Life Signs – Poem and Summary By Mahapatra Essay
Life Signs – Poem and Summary By Mahapatra
Violence the day dims. When I open and shut my mouth the darkness chokes inside. The sad light pushes against a bullock-cart-driver’s whip which rests in a corner of the corridor, safe from the black pressure of dragging ribs. a country total solar eclipse It was the drawn-out cry of day that left behind no echo, day that became meek as a frightened child. A banner of pale human skin fluttered on top of the temple of Jagannath the vase a monsoon day fable The fable at the beginning of the monsoon choes alone, like a bell ringing in a temple far from home. in the fields of desolate rice captive air of chandipur on sea lost children of America dead river life signs grandfather again one day walking by the river. — Jayant Mahapatra Summary of “Life Signs” “Life signs” is the title poem of the volume Life Signs.
The father-son relationship has been explored quite extensively and intensively in Indian English poetry, by Ramanujan, Parthasarathy, Shiv. K. Kumar and others and “Father” poems have become even a sub-genre of Indian Poetry in English. Life Signs” captures the central preoccupation of Mahapatra’s poetry, the irrevocable influence of the Father (by extension, the hoary tradition of the land) and the anxiety of the son-persona (the modernist, rationalist, unbeliever poet, by extension) to be freed of it Structurally, the poem is “a loosely connected set of evocative signs rather than a system and discourse” and such a poem with shifting metaphors may challenge neat interpretation; yet it “can have a great power to convey a highly complex experience and can acquire haunting beauty” (G. N. Devy). “The Cows” can be read as a companion poem.
11. 1- 2: What’s in my…: a blunt statement of the son-persona’s in ability to “occupy” the beliefs of the father 11. 3-5: a sense of loss caused by separation between father and son described in terms of the flowing river; the image of flow may also imply the passage of a major category in Mahapatra’s vision. 11. – 10: an associative cluster of signs: “sun”, “kites” and “clouds” evoking the sense of agedness of the traditions, which haunts him. 1. 15: “the odour”…: another image evoking the sense of decay 11. 19-20: “come to rest”: typical Mahapatran obscurities which are the interpreter’s despair: 11. 23- 24: a conflict between the traditional beliefs and the rationalist skepticism of those beliefs- 11. 23- 24: the sense of loss and a discovery of a strange wisdom.