Is the Exile a traditional un-simplified Chinese Pictogram hanging on an unrolled-up Bamboo Scroll on the Wall

by T. Wignesan

for Prithwin

first left downstroke
start from the top
plane out
let the long anchor tip roof-line curve sharply upwards
at the stern down-end
pile it in stuffed in the centre
leave the bottom open
that’s where the studded boot rightly fits

Over billowing transmuted waters
the haze lifts now and then
winds amber green waft and skim
with the late light caught shimmering
no albatross circles the mast
guilt is pure guilt without wanton arrows
there are no signs of land
but the proffered hand
the wanderer knows no words of his own

Reach - disgorge with your nails
Walls that concuss entrails

Can he yet placate asylum
echo the cluck of a poaching North American coot
nestling amidst Eurasian breeding reeds
taut bunching yarrow rushes
an embattled haven
against majestic swan ships
sleek velvety rich drake
peacockish barnacle goose
come in early from the cold

Let the dards of Orion spell syllables of ease
through the congested smudge of yore
contorted fantizi ideograms
cursory calligraphic long dripping brush strokes
pale to pinyin

the exile gasps for instant phonemic breath
under choppy waves of stuttering tongues
racy blades
extirpate langue crucify parole
mix meaning into heady synaesthesiac brew
loss of face is a loss of noodles
develop equals hair

Could René Char’s Zeit Geist
have diagnosed the myna’s Kâla-Purusha

Reach – disgorge with your nails
Walls that concuss entrails


1. This poem has – besides other references both figurative and factual - to do with an
anecdote, that is, a Bengali translator’s first encounter with René Char at his
residence in the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on August 13, 1972 . The French poet
questioned his translator into Bengali on the meaning of “le dard d’Orion” in
his poem: “Jeu muet”. The translator interpreted the phrase as having to do with
astronomy and thus rendered it as “kâla Purusha” (Zeit Geist or literally as in
Hindu mythology: the Primal Being at the beginning of time). René Char then
picked a certain variety of the cactus flower in his garden and said that the
French “phrase” applied to that particular flower. One of the understandable pitfalls in
any translation process.

2. The imagery in the poem also relates to the simplification of classical Chinese
characters (fantizi) by the Peoples Republic of China in the early fifties and the
alphabetisation of Chinese characters, known as “pinyin” as opposed to the Wade and Yale systems. The simplified characters produced certain semantic anomalies. The poem singles out a couple.

3. Certain other imagery relate to the flora and fauna, especially the varieties of geese, in the life of any lake, even an artificial lake, such as that found in Créteil-94000 in France, where the ash-coated Atlantic or American variety of the coot breeds.

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About T. Wignesan

If I might be allowed to say so, I think my "first" love was poetry. Unfortunately for me, the British curricula at school did not put me in touch with the Metaphysical Poets, nor with the post-Georgian school. Almost all the school texts after World War II contained invariably Victorian narrative poems and some popular examples of Romantic poetry. I chanced upon a selection of T. S. Eliot's and Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and a little later on Pope's An Essay on Man and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That did the trick. Yet, I regret not having taken to prose in earnest earlier than the publication of my first collection: Tracks of a Tramp (1961). There's nothing like trying your hand at all kinds of prose exercises to come to grips with poetry. Or rather to see how poetry makes for the essence of speech/Speech and makes you realise how it can communicate what prose cannot easily convey. I have managed to put together several collections of poems, but never actually sought to find homes for them in magazines, periodicals or anthologies. Apart from the one published book, some of my sporadic efforts may be sampled at