The Professor Condoles

The Professor Condoles by Keki N Daruwalla
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The Professor Condoles by Keki N Daruwalla

By Keki N. Daruwalla

Your brother died, you said?
Eleven years old and run over by a car?
I am so terribly sorry to hear it.
Pardon me, not tragic, as you said just now.
Unfortunate is the word, terribly unfortunate.
Nothing could be more … more unpleasant.
But ‘tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless’,
as Anouilh1 said. This was an accident …
depravity of circumstance.
There was no air of design about it, you follow?

I cannot stand an accident,
the blood clotting on the tarmac,
the brain spilling over
like an uncooked stew!
The moment I see a crowd thrombosed
around a victim, I take a detour
to forestall a physical reaction.
Tragedy is different, one aesthetic layer
on the other to absorb the thrust,
with neither desire nor revulsion aroused.

But you need time, perspective
for the action to evolve, and space —
that is essential for tragic momentum.
I see your point, yes, the empty street,
a car hurtling at 60 miles an hour.
But that was not the momentum I was referring to.

Read All Keki N. Daruwalla Poems

The Catastrophe must have a
specific reference to us …
I can imagine your feelings … yes, yes
he was your brother, his death
had a very personal reference to you.
But there was no sin, no guilt
no hubris no hammartia.
Tragedy is a culture by itself.
It takes a lifetime to be immersed
in its panoply and symbol.
Sometimes, of course, I brood:
tragedy is no longer what it was.
Its sweep and passion
took in half the universe once.

Evil came rasping like a magnesium flare
into a night canopied with mirrors,
and heavy with destiny, loaded
with the past, the sky collapsed.
But after the havoc, across the
umber-coloured scraps of mist,
horizons appeared awash with light
and pencilled with pearl-grey monotones.

But now there is no order to revert to,
no sanctions beyond immediate hungers.
And suffering would be a waste, like
digging a canal from the desert to the
river, only to find it as dry
as the udders of an old cow.

Tragedy today is private, insular:
a depraved enzyme
in the belly of chance.
It digests you
skull, hair, dentures and all.

Yes, in an absurd scheme of things
accidents are the order.
I am sorry, extremely sorry, young man
for the tragedy that overtook your brother,
and left you with this grief
you won’t know what to do with.

Copyright © by owner. Provided for educational purposes only.

The Professor Condoles by Keki N Daruwalla

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