and Anna Akhmatova
Syed Badrul Ahsan
There is a pristine quality about this ballpoint on my table. And because there is, I choose not to put it to use. I simply lock it away, you might say in a drawer or in some silent niche in my soul. She who gave it to me is a woman who exudes poetry, for she walks in beauty and causes to come alive in the heart all those images of fairyland you once trekked through in the innocence of your childhood. There is a child in her, the baby who once looked out at the world amazed at its unending charms. This baby is now a woman in whom the graces of Creation appear to have come together. I watch her as she tiptoes through the fields of tulips and roses. I watch her glide through the fire and fury of a krishnachura dawn at the height of a season of Bengali festivity. There is a spring which comes to her step as the first showers of monsoon sprinkle ceaseless drops of dew on her enchanting face.
And she it was who gave me this ballpoint. There is that sure touch of her fingers on it, a sign that it once belonged to her and always will be, for me, an invocation of the moment when she passed it on to me. And that is where that certain element of religiosity comes in as I contemplate that ballpoint. It was under a greenwood tree, even as the first hint of thunder across a monsoon sky was heard, that I took it from her, telling her in the process that there was an epic waiting to be written, by other ballpoints about that ballpoint. Her response? She laughed in all the shyness you can think of. As she did that, pieces of history flew across the firmament of the soul, glided by as the heart broke into song. There was Dido of Carthage and there was Virginia Woolf. In the brevity of her smile came glimpses of the poet Anna Akhmatova, with all her moments of silent brooding. When I asked her where the cap of the ballpoint had gone missing, she looked shy again, and the eyes in her, always bright, shone brilliant as she went searching for a cap. She found one, slipped it into my hand, which then slipped it on the ballpoint. Beyond the greenwood tree, the thunder rolled away. The Wind gave way to a breeze. Her spectacles perched on her nose, she reminded me of Meryl Streep. Or was it Streep who had become her? That question hovered in the air as I put the ballpoint way. She peered into the clouds as they slid between the mountains and were no more.
There are beats in the heart that translate into a flutter every time poetry takes the form and substance of a beautiful woman. Should I be using that ballpoint to compose paeans to her on what it means for the world to be home to her? Or should I, in the manner of an artist, plunge into the involvement a painter has with the object of his creation? Let those questions be. But there will be a day, ages hence, when she who made that gift of the ballpoint to me, will arise from the depths of the sea, to perch herself on a rock, to let the world know she has had a rebirth as a mermaid. Inhabiting the world of spirits, in that faraway time, only I will know, only I shall recall that this gleaming mermaid amidst the blue of a shimmering sea was once an epitome of poetry who educated me on the value of a ballpoint that comes from a woman in whom beauty and intellect reside in a serene mix. These are images to be. The mermaid will be, then and forever, for that is how the lessons of legend have come down to us. The soul in me, touched by the softness of song as she sashays by, waits for that afternoon of mirth, for the rebirth of beauty in a world away from the banality of this world.
The ballpoint waits, on the table before me. It stays, quiet and unmoved, in the luminosity of the lamp as it burns in my little hut on the edge of the woods. And through the woods rushes a gale force, tempting me to pick up the ballpoint and compose a song on the elemental fury that once set the heart beating in her, for the original fire that must have moulded her sultry beauty into the perfection it is framed in today. I pick up the ballpoint, hold it aloft, remembering Excalibur as I do so.
Some beauty there is that must remain, worshipped, within the parameters of the soul. And so I put the ballpoint down, and away in a shaded spot that no one will know of. I will the imagination into painting the exquisiteness that is but another name for the one who made a gift of that ballpoint to me. The gods made her with the profundity of their love. I see those gods in the transparency of her eyes as she breaks into crimson laughter.
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