by Badri Raina
When was the last you saw bees and birds
Sing or chirp their free-floating fancies,
Settling on or passing by that expectant
Tree or twig?
Or droves of raucous rooks homing in
With sharp collective mind
Into a Peepal of nooks and cranies
With the soothing fading of the light?
The sparrows that never failed to dot
With teeny delight the ground below
Our feet, or the parapet above—
Into what undiscovered country have
Their soulful little wings taken flight?
Or the bulbul that used to feed like spoiled child
Off my mother’s unfailing palm?
Nothing may bespeak our hollow selves
More than the fact that our rejection
By bees and birds touches us not.
Our brains emptied of thought,
Our hearts no longer wrought,
We are eyes without sight, bodies
Without souls, cacophony without calm.
Our leather skin and metal mind
Find solace in purchases of similar kind.
Lest you think this a backward-looking lament
About “modern life,” disfigured by nostalgia,
I am here to tell you that modernity
Need not have been so crass and fatal,
But something pretty, provided our reason
Had looked beyond our skins, embracing
Equally the thorn with the petal,
The sweet pea with the nettle.
If only we had done to the universe
As we wished the universe to do to us.
Alas, our unrepentant prowess,
Our brainless scramble may sooner than
We think mix us back with stone and bramble
In one unlovely molten heap,
As the seas climb to the mountains,
And the cities that glitter sink into the deep.
August 11, 2012