Image by Carcanet Press

Poem introduction

'A Different History' - in this poem I mention the Hindu goddess, Sarasvati - she is the goddess of knowledge. She presides over all the fine arts and in India she is frequently worshipped in libraries.

A Different History

A Different History

Great Pan is not dead;
he simply emigrated
to India.
Here, the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys;
every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on a table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made.

2
Which language
has not been the oppressor's tongue?
Which language
truly meant to murder someone?
And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swooping out
of the conqueror's face -
the unborn grandchildren
grow to love that strange language.


from Brunizem (Carcanet, 1988) copyright © Sujata Bhatt 1988, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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