Kaliya Mardan: Prologue

Hoshang Merchant

Who is it who dances on a serpent?
Who is the serpent and who the dancer?
The gawlis are all thrilled by a gopi
But the gopi is only a long-haired gawla
Why this bisexual Siva dance when Krishna is present?
Why has Krishna forgotten to dance?
He has fallen in love with Old Father Time:
                              The old serpent, Kaliya
Kaliya is still embellishing his coils
Like the serpentine streets of old Hyderabad…
Do you dance at the Crystal Bar?
Be careful, the crystal may be my heart
I who used to crush gilded girls like butterflies
                       in the backseats of cars
And wow them with my Butler English
I’ve gone for a sixer for Old Father Time
Who is a fat fairy who never married
Who wants children but had not time to wive
The ropes of intrigue and storytelling are long
                             as is the mating dance
But life is short
Krishna sits abject on the pavement
His cellphone battery is out
and he weeps, a beggar for love
Because his parents are only surrogate parents
The city-river has run dry
And he weeps for the love of Radha
                             married to this world
Leaving him bereft
And he weeps for the Love of Death

Death is the bridegroom
And we are all brides
The coils of the serpent
are now coils of Karmic Time
Or the circles of skirts of dancing Sufis
Men become women in the face of Father Time

Let the threshing floor
Be the dance-floor
Let the dance-floor be my grave
I dance on Death’s serpent-hood
I lie face down in the street
                in the summer heat
Because I like to eat dust
And drink the subterranean waters
                     which I can’t well in myself
But which I’m now fed in my love by Old Father Time.