For Elkana

For Elkana :

The warm April evening

tempts us to the breezes

sauntering across the lawn.

We drag our chairs down

the stone steps and plant them there.

Unevenly, to sit or rather sprawl

in silence till the words begin to come.

My wife, as is her way,

surveys the scene, comments

on a broken window-pane.

Suggests a thing or two

that every husband in the neighbourhood

knows exactly how to do

except of course the man she loves

who happened to be me.

Unwilling to dispute

the obvious fact

that she is always right,

I turn towards the more

attractive view that opens up

behind my eyes and shuts her out.

Her voice crawls up and down the lawn,

our son, who is seven,

hears it—and it reminds him of something.

He stands before us,

his small legs well apart,

crescent-moon-like chin uplifted

eyes hard and cold

to speak his truth

in masterly determination:

Mummy, I want my dinner, now.

Wife and husband in unusual rapport

state one unspoken thought:

Children Must be Disciplined.

She looks at me. I look away.

The son is waiting. In another second

he will repeat himself.

Wife wags a finger.

Firmly delivers verdict: Wait.

In five minutes I’ll serve you dinner.

No, says the little one,

not in five minutes, now.

I am hungry.

It occurs to me the boy is like his father.

I love him as I love myself.

Wait, darling, wait,

Mummy says, wait for five minutes

But, I am hungry now,

declaims the little bastard, in five minutes

I won’t be hungry any more.

This argument appeals to me.

Such a logician deserves his dinner straightaway.

My wife’s delightful laughter

holds the three of us together.

We rise and go into the house.

Nissim Ezekiel (1924–2004) was born in Mumbai. He is today perhaps the best known Indian poet to have written in English. He had his education at Wilson College, Bombay and later at Birbeck College - London. A professor of American Literature at Bombay University, Ezekiel has written several poems and some plays. A proficient critic, Ezekiel lectured at a number of universities in the U.S.A. and the U.K.

The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.

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