Monday, September 19, 2011

Trust Your Bells

For Shailja Patel, a dear friend who reminded me never to judge my work on the basis of how much money it brings, that in this capitalist world, which refuses to value the practice of art as labour (unless done within certain regimes of oppression), our very existence, our persistence at performing, writing and practising whatever art it is that we practise, are important. Of course, our concerns for our material well-being and achievement of recognition are valid and important, but they need have no bearing on how we value our work. 

(Written for performance)

You will be told many things.

For instance, you'll be told
that art isn't labour,
That it comes from sinuous vapours
rising from burning, idle hearts,
That it is not important, 
That it has never ended wars,
though nor have governments.

What does not value
art's labour
or yours
likes to hear
you judge yourself and
your artistry
for failing to bring in the buck
for your perpetual bad luck.
It smiles when you hide -
swallowing your pride -
your pen and palette.
You can hear it chortle 
when you throttle 
your ankle bells under a pillow.
It grins when your scrounge
and scrape and
grovel and gape.

But in exchange for your songs
about empires,
your dance of wrath
about plunder, what tears
your world asunder,
or even your hymn
for your gods and goddesses, 
in exchange for your truths,
your soul, your heart,
it will clothe you
in its banners. Flex is
the new haute couture,
the fabric of submission,
of surrender. 

You keep your rage, you
lie on your pillow and with your 
fingers make the bells on your anklet
toll. When you put them on,
implore them to be both
death's little doorbells
and love's little chorus,
as they will,
as they see fit.
Let them drag your feet,
take you to your truths,
to the dark cave where
your soul sits in hiding.
The bells on your feet
they see, they sing,
they huddle and conspire,
they keep in them your fire,
they remember when you swaggered,
when your aching feet faltered, and
when they stomped to the ground
all meanness,
they remember your gait,
your rhythm, your falling,
but they remember too
your getting up.
Trust their buckled wisdom,
trust even the ones that have lost 
their beads and are toothless - they will
speak anyway. Trust your bells
to teach you to dance
your dance. Trust your bells
and dance. 


inez b said...

Perfectly wonderful. I'd love to hear it performed. x x

Rashmi said...


Deepan Kannan said...

Wonderful Aniruddh! Loved it. Hugs! :)

Smitha Vasudevan said...

That is so beautiful.Wish you all the best.