by Ankur Betageri (July 2018)

#159, Herb Kornfeld

Vachana is a 12th century poetic form which originated in the Kannada language. Vachana literally means ‘saying’, ‘thing said’ or ‘promise’. With the birth of Vachana, Kannada poetry was freed of the metrical and courtly conventions of traditional courtly poetry and its free-verse format made poetry the voice of the working man—the fisherman, the ferryman, the cobbler, the weaver etc.,—as well as that of the minister, the mystic and the rebel. Vachana poetry was revolutionary in that it rejected the Vedic religion, its ritualism, social customs and the caste system.
This is my attempt to write vachanas as an atheist.
What’s revealed
by blaring mantras on loudspeakers?
What rebirth is achieved
by wearing the decaying thread?
you mutter until you drown
in delusions of grandeur.
R.W. and W.W., W.B. and T.S.,
what’s with the Aryan bombast and thunder
what’s with the consecration of fertility cults?
You gave psilocybin
to these megalomaniacs
now, who will save them from superlatives
from orgasming on the ineffable?
Look, how they sit in a saintly posture
and think evil of everyone else
O Karlnatha!
You called woman mayé
because woman-as-phantasm
is adsorbed—not absorbed,
she can be squeezed out of you
like water from a sponge.
Be like a sponge! is your dictum
or better, like thermocol in a tank
or like waterdrop on a lotus-leaf.
Like Krishna, Kudalasangamadeva
is Transcendental Signified.
And Bhakti, the affect of capture.
So the nomad says,
‘I am the cat who walks by himself
and all places are alike to me’
O Karlnatha.
There was a time
when you longed for her
then there was a time
you longed for her to disappear
the friction between beings
that produces celestial sparks
also turns them into rocks
O Karlnatha. 
I am not this form of flesh
I am not my memories or name
I am not the congeries of ideas, yours or mine
I am not anything crystallized or framed—
I am the unformed and form
-ing lightning
between the world and the brain
just the thinking and affecting
and the thought and affected
O Gillenatha.
If the voice of your conscience 
tells you I am a villain
know that your conscience
is internalized social norms.
Priestly talk has parasitized
your brain
disinfect it with dhamma
O Assalaayana.


Ankur Betageri is a poet, short fiction writer and visual artist based in New Delhi. He is the author of The Bliss and Madness of Being Human (poetry, 2013) and Bhog and Other Stories (short fiction, 2010). He teaches English at Bharati College, University of Delhi. His poetry has appeared in New English Review, Mascara Literary Review and London Review of Books.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

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