Poetry | Sunday Observer


16 January, 2022

Measure for Measure

The night mail sped up
The grating roar of its engine piercing the stillness of night
The incandescent beam of its front light
Blazing a trail of light ahead;
On either side of the railroad
The dark woods were darker still.
Only where the railroad curved
Were the tall ghostly outlines of some of the trees
briefly illuminated.
At every known elephants’ pass
The train would slow
For there’d been many a tragedy on a row
No sooner did the train speed past the last elephants’ pass
Than a calf dashed across before the train
Just a split second or even less too late
The train hit what seemed to jump back sensing the imminent danger
But its body already mangled,bereft of the last vestiges of life
Within the infinitely sad space of a moment
Got thrown into a clump of tall grass
That bent to the ground under the crushing weight of death
As its mother elephant looked on, stunned in her voiceless grief.
Presently, she raised her trunk and gave out a cry
That clenched the hearts of everyone like a vice
Within the earshot:
“That’s my baby boy and he was loved”
She’d have said like Pilate did when her granddaughter Hagar died
Had she been able to voice it.
Like Pilate’s, her words would have tossed like stones
Into a silent canyon.
“It’s a heart-rending tragedy”
All people said and the newspapers reported
The calf was buried near where it’d been killed.
From the next day on the story was out
That she came and bewailed her baby son at his burial site
Everyday and then she cried near the police station
As if to lodge a complaint about her baby boy in her moral fury
Whom the monstrous night mail had snuffed out
Like the bereft cow that rang the bell at the King Elara’s court
Pleading for justice for her calf run over by a royal chariot.
Yesterday, the villagers had found her mangled carcass
Cut, torn, and maimed by the same train the night before.
Neither the train nor anyone wanted them killed
They were both accidents, but unavoidable for some reason.
But, why did it have to be this mother and son?
Why did it have to be as heart-rending as this?
Perhaps, it’d already had been written
Precisely, unchangeably, and indelibly
In the stone inscription of fate:
An irrevocable double death sentence.
The karma’s long broad dichotomous shadow
Follows all of us invisibly, eternally, and accurately
Dispensing justice, more soberly than the best sitting judge
Life after life, everywhere in the universe;
Of all the evils ever perpetrated, even those unbeknownst to the world,
The heart’s august court, the judge and the jury, sits forever in judgement
Penetrating even the iron curtain of death (as we, the mortals regard it)
Separating one life from another
Hearing it all case after case, never tired-out, never adjourning
In the relentless course of justice
Magisterially summoning all records of hard evidence
Kept intact in the invisible but indelible vault of conscience,
Impenetrable, unbreachable, and indestructible;
Every verdict passed, irrevocable, sometimes stands
Beyond many a life and many a death,
All the same;
Strange and harsh, you’d say, but still unquestionably fair.
You’d agree;
For all the good done, the good is returned
Multiplied manyfold
Measure for measure.

Words: Jayashantha Jayawardhana


The Wounded Deer

I have a woman’s face
but I’m a little stag,
because I had the guts
to come this far into the forest,
to where the trees are broken.
The nine points of my antlers
have battled
with the nine arrows in my hide.
I can hear the bone-saw
in the ocean on the horizon.
I emerged from the waters
of the Hospital for Special Surgery.
It had deep blue under-rooms.
And once, when I opened my eyes
too quickly after the graft,
I could see right through
all the glass ceilings,
up to where lightning forked
across the New York sky
like the antlers of sky-deer,
rain arrowing the herd.
Small and dainty as I am
I escaped into this canvas,
where I look back at you
in your steel corset, painting
the last splash on my hoof.

Words: Pascale Petit


The Laughing Heart

Your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
There are ways out.
There is light somewhere.
It may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
Be on the watch.
The gods will offer you chances.
Know them.
Take them.
You can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous
the gods wait to delight in you.

Words: Charles Bukowski