Fall 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 4 Poetry |

When You Need to Play Act

Motionless. Still. Erect. Alwaysits truth, its rigid forbidding mood.No time to look out and rejoicein what one sees in it. Once, I remember,as the flaming feathers of a dawnbobbed through stubborn suns into a far skyline,I thought maybe I might reach it,but the skyline did not last long.Sudden darkness burned it out: the awful spiritthat ruled our bones burnt our sacred gods,turned our fathers' names to ash.The sod hut of truth stood its ground,where last summer fields of mustard floatedin the haze. Now what I seemight be half right, and like my roomthis truth seems alive with its branded moves.Has it told the old widow with the epileptic fitto shuffle down the crowded road, showingher blackened teeth, to lead me to my room, blind?And the passersby to throng the diseased girlwho sits still and unmoving in the marketplace,one full breast peering throughher ragged blouse, while her kindhearted parentson whom she had turned her backfound it easier for them to meet their death?No, neve

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Author of sixteen collections of poetry, Jayanta Mahapatra’s latest volume is titled Bare Face. He has read his poetry around the world and is widely anthologized. He edits the literary periodical Chandrabhaga. His recent work has appeared in the Sewanee Review.

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