HEAR THE POEM READ ALOUD….
For whom does this chimera pipe his silent tune?
The cobra, whose neck he so calmly holds with his left hand?
Or for me, the current audience?
In what key does he play?
Is it a traditional tune?
Or something a little more sexy?
I bought this copper casting at the government store in Mahabalipuram.
The agent said tribal people made these figurines, and this one was probably three hundred years old.
“The people of the younger generation
don’t care about their ancestors’ art.
They’d rather have the money.”
Sadness and uncertainty lurk in my mind.
I too have lost many of my parents’ customs.
On arriving home, I ask my new friend
“Who are you?”
I discover that his pipe,
with a mid-length bulge,
pours forth music, not smoke.
Charmer’s features look African.
Charmer’s bracelets and necklaces
call “Royalty!” and “Ancient Near East.”
But the cobra itself and the exotic flute cry “India! India!”
The melody reaches my ears after all!
That’s must be why I knew he was coming home with me
I saw him.
Now, it’s only the cast copper charmer’s chant that soothes the cobra.
The human snake charmers in India have been silenced by people
who find it cruel to keep a snake in a basket and make it dance on demand.
As if the cobra doesn’t have a way to make known its own displeasure.
Whose mind does the charmer’s melody mollify?
Could the eternal enemy become a friend?
Millions of years ago, our primate predecessors
had already made up a word for
“enemy from below,” and it was “snake.”
But wait! What about the viper in The Little Prince?
Or the Snake in the Garden of Eden?
Charmed, Snake refrained from striking
beautiful Eve, and taught her to
exercise free will, a very difficult task,
efficiently carried out, in a dialogue
only a few sentences long.
A doctorate in Psychology, in a minute.
A gift for a lifetime of life-lines.
But wait! My Pakistani friend says that there are still live snake charmers in Karachi!