Saturday, July 18, 2015


A dark world of transient past with no destiny


Let me say first of all that I am not interested in the man behind this collection of poems, Debasish Lahiri to be clear. The poems are written in the first person and I am interested in that I or ME that assumes the writing of the poems in the very poems themselves. Is this I or ME Debasish Lahiri? The question for me is irrelevant. A writer, no matter what style and genre, always creates a character in his writing and that character is not him or her. It is a character of its own and it is this character I am running after. Let me be very clear on my intention. I want to understand this I or ME and I am going to psychoanalyze him the way he presents himself in the poems. It took me a long time to understand his psyche and the real vision was reached first when that I compares himself with Jesus in the middle of the book (the section entitled “Lost Opus”) and then with four poems right at the end.

For a long time I had a vision of a man, I assumed he was a man at first and it became clear he was later on particularly when he compares himself with Jesus, locked up in his study, locked up in his study’s house, in the middle of the night, writing poems. This man is torn up when a “You” appears page 59 as “a new beginning.” Torn up he is between his desire to establish contact and his impossibility to get out of his study, impossibility to let anyone come in. He tried once and that was a catastrophe since he lost the power to write. And then she is always out, away, distant, and she puts an asphodel on the sill of her window, meaning death and mourning.

The man then is thus locked up in his study, in his present, and we encounter a very Asiatic concept here. This present instant is insignificant in dimension and meaning because it is only the transient point where the past, what he remembers, what he reconstructs, hence what is finished, dead, has been, tries to run into some kind of future that is inexistent except as constant waiting, an expectation for nothing in particular locking itself in that very action of being a potential that has no density, no essence, no materiality, no texture. Just waiting. Not even the concept of waiting developed by Beckett to cover up his sexual desire for the boy that is going to come and will not come, the Godot that you have to wait everyday in a waste land knowing that he won’t come, but in this Beckett concept of waiting you are not alone. You share the waiting with one person and there may be some one or a couple of people who may come along as some entertainment or caretaker. That visitor might even be an ant carrying an egg.

No This poet in these poems is waiting alone for something or someone who might never come, who will never come, but waiting in itself is some kind of construct that can replace the future since death is thus pushed away … slightly.

And of course death is omnipresent, the cyclical death of the Buddhists or the Hindus. Everything that has been dies, has died, has to die. The present point of transition has no birth nor death: it is death per excellence since it is the point when the past dies into a rebirth that is the promise of an end that will never come, a destiny that is for ever rejected, foreclosed into bankruptcy. You can then imagine what a woman could bring in this universe.

But something else is irking me at that moment: the extreme fuzziness on the gender issue of these characters. They seem to be more hermaphrodite than anything else just like Vishnu and Shiva, or utterly impotent and sexually inactive like Buddha. That was bothering me quite a lot especially since this locked up cocoon in the night looks like a tomb and has a feminine dimension. Death the host of life at the end of it, death this cave in which the man can cuddle himself nicely around himself, on himself and with himself. All that is feminine in nature and yet the I or ME speaking is masculine in more or less understood nature.

That’s when music came in and Jesus was introduced thanks to Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, precisely the 9th one, the one where Jesus is carrying his cross to Golgotha, the ninth hour that is to come and bring the final death and liberation of that Jesus. The man speaking in the poems has defined himself as “an artisan” and he now defines Jesus as another “artisan” who made crosses with his father and was crucified on one of them. In the same way the poet in the poems writes poems that expose him and crucify him in a wordy and spiritual and symbolical way. We are dealing here with self-crucifixion and it is only through that self-crucifixion that any redemption may come, a redemption that might finally be death and the final exit from this world.

That’s when I crossed this beginning of a meaning with the style. The poet in the poems is writing what I will call in double antagonistic oxymora. This is very systematic from the very start, but let’s take the last short poem that sets in twenty-one words a perfect example.

“What if
The day
Was a strange disguise
Of light
That the stars
Had taken
To ask us
Their dark questions?”

DAY(light) is the oxymoron of the NIGHT of the STARS and their DARK STARLIGHT. But the LIGHT OF THE DAY is a disguise of these stars to ask us their DARK QUESTIONS.
DAY(light) versus NIGHT
LIGHT versus DARK(ness).
The two crossed by the STARS who disguised themselves in daylight to besiege us with their dark questions.

And the poet in these poems is the focal point of these double antagonistic oxymora. The crux and the cross on which he himself crucifies himself as some kind of central spinning point of a top that is frozen in its spinning and thus does not spin, does not fall, is forever in the suspension of its spinning, hence waiting.

But the real sense, meaning came at the end. In the poem “Words Wart” the sun is introduced through one pane of one window of the house in which the poet’s study is locked up. A real male symbol identified as “the husband of green-life.” At once then the cocoon in which the poet is locked up, dark with one small opening to the sun becomes the womb of the mother in which the poet in the poems is forever locked up, unable to get out, and unable to introduce anyone from outside. Go one step further and the poet in the poems is expecting the penetration of this husband of his mother, a penetration that would bring him some light maybe, some fertility maybe, but some bliss or orgasm, for sure. This desire explains why all along the desire for the YOU that was never really identified is wrapped up, executed and dispatched in death as soon as it appears, with asphodels to accompany it. That let’s say hermaphrodite and incestuous desire for the father sun in the darkness of the mother’s womb can only bring no future and no birth and no redemption. The poet in the poems is entombed in his own mother’s womb, and I would even dare say enwombed in his own mother.

But this locking up in a besieged womb leads him to wondering where Scyld (equaled to “shield”) is in “Scyld Scyfling.” Scyld is the father of Beowulf but he is absent, lost and yet lives again. He is behind the Anglo-Saxon rune Sowelu, the spiritual warrior’s quest that has no reversed position because it can only go one way. To do that he has to let some sunshine get into some secret place in his heart. His prayer is typical:

“You, who are the source of all power,
Whose rays illuminate the whole world,
Illuminate also my heart
So that it too can do your work.”

And John’s gospel (5:30) echoes in our mind:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (King James Version)

So Scyld lives again but he can only wait because he is the “scapegoat of a world of twilight jackals.” And the shield becomes one more way of locking himself up for the poet in the poems.

And then we can conclude with God, exactly “the eye of god,” in Eye of Darkness. God has no gender at all here. He is an eye and he can see. He is the left eye since the right eye would be the good one but the left eye is also the surviving eye of one-eyed Odin and we are back to the god that got tortured because he communicated knowledge and the runes to humans. But God brings darkness and then from this visit a double antagonistic oxymoron is developed:

“… a darker daylight
Waits with languor.”

DARK versus DAYLIGHT. Then WAITS versus LANGUOR. Waiting without any expectation that anything will happen, come, save us from this frozen languid lifeless survival. Then dragons and lions can be intercessors for the people’s prayers and encourage the prayers that hope and mourn with the prayers that have failed. God is thus the most opportunistic and circumstantial solace in the dark of the night in the midst of the day benighted by the loss of one eye.

You can then close the book and think it all over again and you will find the world is extremely complicated and yet very simple. Lock yourself in that womb of yours and crucify yourself on that locked up artisan made poetry of yours and just hope one day one ray of sunshine might come into that besieged womb of yours that is well guarded by all sorts of dragons, lions and one-eyed gods of old. And enjoy the fact that you are still alive though you may not know for what and whom. Love is not even an option because it disrupts too many things in that well ordered world of submissive waiting.


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