8 For Elkana

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Woven Words


For Elkana

Nissim Ezekiel

The warm April evening tempts us to the breezes sauntering across the lawn. We drag our chairs down the stone steps and plant them there.
Unevenly, to sit or rather sprawl in silence till the words begin to come.
My wife, as is her way, surveys the scene, comments
on a broken window-pane.

Suggests a thing or two that every husband in the neighbourhood
knows exactly how to do except of course the man she loves
who happened to be me. Unwilling to dispute the obvious fact

For Elkana


that she is always right, I turn towards the more attractive view that opens up behind my eyes and shuts her out.

Her voice crawls up and down the lawn, our son, who is seven,
hears it—and it reminds him of something. He stands before us,
his small legs well apart, crescent-moon-like chin uplifted
eyes hard and cold to speak his truth in masterly determination: Mummy, I want my dinner, now. Wife and husband in unusual rapport state one unspoken thought: Children Must be Disciplined. She looks at me. I look away.

The son is waiting. In another second he will repeat himself. Wife wags a finger.
Firmly delivers verdict: Wait. In five minutes I’ll serve you dinner.

No, says the little one, not in five minutes, now.
I am hungry. It occurs to me the boy is like his father.
I love him as I love myself. Wait, darling, wait,
Mummy says, wait for five minutes But, I am hungry now,
declaims the little bastard, in five minutes I won’t be hungry any more.

This argument appeals to me. Such a logician deserves his dinner straightaway.



Woven Words

My wife’s delightful laughter holds the three of us together. We rise and go into the house.


Nissim Ezekiel (1924–2004) was born in Mumbai. He is today perhaps the best known Indian poet to have written in English. He had his education at Wilson College, Bombay and later at Birbeck College, London. A professor of American Literature at Bombay University, Ezekiel has written several poems and some plays. A proficient critic, Ezekiel lectured at a number of universities in the U.S.A. and the U.K.
1. Comment on the subtlety with which the poet captures the general pattern of communication within a family.
2. Poetic effect is achieved in the poem through understatement and asides. Discuss this with examples.
3. How is the idyllic juxtaposed with the pedestrian in the poem? 4. Explain the undertones in the statement:
‘Wife and husband in unusual rapport State one unspoken thought’: 5. Comment on the capitalisation of all the words in the line: ‘Children Must be Disciplined’. 6. What makes the urgency of the child’s demand seem logical?
1. Paraphrase the poem and notice the change in effect. Comment on the deft touch with which the poet transforms ordinary events into evocative poetry.
The Night of the Scorpion and Other Poems by Nissim Ezekiel.


For Elkana


The Limerick
The limerick is a small five line poem, expressing a single thought. It is usually funny with a punch or joke in the last line. In fact, the limerick is to poetry what slapstick is to comedy.
The rhyme scheme is ‘a a b b a’ : the first and second lines rhyme with the fifth, while the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
One reason why the limerick is popular is that almost anyone can try his/her hand at it. May be you could too!

A novice was driving a car When, down the road, his son said “Papa, If you drive at this rate We are bound to be late— Drive faster!” He did, and they are.

Earth’s plan had a hopeful beginning but man spoiled its chances by sinning. We hope that the story, Will end in Earth’s glory But at present the other side’s winning!

Woven Words

There was once a man from Peru Who dreamed he was eating his shoe He woke up with a fright In the middle of the night And found that it was perfectly true!


There was a teacher named Ms Brass Who was blessed with an unruly class They slept and snored And completely ignored Theorems like Pythagoras.

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8 For Elkana