Today's Beautiful Gem: `Soon' by Vikram Seth.
"I shall die soon, I know. This thing is in my blood.
It will not let me go. It saps my cells for food.
"It soaks my nights in sweat And breaks my days in pain.
No hand or drug can treat These limbs for love or gain.
"Love was the strange first cause That bred grief in its seed,
And gain knew its own laws-- To fix its place and breed.
"He whom I love, thank God, Won't speak of hope or cure.
It would not do me good. He sees that I am sure.
"He knows what I have read And will not bring me lies.
He sees that I am dead. I read it in his eyes.
"How am I to go on-- How will I bear this taste,
My throat cased in white spawn-- These hands that shake and waste?
"Stay by my steel ward bed And hold me where I lie.
Love me when I am dead And do not let me die."
Note: In the last few days, it just happened that I had to attend a
session on `AIDS in the work place', then read an article in the
Washington Post about how India may have more AIDS cases in a few
years, then watched two movies dealing with AIDS, viz., `The Band
Played On' and `Philadelphia'. These events, together with my
knowledge that there as is yet no good drug or vaccine for AIDS from the
research going on in NIH and NCI made me somewhat sad. Of the above
poem of Vikram Seth, the author of `A Suitable Boy' (a very long novel)
and `The Golden Gate' (a novel in verse), the literary critic A. K.
Mehrotra has this to say: "It's in the voice of a person dying of AIDS.
The slowly uttered monosyllabic words, the limits imposed by the speaker's
physical condition, the end-stopped lines, and the eye rhymes keep the
poem's audibility to a minimum, making the reader come even closer to it.
What he then hears is a part love poem, part death-rattle. The whole is
Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao