Vol. 5 Issue 1
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
‘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
(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
When Catullus records the fall of Cleopatra
He does not forget to understand a defeated queen’s need
Is ours only a difference in practise
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?
—‘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