18 April 2010

Poona

As you can read from the link in the title. Pune is the 8th largest city in India. Poona is the anglicized version of the name.

The poem reflects my constant concern about trying to understand and respect other cultures without feeling like I am stealing from them. As a white guy, with UK/USA citizenship, I feel like I want to experience these things. I also feel like I'm taking something I have zero right to.

These feelings are unfounded. I know I can experience without being a terrible empire-building sort of person. The feeling remains.

I get the sense daily being a white man in a Caribbean neighborhood. A neighborhood that rapidly s changing. I suppose it is a guilt that one carries. Is it a historical guilt? Or is it a true sense of taking something that doesn't belong?

This poem tries to reconcile without really concluding.


Poona 4/18

...if I said I walked your dusty streets and
read from The Year of Magical Thinking
while remembering the dead, the Ganges
and burning flower-stained corpses...
is is passe?
Would I be just another pale-faced
white man absorbing everything
I touched? Of course
your streets aren't dusty in June, monsoons
come, the shops along Laxmi will sell anything
I could ask for, then

...in Santa Fe I spent six years osmosing Indians
other brown-faced people...I would stare up
the mesas at pueblos and wonder what kind
of spiritual abundance keeps me out...
there I read Marquez
walked forking paths of Chronicle
of a Death Foretold...there I managed to get through
three halves of In Search of Lost Time
which isn't Marquez, it's Proust, it
makes me look smart

...the mesa at Ojo Caliente...
I flip Didion nonchalantly...how could you not?
I wonder if the exclamation point knows how
stabby it looks...I stare in the mirror, think
about walking Canyon Road...will my eyes
reflect Pune now?
Will you see the burning saris, the ancient blue
saris, the dust, the rain, the saris...if
I say that I stood in a monsoon in July in Santa Fe
then took that with me to the banks of the Ganges...
would it matter that someone died?
That I exclaim it violently in my sleep?

...the only connection is rain...I now make
the claim that a question mark is a spoon...
will you see this? A scooping moment
where I take the eyes of everyone nearby...
the Ganges isn't near Pune, they are as apart
as the Rio Grande and the Lethe, though both run
dry...are made of concrete, sucked for wheat
corn, etc......