An Elegy for the Passing Year

“My dearest dream is for an internationality of poems and poets, ” wrote Walt Whitman in 1881.  In 1921 his dream came true when PEN, the international writers’ association, was founded.

During myl15 years on staff at PEN I often felt Whitman’s spirit guide our work. But I never felt it as keenly as I did last summer when PRP’s “Exotic Place” theme took me to Goa.

My Hudson Valley New York driving instructor had been from Goa. As we made our way over icy roads and crowded intersections he told me about his lush homeland in southwest India. He talked about the gorgeous beaches along  the Arabian Sea, and the abundance of flora and fauna.

I never forgot about Goa and chose it for PRP  exotic place theme. As I began to look for poetry, Goans from around the world answered my call. Among them were: Peter Nazareth, Professor at the University of Iowa, who put me in touch with the Goan Writers’ Group,  writer Ben Anato from Toronto who sent a list of Goan poetry books   and Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, from New Jersey, who mailed  me an autographed copy of his prize winning novel TIVOLEM . Tanya Mendonsa’s poem,  I Say Goodbye to the Rain captivated me and I read it at our meeting. We all loved the rain as a character in this  poem with the reverential tone of much  Indian  writing. Tanya lives in the village of Moira, Goa and wishes she had a poetry group there!

It was one of life’s lovely accidents when, writing this on New Year’s Day, I came across the line, “…an elegy for a passing year/sung in stronger voices than mine.”

Happy New Year!

I SAY GOODBYE TO THE RAIN

I walked out this early morning,
to say goodbye to the rain
before it left:

The river water the blue-slate-colour
of a storm-bird’s wing;
the long grasses whipped the wet wind;
the hidden pool under the thorn trees
shivering with uncertainty.

This rush and this roaring are
an elegy for the passing year,
sung in stronger voices than mine.

I can but add to the chorus,
in thanks giving for all
that the rain has given me:

watered my spirit,

fertilised my earth,

taught me the names of her wild children
as they flowered:
first in the hedgerows,

then in my mind.

Brought me such bolting-bright
early hours,
as I walked with her
over the hills,
cleansed from night’s shadows,

so that I returned home,
my black eyes glazed with green,
her being beading me all over
to sparkle my skin.

I said goodbye to the rain,
this early morning,
but my heart goes with her now.

Later,

as she retreats across the fields,

she leaves behind clear skies
that others welcome,

but not I.

The rain has made me her rain-child,
but cannot take me with her,
whose being is earth-
and not sky-
bound.

I shall have to wait until she returns,
striding across the sea,
to slap away the sun,
and take me in her arms again.

Tanya Mendonsa
from The Dreaming House

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