Poetry Writings Artwork and stories from Neil Furby

Dec 2, 2010 at 19:57 o\clock

Before the word by Keki Daruwalla

BEFORE THE WORDCorn is great, on the cob or otherwise, 
but before corn in the ear there was life. 
Fire is holy especially for Zoroastrians, 
but before fire too there was life. 
Before the bowstring and the flint arrow sang, 
there was life. 

The word is great, 
yet there was life before the word. 
We can't turn romantic and say
we were into bird speech or river-roar then, 
into the silence of frost 
or the language of rain. 
But forest speech and swamp speech 
came through easier to us. 
When lightning crashed, 
the cry of the marsh bird was our cry, 
and we flung ourselves to the other branch 
like any other baboon. 

As winter whined on windy cliff,  
we shivered with the yellow grass. 
In winter-dark a hundred eyes
flared yellow in the jungle scrub. 
When seasons changed, blood coursed with sap
and flowered in meadows. We were at home. 
Nor eyes nor bat cries bothered us. 
What if we didn't know 
a bat assessed reality
from the ricochet of its cry? 

Though there were no words, 
fear had a voice with many echoes. 
Worship was quieter, adoration 
spoke only through the eyes or  knees. 

What was it like before language dropped like dew, 
covering the scuffed grass of our lives?
 

© 2004, Keki Daruwalla