The Partitioned Wailing-Wall

The Partitioned Wailing-Wall

by T. Wignesan

             for Alan Painter*

I have put into many ports
handle with care
stood on the wharfs, bare-shouldered
up to the knee, unloading
cashew and coconuts
and then set sail again
finding no substance to trade

I have seen the waters rising
and the walls submerge
the roofs converge
the children washed on
the battlements

I have heard the chasm cries
Stifled under jackboots
the whimpering against walls
lost somewhere
in the hoarse
                     Gött mit Uns !

Come home, she cried, strappadoed
in the lap of jettisoning tribes
Come home, my weary ones
home to toil and die
labour and sigh
curse and cry

Did he not withdraw to that
holy backwater by Milan
and with the cup of his Confessions
bathe his horrent sins away

I listened to a story
that our first quarter
remembered to tell
but the waters of the Himavant
had long curdled
in the breast
of the suttee wife

I listened long
in the myopic light
disfigured in the white heat
     of our Enlightenment
to the trapped voices of inquiry
before all the mania of demigods
trumped through the weaning years
the delirious lust of revenge

And then, and then I
did not care what happened
what could happen
there was life
it was worth having
So I went
labelled: handle with care

Who are those people
skimming past the mortal coast
torch untouched by hand
in the drowning mists
                     have they no work to do
And that rope of smoke
A troubling dizziness
rising out of the funnel
of the Black Forest
where professors they say
guide the race
in the aftermath
of charred marrow
I see no mists, no ghosts
No coasts, only torches
and parades and blocks and blocks
of beering beef and munition mounds

and in the not too open days
froth in the lolling oceans
and bowelling brain-splattered skies

even like unmapped sunset glories
now the Krakatua lies spent
fished out of some Japanese isle

the false auroras of enchanting horizons
when soughing metallic dust
courses through skulls
                   lava in an epileptic fit

one by one numbered they falter
mother from unborn still-born
ravaged lover from brother
now huddled they go
up the altar
now a grey veil
to bind the blush of brides
                          wan and bent
voyaging through no-man’s water
to weak to feel even pain

O for a job, a job
   to keep me going
   to fatten my woman
to draw a pension

And while we are waiting
Give me leave, my Captain
                                  Give me leave
To go upon the shore
for the sails do droop and flop
in the shrouded past and I
may no longer see the breast
of my tarnished home-born door

Kritik der Urteilskraft

Are we all agreed on this point
    Then clear the court for the Queen Mother
Yesterday's sister science

Throw out the precedents, no, not that one
Dust those three long buried in Königsberg

And remember, always remember

Here are no laws, make your own
                   If the wind will not favour you
Then tear down the sails
                   If physics will hamper you
Then paddle your way through

Here are no laws, only, you
You must go on and on

That's all that's left for you
       Give no quarter
           Discount not your enemies
Always on and on

Here are no laws

*Alan Painter taught English in Singapore after obtaining a Double First in English Tripos from Cambridge. He understood or reacted to poetry in a way few I have known.


T. Wignesan



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