[ Issue 5 / May 2013 ]

 

THE WAILING WALL, REVISITED BY SUDEEP SEN (INDIA)

A human being
is not symmetrical.
— SRECKOKOSOVEL

1.

I gently touch you now
not the way I did
eleven years ago —

not with that yearning
for faith and peace,
but with a private prayer

for inner calm, care,
stillness; and
for forgiveness and love.

The gleaming hand-worn
shine on Jerusalem stone,
where the public merges

with the private,
where prayer and passion
collide and unite —

where a certain kind
of kindness changes
to another kind —

where a certain kind
of passion changes
to another kind

of desire. It is
a blessing of time —
eleven years is a lifetime.

2.

As I tried once again
to wedge in
a piece of coded-paper

into the cracks
and joins of The Wall,
I discovered

another paper piece
behind the new one
resisting my approach.

I tried to force it in —
the more I tried
the more impossible it got.

Failing, I now tried to
take out the old paper
that prevented my will,

take out that piece
to resize
my own new prayers —

but the longing
of past years resisted
to dislodge the old.

I prised out
the old folded sheet —
it looked weathered

and yellow
like the local stone’s
sun-stained ochre.

I opened it —
it was the same one
I had put in

eleven years ago.
Time had preserved
memory,

preserved my wishes.
Was I the same then
as I am now?

Was the feeling then
more sincere
than now?

Passion for life
never wanes for some.
New love

like old love
balance
their inherent truths.

3.

Here, gun-slung soldiers,
pilgrims, children,
and men in black garb —

move forwards
and backwards —
their axis, their waist —

a symmetry
that instils and heightens
their own faith —

a symmetry
I cannot hope
to aspire to,

as I am —
like Kosovel’s man —
not symmetrical.

Jerusalem, 2008

 

SUDEEP SEN www.sudeepsen.net is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). Sen’s prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Prayer Flag, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh,Letters of Glass, and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor). Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in major international anthologies. His words have appeared in the TLS, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Herald, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNNIBN, NDTV,AIR &Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. Sen is the first Asian to be honoured with an invitation to participate at the 2013 Nobel Laureate Week in St Lucia, where he delivered the Derek Walcott Lecture and read his poetry. A special commemorative edition of his work, Fractals: New & Selected Poems|Translations 1978-2013, was released by the Nobel laureate Derek Walcott himself in the presence of H.E. Dame PearletteLouisy, Governor General (President) of St Lucia.

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