Poem : Ode to a Whore



Painting : Jiten Hazarika, for Pain and Flesh

Ode to a Whore

By Indira Goswami

People say that
I excel in making wine.
I can turn the wine
which is brewed today
a hundred years old.
It can make people frenzied and wild
wine that I brew, drinking
I too am constantly intoxicated.

My fleshy breasts
Now sleeps like a dead river.
Intoxicated.
I now can turn this river into a sharp weapon.

The wine I brew
knows how to make
songs from stone, songs from ashes.
People despair to discover my mystery,
they smash their heads
against walls, iron pillars.
They scream, Ah! What is this boon
the heavens bestow upon her path.
How do I say
the way I have brewed
this mellow wine?
I have lain fainted
In the dark hall of sorrow!
In agony
I have whipped my own flesh
and have drunk my own blood.
I couldn’t
take off my clothes
in front of my lovers.
And I had a hundred lovers.
yet, I remained a virgin.

The women from the other
Bank of the river, scream
You are a sinner
You will earn a leper’s death!

My body, which is like
the supple bodies of barali-fish
that dance with the waves of the Red River!
My breasts—the Saramati Peak
in the Tuensang valley.
My mekhela is like
those branches of Rhododendron
which bloom in the Satoi Ranges!

The women from the
other bank of the river –
spit their venom
Oh hunted woman! Let your body
become a feast for
worms!

The Ladies with white hair
from the other bank of the river
Cry out with many voices!
Oh women, don’t gouge at her flesh!
Who knows, those men who
remain like your immediate shadow
would have tried the silky
skin of their own daughters!
Who knows, who knows!
Wise men say, whores are the generals
of the Wars!
Like rivers they lay their traps
Like mountains they protect
the innocent souls!
Oh women, abide by the
Songs of the monk!
Don’t gouge at the flesh of whores!
They know unknown
travelers and murky hunters!
Yes, wise men say, that whores are
the weary generals of the Wars!


My body turned into a skeleton;
my skin swung
loosely on the bones
like the hide of a beast
strung up by a butcher
on a long post
to dry!
The demon of misery
and sorrow
looking for my heart
raked my body with its nails!

Suddenly, I discovered the art of
making wine.

I could ford this
river of separation
which flows in the
guise of human life!
which has kept in its bosom
those ancient maps
of the kingdoms burnt into ashes.

Came floating the golden pitcher from the pages of Samhitas
and from the wombs of the Upanishadas
a heavenly voice cries out
Oh Lady, with the heavy breasts
Open! Open the Lid!!...

Many days and many nights
I brewed wine—to open the lids of the golden pitcher
which came from the womb of the Upanishads
Alas, I failed!
drinking made me wild,
only failures drink like a fish!

Suddenly, the lid
opened.
Standing on the other side of
the river—
I saw the glittering
shards of my wine glasses
scattered in a thousand pieces.