The love of an old man
Is like the slanting shower-
It wets the blades of grass
But penetrates not
The thirsty root.
It doesn’t cause
The boughs to tremble
It rustles down —
Of arrow-like tears
Unable to penetrate
The caverns of the earth.
On a moonlit night
In the chill salty air
On the wet sandy sea shore
And spake thus to my swain:
“My lord, let us not long for
The late hours of cold winter nights
Nor for the tumultuous sea breeze
That roars in anger.
(I am distressed
As I hear
The broken hinges
Of your heart
When the sharp sword of the wind
On balmy dawns
Let’s recline on the cemetery’s old stone bench
The dry almond leaves
Pressing our ears
To the cool surfaces of grave -stones
Let’s listen to
Dead souls murmur in low tones…
To my lord, who stood despondent
Where the mountains emerge I whispered:
“Dear Love, don’t grieve over scaling peaks…”
Wandering what spur to give the tired warrior
To create in him once more, An equestrian…
“Pray, do not be despondent,
Holding hands, Let’s when exhausted,
Rest in the shade of the Sal trees…”
When my lord pressed his lips to mine
I felt Death’s fearsome iciness
Filter into me
Creeping like the thousand limbs of the millipede.
When he embraced me
Nestling the gales of lust
In his folded wings,
Beyond the perfumed oils
I inhale dizzying primeval odours…
The familiar effluvium
Of over ripe plantains decaying in store houses…
(I anxiously monitor
Your rapid, abating
The last flutter
Of the caged bird.)
The tremulous gusts of a wind- storm,
Beyond the distant horizons,
Ranging in battle array,
The dark rain clouds
Over my head.
Hiding my face
In the white haired forest
Of his chest Terrified,
“My father, bestow a tender kiss on my forehead
Behold this cold, shivering sparrow!
Warm it with
The burning embers of your soul!
Clasp it to your heart, my father,
In fond tenderness-
Shield it from all horrors!”
Translated from Malayalam by Hema Nair R.
Rosemary is one of the most promising contemporary poetesses of Kerala. Born in the rubber rich Kanjirapally town of Kottayam district, Kerala, Rosemary is fascinated by the tree that has been represented as unattractive and alien to the land of the coconuts. Rosemary’s fascination for the strange, the unvoiced and the unnoticed has helped her to have an oblique view of the world that appeals to a whole host of her ardent readers. Her unique perspective has been noticed and encouraged by no less a person than Kamala Das, who sees in Rosemary, her successor.
Rosemary’s collection Slanting Showers is indicative of the poetess’s intense love for the Kerala rain which she celebrates as an enchantress that defies her to capture its essence in words. The poetess harkens to the message that the dusk showers whispers; she notices the morning rain that descends and departs without warning; she is cheered by the sudden summer showers and is awed by the tumult that accompanies a really heavy downpour. In graphic imagery, she links love itself to rain. Apart from the typical Kerala rain that Rosemary identifies as an integral mark of particular months, the poetess responds and is inspired by Kerala’s soil that is drenched in the life giving waters and nurtures flora peculiar to the land. The coconut trees that has earned for Kerala its name is fore. grounded by the casuarinas trees the konna, the elenji, the pale chempaka, the cactus and the byronias and are complemented by a wide range of fauna. The crow, the olanjali, the vellil bird, the crow pheasant and the skylark — all make their presence felt in Rosemary’s poems.
What makes Rosemary’s poems worthy of translation and what make it interesting to a reader of English poetry is the thread of universality that is apparent in the depiction of the experience of the individual psyche. The poems, trace the reaction of a sensitive soul to the world around her. The poems cover a whole gamut of perceptions from bewildered innocence to the pain of loss and death. Disillusion, desires, longings, nostalgia, quest for identity and selfhood are all themes dealt with in the poems. Rosemary’s quaint turn of phrase and a peculiar flavour of her writings that is heightened by the tactile and olfactory images that abound in her writings, anchor her work firmly in the soil where it has sprouted but the universality of the themes explored render it meaningful to readers world wide.
“Slanting Showers” is the title poem of the collection that won for Rosemary the prestigious Lalithambika Antharjanam Award. The poem ironically distances and focuses on the pressure on the woman to compromise. The female character presented in the “Slanting Showers” is an “Angel in the House” but this does not blunt the edge of her sarcasm. Rosemary’s poem is a frank statement about female sexuality.