The Best of the Night to You, too, Bala…

The Best of the Night to You, too, Bala… (1935 – 1993)

by T. Wignesan

            for E. Balasubramaniam
                    (June 13, 1935 – August 7, 1993)

So you took the covert road of the night
                                           and stalked me
while I listened to Vivaldi up to midnight
At two when you were ready to go
you woke me stunned stark in your memory
your impishly entrancing laughter
your dark bright pupils beaming through the slits of your tightly drawn      
your ivory teeth basking in uncontrollable mirth
your blacker than black ear-antennae and higher than high civil-
                                                                     servant brows
marking your dark-diamond worth
your patience
your more than necessary feeling for the less than fortunate friends  
                        and relatives
stretched cummerbund tight round your caring nature

How you knew how to share your luck
Always a little put out for your beneficiaries' putout-ness
Worrying speechless night after night lest your luck run out
                                                                          teeth in protesting grind
against the risks of your calculated outstepping

Paths led up straight
for one whose smiles funnelled from the heart
lit in ever-foraging circles of fire

There was no obstacle to the summit
                                      for you took with grace
only what you knew how to spare
                                                     with care

Do you remember your run-up to the crease
your Lindwall-delivery dragging the clasping flannel round hobbled  
your anger
at the wicket that went on a no-ball

Do you remember your opening bat
that snicked the runs to leg and off
which dozing umpires signalled as byes from pads

Do you remember Brigitte
  her perky bobtail
      her boucles of prancing hair
lances on her forehead
sickles on her verti-vir-ginous temples

Where are the bridges you have crossed
     and those you had planned
         and those you saw grow pebble by pylon and cementing stone
where the roads you laid
up virgin forest and limestone

Where indeed the buildings you repaired
          re-erected and razed
and the thousands and thousands of miles
you rode the wild seladang of the primeval jungle
                                                                       hand on hump
with no stars in the paly night to guide you
through venomous blukar
and the boiling green torture
seared deep into your burning entrails
                          these that now have run out on you

Watch now how the river glues under your fuming stare
when the monsoon torrents sweep the knock-knee-ed pylons to a side
those dry as split-bark legs of yours
itching once too often in comforting company
                         though a little spindly for a Pied Piper

Yet you made the puppety Peninsula run
down drains and monsoon pipes
                                        to a purge-full sea

Who is there now who wouldn't wake to your fits of irrupting gurgly    
to ease the tension
amongst unlikely fellows
who    who wouldn't miss your seething whiteheat glee
                                         at his side

You who knew how to accompany Kay and Richard
up to the closed door of your last night
                                               a very good night on your lips

Your opening bat's duty done
the side shored-up in safekeeping
the last fast breathless ball you faced
                                       nicking the bails off

You needn't return to the pavilion
                    for the standing ovation goes on
for you Bala
            long after the cloddy-stumps lie slain on the tiled floor


T. Wignesan



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