Poetry Tuesday: Madam to a Young Courtesan

Written about 300 years ago by Sarangapani in India, in an era where this seemed to be a common trope.

Grab whatever cash he has,
That Venugopala,
And think nothing of the rest.

As they say about lentils,
Don’t worry
About the chaff.

Does it matter
To which woman he goes
Or how late he stays there?

Just pass the days
Saying yes or no
Till the month is over

And grab the cash.

What is it to you
If he runs into debt
Or if he has an income?

Quietly, tactfully,
Lie in wait
Like a cat on a wall

And grab the cash.

What if he makes love
To her
And only then to you?

What’s there
To be jealous about?
When youth passes,
Nothing will go your way.

So grab the cash.


Poetry Tuesday: A Poet Should Learn

By Kshemendra around 1150, originally written in Sanskrit, which is beautiful to look at even if you don’t know what it means.

A poet should learn with his eyes
the forms of leaves
he should know how to make
people laugh when they are together
he should get to see
what they are really like
he should know about oceans and mountains
in themselves
and the sun and the moon and the stars
his mind should enter into the seasons
he should go
among many people
in many places
and learn their languages.


Poetry Tuesday: A Courtesan to her Lover

By Ksetrayya, originally written in the Telugu language (India) in the seventeenth century.
(From what I could make out doing research, “Muvva Gopala” is a name for the god Krishna, so make of that what you will.)

Who was that woman sleeping
in the space between you and me?
Muvva Gopala, you sly one:
I heard her bangles jingle.

As I would kiss you now and then,
I took her lips into mine,
the lips of that woman fragrant as camphor.
You must have kissed her long.

But when I tasted them,
they were insipid
as the chewed-out fiber
of sugarcane.

Who was that woman?

Thinking it was you, I reached out for a hug.
Those big breasts collided with mine.
That seemed a little strange,
but I didn’t make a fuss
lest I hurt you, lord,
and I turned aside.

Who was that woman?

You made love to me first,
and then was it her turn?
Does she come here every day?
Muvva Gopala,
you who fathered the god of desire,
you can’t be trusted.
I know your tricks now
and the truth of your heart.

Who was that woman?


Poetry Tuesday: Next Morning

Someone who probably didn’t want to remain anonymous wrote this in seventh-century India.

Next morning
When a damnfool parrot–
right before her parents–
starts to mimic
last night’s cries of love,
the girl leaps up,
clasps her hands to
start the children dancing–
jangle of her bracelets
drowning out
the parrot’s calls.


Travel Tuesday: On Makeshift Bedding

By Vidya, somewhere between 500 and 1000 AD in India.

On makeshift
bedding in the cucumber
garden, the hilltribe
girl clings to
her exhausted lover.
Limbs still chaffing
with pleasure, dissolving
against him she
now and again with
one bare foot
jostles a shell necklace
that hangs from a
vine on the fence–
rattling it
through the night,
scaring the jackals off.