The Best of the Night to you, too, Bala...

for E. Balasubramaniam
(June 13, 1935 - August 7, 1993)

So you took the covert road of the night
and stalked me
while I listened to Vivaldi up to midnight
At two when you were ready to go
you woke me stunned stark in your memory
your impishly entrancing laughter
your dark bright pupils beaming through the slits of your tightly drawn lids
your ivory teeth basking in uncontrollable mirth
your blacker than black ear-antennae and higher than high civil-servant brows
marking your dark-diamond worth
your patience
your more than necessary feeling for the less than fortunate friends and relatives
stretched cummerbund tight round your caring nature

How you knew how to share your luck
Always a little put out for your beneficiaries' putout-ness
Worrying speechless night after night lest your luck run out
teeth in protesting grind
against the risks of your calculated outstepping

Paths led up straight
for one whose smiles funnelled from the heart
lit in ever-foraging circles of fire

There was no obstacle to the summit
for you took with grace
only what you knew how to spare
with care

Do you remember your run-up to the crease
your Lindwall-delivery dragging the clasping flannel round hobbled boots
your anger
at the wicket that went on a no-ball

Do you remember your opening bat
that snicked the runs to leg and off
which dozing umpires signalled as byes from pads

Do you remember Brigitte
her perky bobtail
her boucles of prancing hair
lances on her forehead
sickles on her verti-vir-ginous temples

Where are the bridges you have crossed
and those you had planned
and those you saw grow pebble by pylon and cementing stone
where the roads you laid
up virgin forest and limestone

Where indeed the buildings you repaired
re-erected and razed
and the thousands and thousands of miles
you rode the wild seladang of the primeval jungle
hand on hump
with no stars in the paly night to guide you
through venomous blukar
and the boiling green torture
seared deep into your burning entrails
these that now have run out on you

Watch now how the river glues under your fuming stare
when the monsoon torrents sweep the knock-knee-ed pylons to a side
those dry as split-bark legs of yours
itching once too often in comforting company
though a little spindly for a Pied Piper

Yet you made the puppety Peninsula run
down drains and monsoon pipes
to a purge-full sea

Who is there now who wouldn't wake to your fits of irrupting gurgly merriment
to ease the tension
amongst unlikely fellows
who who wouldn't miss your seething whiteheat glee
at his side

You who knew how to accompany Kay and Richard
up to the closed door of your last night
a very good night on your lips

Your opening bat's duty done
the side shored-up in safekeeping
the last fast breathless ball you faced
nicking the bails off

You needn't return to the pavilion
for the standing ovation goes on
for you Bala
long after the cloddy-stumps lie slain on the tiled floor

T. Wignesan

If I might be allowed to say so, I think my "first" love was poetry. Unfortunately for me, the British curricula at school did not put me in touch with the Metaphysical Poets, nor with the post-Georgian school. Almost all the school texts after World War II contained invariably Victorian narrative poems and some popular examples of Romantic poetry. I chanced upon a selection of T. S. Eliot's and Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and a little later on Pope's An Essay on Man and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That did the trick. Yet, I regret not having taken to prose in earnest earlier than the publication of my first collection: Tracks of a Tramp (1961). There's nothing like trying your hand at all kinds of prose exercises to come to grips with poetry. Or rather to see how poetry makes for the essence of speech/Speech and makes you realise how it can communicate what prose cannot easily convey. I have managed to put together several collections of poems, but never actually sought to find homes for them in magazines, periodicals or anthologies. Apart from the one published book, some of my sporadic efforts may be sampled at of Poems.htm

Last updated July 05, 2016