E-ISSN 2457-0265


Vol. 5 Issue 1

Hoshang Merchant

Beauty Canto: XXIV  

I wanted to write a poem on beauty 
but I’m so tired I went to sleep 
3 hrs. into sleep I dreamt a devastating fire 
A sister-figure survived: 
Has my dying sister in Chimayo, NM finally died?
I felt peaceful: Like the landscape after fire 
Last night it rained:
I wake up.  I read.  I write.   It’s 3 am 
Once the classical poets appeared great 
Now even contemporaries appear greater 
    • than me 

This cannot be 
Or is it the beginning of a new humility 
before death 
‘The only thing that knows how it’ll end 
When it begins, is a sentence….
I was never proud Just angry: 
with a rage for beauty 
Now I’m not beautiful, I’m fat… 
Don’t you understand that my little microcosmic me 
Is only all of the universe 
inside my head / belly / butt / balls 
And my hand caresses all that 
As it invites your hand to caress that in you 
    • or me 

How are we different? 
At 60, I hold back 
Do not molest the boy bringing me home from a party
He’s 20.  He’s polite.  He says he can pretend
He’s from Arizona.  Was I like him when I came back? 
All of India’s become like that, very hip and with it 
Thank God I slipped back into my Indian ways
Is that when things begin to appear like other things 

Today’s summer here was a Bombay summer then 
I was trembling with rage, near to tears 
begging the univ. from 9-5 i.e. 8 hrs + 18 yrs. 
to make me a professor: Filling applications in quintuplet 
Prove you were born etc. 

I was still my father’s child 
Abandoned wanting approval 
How can poets look for metaphors 
When all of life is a morality play?
At the Farewell Party the Jewish boy
Who’s walked barefoot through Africa 
Asked a fat classmate to jump on his belly 
— As she did this I saw the rise in his crotch 
And his head thrown backwards from the stage 
Hanging off the proscenium he recited ‘Macavity’ – all of it 
Is this a metaphor for the poet 
All of it happening right before my eyes 
Who then was it who died 
As I turned into sleep 
Why is all this not included in our poetries?
Everything seems to happen in a haze: 
—Don’t tell me it’s the poet’s condition
Today I saw the whole campus somnambulate 
even unto my joking clerks + typists 
As they type they try to read my poetry 
They try to learn      They know I teach
But it eludes their grasp 
Ganesh from Hebbagodi called: 
‘I was about to die… kill myself… 
Yaraana saved my life!
Am I crowing?  Or crying? 
Nambisan (Vijay) talks of going dry 
He always addresses me like a lover 
            a suitor 
(Though he’s as straight as a pin)
He was walking through a bog 
He was wide awake when they pumped his stomach 
He knew he was a slob 
Both in drink   And knowing a drunkard’s stink He was god 
What made him so human?
Poetry doesn’t make anything happen 
But in giving wisdom it saves us a lot of trouble… 
Is that why 
Everyone And every era of my life appear interchangeable? 
So that then we exchanged bodies 
now we exchange souls
(what the saints call ‘pity’) 
Is that why everyone appears so close 
And so remote from me?
Afternoon is the glycerine hour: 
We navigate its fog 
May be those who read my words 
Look for a raft on the flood 
But, first they must drown: 
‘Forever wilt thou run and she be fair’
(Was she ever really there?)
Is this why Nambisan goes mad 
and /mocks my line on the night when pearls are ground 
and drunk? 
When Catullus records the fall of Cleopatra
for Rome 
He does not forget to understand a defeated queen’s need 
for beauty 
Is ours only a difference in practise 
of poetry 
Both being poets for solid reasons?
(Modern criticism sez the reasons don’t count)

And what is Uncle Ez doing in all this?
—To refine the language of the tribe 
     Refine / Define 
     A tribe of versifiers scattered like his seed 
throughout the world 
He gave me prose 
—Thank you, very kindly for the prose 
thou shalt not poeticise! 
‘Is Beauty half of the religion?
Ananda asked 
—‘No, Ananda.  It is all of it 
said the Buddha… 




I slept with the sorrow of Palestine

I slept with the sorrow of Palestine 
And woke up with a wound of Kashmir


About the Poet

"I, a male homosexual Parsi, Christian by education, Hindu by culture, Sufi by pursuasion", is how Hoshang Merchant describes himself. Born in 1947, he has authored books of poetry, literary commentary, translations, memoirs, and anthologies including Yaraana: Gay Writing from India (1999) and most recently Secret Writings of Hoshang Merchant (2016). In the mid-1980s, Hoshang made Hyderabad home and taught generations of students at the English Department of University of Hyderabad till he retired in 2012. My Sunset Marriage represents the life of Hoshang Merchant told through the best poetry he has written over forty years.


Chronology of the Complete Works of Hoshang Merchant

1989: Flower to Flame. New Delhi: Rupa Publicationa.

1989: Stone to Fruit. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1990; In-Discretion: Anais Nin.* Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1991: Yusuf in Memphis. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1991: Hotel Golconda. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1995: The Home, the Friend and the World. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1995: Jonah and the Whale. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1996: The Heart in Hiding. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1996: Love's Permission. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1997: The Birdless Cage. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

1997: Talking to the Djinns.* Kolkate: Writers Workshop.

1999: Yaraana: Gay Writing from India.* New Delhi: Penguin,.

2004: Bellagio Blues. Hyderabad: Otherwise Books, Spark-India.

2005: Pondicherry Poems. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2005: Homage to Jibanananda Das. New Delhi: Aark Arts.

2006: Bombay, My Bombay. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2006: Alif/Alpha: Poems. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2006: Juvenilia. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2007: Goa. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2008: Forbidden Sex/Texts: New India’s Gay Poets.* New Delhi: Routledge.

2008: Sufi Tree. New Delhi: Allied Publishers.

2010: Indian Homosexuality.* New Delhi: Allied Publishers.

2010: Shillong Suite. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2011: The Man Who Would Be Queen.* New Delhi: Penguin.

2011: Collected Works, Volume 1: Hyderabad Quartet. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2012: Collected Works, Volume 2: Jonah Quintet. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

2013: Sufiana: Poems. New Delhi: HarperCollins.

2014: Collected Works, Volume 3: Place/Name: Sextet. Kolkata: Writers Workshop.

 2016: Secret Writings of HM. Delhi: OUP

2016: My Sunset Marriage: 101 Poems. Delhi: Navayana

2018: Collected Poems Vol 4. Calcutta: Writers Workshop

2019: Gay Icons of India. Delhi: Pan Macmillan

2019: All my Masters. Bombay: Queer Ink

2021: Rebel Angel: Essays. Odissa: Dhauli Books

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