Friday, July 31, 2015

Earle Birney (1904-1995)

The Bear on the Delhi Road

Earle Birney
From:   Fall by Fury. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977. With permission of the Estate of Earle Birney.
Unreal      tall as a myth
by the road the Himalayan bear
is beating the brilliant air
with his crooked arms
About him two men      bare
spindly as locusts      leap

One pulls on a ring
in the great soft nose      His mate
flicks      flicks with a stick
up at the rolling eyes

They have not led him here
down from the fabulous hills
to this bald alien plain
and the clamorous world      to kill
but simply to teach him to dance

They are peaceful both      these spare
men of Kashmir      and the bear
alive is their living      too
If      far on the Delhi way
around him galvanic they dance
it is merely to wear      wear
from his shaggy body the tranced
wish forever to stay
only an ambling bear
four-footed in berries

It is no more joyous for them
in this hot dust to prance
out of reach of the praying claws
sharpened to paw for ants
in the shadows ofdeodars
It is not easy to free
myth from reality
or rear this fellow up
to lurch      lurch with them
in the tranced dancing of men

Srinagar 1958/Île des Porquerolles 1959

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