Night Of The Scorpion
- by Nissim Ezekiel 15I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.
With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.
May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
- by Nissim Ezekiel 13Some people are not having manners,
this I am always observing,
For example other day I find
I am needing soap
For ordinary washing myself purposes.
So I'm going to one small shop
nearby in my lane and I'm asking
for well-known brand soap.
That shopman he's giving me soap
but I'm finding it defective version.
So I'm saying very politely — -
though in Hindi I'm saying it,
and my Hindi is not so good as my English,
Please to excuse me
but this is defective version of well-known brand soap.
That shopman is saying
and very rudely he is saying it,
What is wrong with soap?
Still I am keeping my temper
and repeating very smilingly
Please to note this defect in soap,
and still he is denying the truth.
So I'm getting very angry that time
and with loud voice I am saying
YOU ARE BLIND OR WHAT?
Now he is shouting
YOU ARE CALLING ME BLIND OR WHAT?
Come outside and I will show you
Then I am shouting
What you will show me
Which I haven't got already?
It is vulgar thing to say
but I am saying it.
Now small crowd is collecting
and shopman is much bigger than me,
and I am not caring so much
for small defect in well-known brand soap.
So I'm saying
Alright OK Alright OK
this time I will take
but not next time.
Poems by Nissim Ezekiel, Nissim Ezekiel's poems collection. Nissim Ezekiel is a classical and famous poet (16 December 1924 - 9 January 2004 / Mumbai / India). Share all poems of Nissim Ezekiel.
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