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10. The Suicide

7 December 2023

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Bereft of soul
My body shall be bare.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be bare.
Which would you rather have
O kind sea?
Which is the more dead
Of the two?
I throw the bodies out,
I cannot stand their smell.
Only the souls may enter
The vortex of sea.
Only the souls know how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.
Your body shall be dead,
Poor thing,
Dead as driftwood, drifting
And drifting to the shore.
Your body shall ride the tide,
Rider, slumped dead
On white war-house.
Charging.
Your body shall bruise white
Against the coral reefs,
Your body,
Your lonely body.
I tell you, sea,
I have enough courage to die,
But not enough.
Not enough to disobey him
Who said: Do not die
And hurt me that certain way.
How easy your duties are.
How simple.
Only roar a hungry roar,
Leao forward,
And retreat.
You swing and you swing,
O sea, you play a child's game.
But,
I must pose.
I must pretend,
I must act the role
Of happy woman,
Happy wife.
I must keep the right distance
Between me and the low.
And I must keep the right distance
Between me and the high.
O sea, i am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved
And
If love is not to be had,
I want to be dead, just dead
While I enter deeper,
With joy I discover
The sea's hostile cold
Is after all skin-deep.
The sea's inner chambers
Are all very warm.
There must be a sun slumbering
At the vortex of the sea.
O sea, i am happy swimming
Happy, happy, happy ...
The only movement i know well
Is certainly the swim.
It comes naturally to me.
I had a house a Malabar
And a pale-green pond.
I did all my growing there
In the bright summer months.
I swam about and floated,
And divided into the cold and green
I lay speckled green and gold
In all the hours of the sun,
Until
My grandmother cried,
Darling, you must stop this bathing now.
You are much too big to play
Naked in the pond.
Yes, the only movement i really know
Is swimming,
It comes naturally to me.
The white man who offers
To help me forget,
The white man who offers
Himself as a stiff drink,
Is for me,
To tell the truth,
Only water.
Only a pale-green pond
Glimmering in the sun.
In him I swim
All broken with longing.
In his robust blood i float
Drying off my tears.
Yet i never can forget
The only man who hurts.
The only one who seems to know
The only way to hurt.
Holding you is easy
Clutching at moving water,
I tell you, sea,
This is easy,
But to hold him for half a day
Was a difficult task.
It required drinks
To hold him down.
To make him love.
But, when he did not love,
Believe me,
All I could do was to sob like a fool.
O sea,
You generous cow,
You and I are big flops.
We are too sentimental
For our own
Good.
Lights are moving on the shore.
But I shall not return.
Sea, toss my body back
That he knew how to love.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be free.
Take in my naked soul
That he knew how to hurt.
Only the soul knows how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.

Kamala Das

More Books by Kamala Das

16
Articles
Kamala Das Poems
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A collection of Kamala Das's elite poems.
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3. The Looking Glass

7 December 2023
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Getting a man to love you is easy Only be honest about your wants as Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him So that he sees himself the stronger one And believes it so, and you so much more

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4. An Introduction

7 December 2023
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I don't know politics but I know the names Of those in power, and can repeat them like Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. I amIndian, very brown, born inMalabar, I speak three

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5. The Old Playhouse

7 December 2023
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You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her In the long summer of your love so that she would forget Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but Also her nature, the urge to fly, and t

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6. Words

7 December 2023
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All round me are words, and words and words, They grow on me like leaves, they never Seem to stop their slow growing From within... But I tell my self, words Are a nuisance, beware of them, they

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7. The Freaks

7 December 2023
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He talks, turning a sun-stained Cheek to me, his mouth, a dark Cavern, where stalactites of Uneven teeth gleam, his right Hand on my knee, while our minds Are willed to race towards love; But,

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8. Relationship

7 December 2023
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This love older than I by myriad Saddened centuries was once a prayer In his bones that made them grow in years of Adolescence to this favored height; yes, It was my desire that made him male And

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9. Love

7 December 2023
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Until I found you, I wrote verse, drew pictures, And, went out with friends For walks… Now that I love you, Curled like an old mongrel My life lies, content, In you…. [From Summer in Calcutt

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10. The Suicide

7 December 2023
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Bereft of soul My body shall be bare. Bereft of body My soul shall be bare. Which would you rather have O kind sea? Which is the more dead Of the two? I throw the bodies out, I cannot stand t

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11. Summer In Calcutta

7 December 2023
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What is this drink but The April sun, squeezed Like an orange in My glass? I sip the Fire, I drink and drink Again, I am drunk Yes, but on the gold of suns, What noble venom now flows through

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12. Punishment In Kindergarten

7 December 2023
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Today the world is a little more my own. No need to remember the pain A blue-frocked woman caused, throwing Words at me like pots and pans, to drain That honey-coloured day of peace. ‘Why don't y

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13. A Losing Battle

7 December 2023
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How can my love hold him when the other Flaunts a gaudy lust and is lioness To his beast? Men are worthless, to trap them Use the cheapest bait of all, but never Love, which in a woman must mean t

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14. The Sunshine Cat

7 December 2023
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They did this to her, the men who know her, the man She loved, who loved her not enough, being selfish And a coward, the husband who neither loved nor Used her, but was a ruthless watcher, and the

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15. The Testing Of The Sirens

7 December 2023
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The night, dark-cloaked like a procuress, brought him to me, willing, light as a shadow, speaking words of love in some tender language I do not know ... With the crows came the morning, and my li

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16. My Grandmother's House

8 December 2023
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There is a house now far away where once I received love....... That woman died, The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved Among books, I was then too young To read, and my blood turned cold l

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17. Forest Fire

9 December 2023
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Of late I have begun to feel a hunger To take in with greed, like a forest fire that Consumes and with each killing gains a wilder, Brighter charm, all that comes my way. Bald child in Open pram,

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18. The Stone Age

9 December 2023
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Fond husband, ancient settler in the mind, Old fat spider, weaving webs of bewilderment, Be kind. You turn me into a bird of stone, a granite Dove, you build round me a shabby room, And stroke my

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