Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remembering Balgobin Singh 1913-2008

Balgobin Singh Sept 1913-Dec 2008

He was the person who taught me to have the deepest love and respect for the land. When I visited him in August 2008, after almost a quarter of a century, he recognized me instantly. He needed no aid in his daily life. His grip was as strong as I remembered--that of one who worked on and with the land. He was more than farmer. He saw his 95th birthday. We thought he would live to be 100.
Balgobin Bidatha Singh, Sept 1913-Dec 2008

Your axe as clean as a new razor
cleaved logs to firewood like knife
on thawed cheese, down-stroke the arc
of a butterfly. You taught us how to walk
lightly on the earth---leave no footprints
behind; how to peel an orange,
the honed twenty-two a penknife in your hand,
producing an unbroken string of rind dangling
in the wind while negotiating a footpath “aback.”

Resizing a fallen tree trunk, chips flew
like starbursts. Rock gently in the bottomhouse
hammock and hum Tulsidas’ poem for the ages:
Shri Guru Charan Saroj Raj,Nij Man Mukur Sudhari
Barran Raghuvar Bimal Jasu,Jo Dayaka Phal Chari…
With the dust of guru’s lotus feet, I first clean
The mirror of my heart, then tell the story
Of Shri Rama, giver of the four fruits of life…

At ninety-four you are sipping tea
and laughing at sugar—I consume two pounds
every two weeks!—needing no cane to walk
or no aid to memory: the grip of a teenager,
how to compare palms and trace strength,
the thorns of a tangerine tree, unshouldering
a bunch of fresh-cut plantains, how to tie
a cotton band around your stomach –a brace
for back—before sinking the fork in the soil…

Who scattered those ashes in the ocean,
and sprinkled a handful “aback” on this mother
earth you taught us to love, humming
the Hanuman Chalisa in the wind of your wake
the vacated hammock swaying like a kite-tail

©Sasenarine Persaud