Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poems I - Mona Zote

What Poetry Means to Ernestina in Peril

What should poetry mean to a woman in the hills
as she sits one long sloping summer evening
in Patria, Aizawl, her head crammed with contrary winds,
pistolling the clever stars that seem to say:
Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

So what if Ernestina is not a name at all,
not even a corruption, less than a monument. She will sit
pulling on one thin cigarillo after another, will lift her teacup
in friendly greeting to the hills and loquacious stars
and the music will comb on through her hair,
telling her:
Poetry must be raw, like a side of beef,
should drip blood, remind you of sweat
and dusty slaughter and the epidermal crunch
and the sudden bullet to the head

The sudden bullet in the head. Thus she sits, calmly gathered.
The lizard in her blinks and thinks. She will answer:
The dog was mad that bit me. Later, they cut out my third eye
and left it in a jar on a hospital shelf. That was when the drums began.
Since then I have met the patron saint of sots and cirrhosis who used to stand
in every corner until the police chased her down. She jumped into a taxi.
Now I have turned into the girl with the black guitar
and it was the dog who died. Such is life.

The rustle of Ernestina's skirt will not reveal the sinful vine
or the cicada crumbling to a pair of wings at her feet.
She will smile and say:
I like a land where babies
are ripped out of their graves, where the church
leads to practical results like illegitimate children and bad marriages
quite out of proportion to the current population, and your neighbour
is kidnapped by demons and the young wither without complaint.

and pious women know the sexual ecstasy of dance and peace is kept
by short men with a Bible and five big knuckles on their righteous hands.
Religion has made drunks of us all. The old goat bleats.
We are killing ourselves. I like an incestuous land. Stars, be silent.
Let Ernestina speak.

So what if the roses are in disarray? She will rise
with a look of terror too real to be comical.
The conspiracy in the greenhouse the committee of good women
They have marked her down
They are coming the dead dogs the yellow popes
They are coming the choristers of stone

We have been bombed silly out of our minds.

Waiter, bring me something cold and hard to drink.
Somewhere there is a desert waiting for me
and someday I will walk into it.


Girl, with Black guitar and Blue Hibiscus

The reality of music is a problem
waiting to be solved by the black guitar,
not the girl, nor the jug of blue hibiscus

The pigeons are insane with grief because you left them
The clouds will be noble and distant as always
The scent of citrus flowers will fade in soft explosions

And the girl will put a blue hibiscus in her hair
And the computer will speak in flawless Japanese
Talking of the elegant instant and how the quasars are forever expanding

How the jealousy of common stuff finds itself fully
in an uncommon criminal act. In the red earth lay her like a seed.
The sad subterranean gong will go on accusing

Until it becomes the black guitar and music becomes
A cleft of a certain colour waiting for the first quiver of strings,
until the gong is quiet and the woman in the earth goes to sleep


Mona Zote is in government service at Aizawl, Mizoram. She writes poetry in English. Some of her poems have been included in the IIC Journal, winter issue 2006, the Indian Literature Journal, June 2006, and the Anthology of North East Poetry published by NEHU, Shillong. We'd love to see a complete collection of her poetry in print soon.

Picture: In the Dark by Tlangrokhuma, oil on canvas


  1. WOW @ "Poetry must be raw, ...bullet to the head".

    still love this bit as much as i did when i first heard it.

    i don't 'understand' all of mona's work. there seem to be references that are beyond anything i kknow. i like them though.

    @storyteller: good work, putting all this online!

  2. You take the words right out of my mouth. I don't understand all of Mona's poetry either...it's all so highly allusive and dense but there's something about it that just grabs you and tells you this is a GREAT stuff!