Kamala Das

(31 March 1934 – 31 May 2009 / Punnayurkulam, Thrissur District in Kerala)

Forest Fire


Of late I have begun to feel a hunger
To take in with greed, like a forest fire that
Consumes and with each killing gains a wilder,
Brighter charm, all that comes my way. Bald child in
Open pram, you think I only look, and you
Too, slim lovers behind the tree and you, old
Man with paper in your hand and sunlight in
Your hair... My eyes lick at you like flames, my nerves
Consume ; and, when I finish with you, in the
Pram, near the tree and, on the park bench, I spit
Out small heaps of ash, nothing else. But in me
The sights and smells and sounds shall thrive and go on
And on and on. In me shall sleep the baby
That sat in prams and sleep and wake and smile its
Toothless smile. In me shall walk the lovers hand
In hand and in me, where else, the old shall sit
And feel the touch of sun. In me, the street-lamps
Shall glimmer, the cabaret girls cavort, the
Wedding drums resound, the eunuchs swirl coloured
Skirts and sing sad songs of love, the wounded moan,
And in me the dying mother with hopeful
Eyes shall gaze around, seeking her child, now grown
And gone away to other towns, other arms."

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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  • Bronze Star - 6,232 Points Bijay Kant Dubey (5/10/2014 9:59:00 AM)

    Kamala is a poet of hunger, bodily hunger, no the hunger of the belly. Even the siesta she takes is one wet with sweating, heat and dust, the bodily summer ruffling it all. Through the imagery of the forest fire, she tells the tales of human lust and greed in a feminist's terminology. A woman thinks over her life and times, just supposes and places under situations. She may be frank and bold here, but her U-turn it is very difficult to take to, her volte face. She is master artist of doublespeak. The loss of innocence and the attainment of puberty are the things of deliberation. Sometimes on the pram cart, sometimes behind the park bushes, she keeps cooking her love and sexuality-laced tales. May be it she has gone into hysterics. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Neethu Prasanna (10/5/2013 11:58:00 PM)

    Sad that I hadn't read this before. But extremely glad to have read it now! Still searching for a word to describe the poem. (Report) Reply

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