Is the Exile an un-simplified traditional Chinese Pictogram hanging on an unrolled-up

Is the Exile a traditional un-simplified Chinese Pictogram hanging on an unrolled-up Bamboo Scroll on the Wall

by T. Wignesan

          left downstroke
start from the top
                              plane out
let the long anchor tip roof-line curve sharply
at the stern down-end
pile it in stuffed in the centre
leave the bottom open
that’s where the studded boot rightly fits

Over billowing transmuted waters
                   the haze lifts now and then
winds amber green waft and skim
with the late light caught shimmering
no albatross circles the mast
guilt is pure guilt without wanton arrows
there are no signs of land
but the proffered hand
the wanderer knows no words of his own

         Reach – disgorge with your nails
         Walls that concuss entrails

Can he yet placate asylum
echo the cluck of a poaching North American coot
nestling amidst Eurasian breeding reeds
taut bunching yarrow rushes
an embattled haven
           against majestic swan ships
           sleek velvety rich drake
           peacockish barnacle goose
come in early from the cold

Let the dards of Orion spell syllables of ease
through the congested smudge of yore
                                  contorted fantizi ideograms
cursory calligraphic long dripping brush strokes
      pale to pinyin

the exile gasps for instant phonemic breath
under choppy waves of stuttering tongues
                                                 racy blades
extirpate langue      crucify parole
mix meaning into heady synaesthesiac brew
        loss of face is a loss of noodles
            develop equals hair

Could René Char’s Zeit Geist
have diagnosed the myna’s Kâla-Purusha

              Reach – disgorge with your nails
              Walls that concuss entrails


1. This poem has – besides other references both figurative and factual – to do with an anecdote, that is, a Bengali translator’s first encounter with René Char at his residence in the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on August 13, 1972 . The French poet questioned his translator into Bengali on the meaning of “le dard d’Orion” in his poem: “Jeu muet”. The translator interpreted the phrase as having to do with
astronomy and thus rendered it as “kâla Purusha” (Zeit Geist or literally as in Hindu mythology: the Primal Being at the beginning of time). René Char then picked a certain variety of the cactus flower in his garden and said that the French “phrase” applied to that particular flower. One of the understandable pitfalls in any translation process.

2. The imagery in the poem also relates to the simplification of classical Chinese characters (fantizi) by the Peoples Republic of China in the early fifties and the alphabetisation of Chinese characters, known as “pinyin” as opposed to the Wade and Yale systems. The simplified characters produced certain semantic anomalies. The poem singles out a couple.

3. Certain other imagery relate to the flora and fauna, especially the varieties of geese, in the life of any lake, even an artificial lake, such as that found in Créteil-94000 in France, where the ash-coated Atlantic or American variety of the coot breeds.


T. Wignesan

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