The Girl Friend Describes the Bull Fight

Kalittokai 101

With the first rains

white clusters of the wild jasmine
backed by fresh thorn
are budding
on nodes once dry
in the cool rain lands.

The bud of the glory lily
looks like a ladle first,
then becomes a fire
when the red petals open
gathering the embers,
and it sways like a drunk.

The bilberry, flowering,
gives nothing but blue gems.

Weaving such blossom
in their wreaths,
cowherds vie with all they have,
enter the stalls
to let loose the bulls,
horns whittled sharp
as the Lord's own pickaxes.

There, in the middle ground,
where the brides wait,
men gather
again and again
ready to master the bulls,
sounding like rumbling and thunder,
raising dust clouds, and smoke,
offer the right things
to the gods
in watering places,
under the banyan tree
and the ancient mango.

There, they leap into the field.

Look, the bull,
raised horns and skin tawny
as certain silkmoths,
he skewers to death
the cowherd who sprang
heedless of the look in the animal's eyes,
carries the carcass high and shakes it
on his horns,

like the warrior Bhima
making good his oath
sworn among enemies,
cleaving the heart
of the man
who dared put a hand
to the tresses
of his lovely wife.

Look at that black bull,
a moon-mark on his brow,
carry and shake the cowherd,
skewered and gutted
(the wreaths on his head
were flowers once on the caverned hills):

like the raging androgynous god,
whose one half is His woman,
who dances at the end of time
when lives wear all their sorrows,
cleaves the heart of the Death-god,
that rider of buffaloes,
and feeds Death's own guts
to His famished barbaric minions.

Look at that other bull
with spotted ears,
smooth reds
on his white body.
Teased by the fighters,
he throws that daredevil, that herdsman,
with the points of his horns,

like Asvatthama in grief and rage
not mindful of the darkness
on his shoulders
that eunuch
who slew his father.

But now the herdsmen
play flutes,
good omens
for you and your man
wearing blue-gem bilberry flowers.

That bull is wilder
than an elephant
gone wild:
do not loosen
your hand's grip
on him,
and the shoulders of our girl
will bring you victory flags.

Only to that man
who takes on that murderous bull,
carries a staff on his shoulder,
plays melancholy notes on his flute,
we will give our girl
with dark flowing hair.

Among men who take on a bull,
no one is equal to me, says he,
standing among the cows,
bragging of his power.

Surely, one day, not too far,
he will take us too:
for, looking at him,
my left eye throbs,
which is a good omen.

There, the bulls are faint,
and the men have wounds all over.
The cowherd girls
with dark fragrant hair,
taking hints
from their herdsman-lovers,
move into the cool groves
of jasmine.
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