Among the numerous other deeply poignant questions that Pablo Neruda raises in his last completed work, The Book of Questions, asks

Why don’t they train helicopters
to suck honey from the sunlight?

The 1991 introduction to the book by William O’ Daly opens with an epigraph from Theodor Adorno suggesting that the truest poetic thought is such which can’t be grasped by the writing or the writer.

Pritha Kejriwal’s questions tries to replicate this negative capability.

 

Questions

1

What happens to the souls
of the children of Palestine?

Do they go to heaven
Or fall into volcanoes?

Do they rain on earth
Like acid rain?

Do they escape like butterflies
Never to look back on earth?

 

2

Why have the apples of Kashmir turned sour?
Do the roots carry salt
Up to the apple flowers?

Has the earth wept salty tears
Or is it the people?

Is there anything sadder in the world
Than sour apples hanging on an apple tree?

 

3

Could we build an ammeter that knew all about electricity?
That could measure the current between the lips of two lovers?
And could measure the flow of current that passes through the bud into its blooming petals?
And could measure the electricity in the two eyes of a deer?

 

4

Could we build a periscope that could bridge all vertical distances?
So we could sit at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by lovely corals and rainbow fishes, and look at the stars of the Milky Way?
So we could sit, burning in the golden heat of the core of the earth, looking at the white snow of the Himalayas?
So we could sit cozily inside our heart and look easily into our dreams?

 

5

Did the trees and the hills and the other animals
Also vote for the government?
Are they planning a coup soon,
These historically tormented and tortured
Race of other living things?

 

Pritha Kejriwal

Pritha Kejriwal

Pritha Kejriwal is the Editor-in-Chief of Kindle Magazine, a national, political and cultural monthly journal, published from Kolkata since August 2008. She has completed Masters in Journalism from Calcutta University and was employed at the Hindustan Times and NDTV, before she founded Kindle Magazine along with Maitreyi Kandoi. She is currently working on two collections of poetry — The Book of Questions and The Book of Dreams. Poems from both the collections have been published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal and Pens on Fire.

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