Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Poem: the mere heat of the monsoon

   Like the last, this poem is about my experiences in what would become Bangla Desh and Harvard.  It has some relevance to a previous post here on Badshah Khan.  It also has some relevance to how I take  Marx on primitive capitalist accumulation and accumulation ("globalization" nowadays).


jute fibers rasp and sting

visitors gasp the humid heat

             a woman tends a clacking loom

                thirty no more

                          her ring finger

                                no more –


I peer through heavy air

does no one have a set of ten -


the Dacca mill guide

       jabbers rapidly

                    as if economists

                         will understand


the Dutchman has gone green

      the Scandinavian turns away

            my ashen father

                  covers his mouth


and I stag



                     into the mere heat

                            of the monsoon


“Marx called this primitive accumulation

           whispered my teacher



“150 years and capitalism

         can barely show

               its bloodyhands

                   in daylight”


come rains

          I open my mouth in stubborn



will sheets of heavy rain

       swell the Ganges


wash the shores the walls

         wash out the blood?






money flees

            from East,

                     internal colony,”

                                    to West


jute owning Adamjees – their son’s

        my friend at Harvard -

              jowl by jowl

my father hates Punjabi racism


                      with the powerful

      his group “Harvard advisors

            to Governor Wallace


                        stand sheeted at Alabama

                         door to block a lone








my parents toured

     Comilla cooperatives

                   small farmers working to make do -


my mother caught their glow

      redolent of anarchist farms

                    she’d known so long ago

                              exuberant as she



        near spoiled in Springfield silos

                he’d made a works program

                        so that the poor


                             be fed


Bengali hands

              forged dams cut  



                          drew prideinpubli









I journeyed with my mother

   to the Sundarbans

       great Ganges swamps

                 swept by the busy clouds


our steamer chugged

       late against the current

              to the Government House

                   near ruin or unfinished

                           who can say



       boatmen say

                      come stalking by the door

                                even to bedrooms


               lie easy on that beach                                    


the board from stern to porch

      shivers unsteady

                   under hesitant


“perhaps” mom says

                 “the sleeping’s

                         better on the boat”


come morning

          beaches empty to tall grass

                        I and a guide –

                           he’s left his gun


                                    be hind -

                                                 walk in sunlight

                                                          by the muddy water


we stare at




           paw print

       where the lithe


         tiger had gone



                      to dr in k






that fall at Harvard I told Ashraf


                     bespectacled scion


                                           of his family factory


charming as always

                he’d squin ted at the


                             and at his nails


and never spoke to me




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