they go off to six o'clock mass
not in Mexico City or Cadiz:
in Travancore.

Beating more furiously
before the Nestorean patriarch
my heretical heart.

In the Christian cemetery graze
probably Shivaite

Octavio Paz: Mexican Poet and Nobel prize winner. Two of his poems featured.


Prat said...

oooooh the poetry is so delightfully exotic.
thankyou for introducing me to this wonderful man.

Rajesh said...

prat, you are welcome.

sashi said...

Rajesh, as I am currently meditating on the differing responses to India by Paz and by Nerdua - this post of yours is very useful to my ruminations. Are the poems from "East Slope"?

Rajesh said...

sashi, long time.

Cochin is indeed from East Slope. Salamander had Last dawn. East slope has quite a number of indian impressions that revealed much deeper understanding and familiarity of indian experiences - from Collected poems of Octavio Paz.

Paz's notes at the end of the book are interesting as well.

asuph said...

You've been tagged. Please "pick up" the tag, if you can.

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