The Stare


There is that moment
when the young human child
at the young monkey child
who stares back –

Innocence facing
innocence in a space
where the young monkey child
is not in captivity.

There is purity
there is a transparence
in this stare
which lasts a long time…

eyes of water
eyes of sky
the soul can still fall through
because the monkey
has yet to learn fear
and the human
has yet to learn fear –
let alone arrogance.

Witnessing it all
one can count eyelashes
one can count the snails
in the grass
while waiting
for eyes to blink
waiting to see who
will look away first.

Still the monkey looks
at the human not in the same way
he would look at leaves
or at his own siblings.

And the human looks
at the monkey knowing
this is some totally other being.

And yet, there is such good will
such curiosity brightening
their faces.

I would like to slip inside
that stare, to know
what the human child thinks
what the monkey child thinks
at that very moment.

Remember, the human child
is at that age
when he begins to use words
with power
but without the distance
of alphabets, of abstractions.

Mention bread
and he wants
a slice, buttered and with honey –

Mention the cat
and he runs over
to awaken her.

The word
is the thing itself.

Language is simply
a necessary music
suddenly connected
to the child’s own heartbeat.

While the young monkey child
grows at a different rate,
looks at a tree, a bush,
at the human child
and thinks…
Who knows what?

What remains burning
is that moment
of staring:
the two newly formed heads
balanced on fragile necks
tilting towards each other,
the monkey face
and the human face
absorbing each other
with intense gentleness….

from Monkey Shadows (Carcanet, 1991) copyright Sujata Bhatt 1991, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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