I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison – flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room –
he risked the rain again.
The speaker starts off by telling that he remembers the night his mother was stung by a scorpion. Continuous rain for 10 hours had driven him to crawl and hide behind a sack of rice. The scorpion stung the speaker’s mother with its tail in the darkroom and went out in the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.
With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.
The poet then points out that a lot of peasants hearing the victim’s wails came swarming like flies. They started chanting the name of God a hundred times to paralyse the scorpion. They searched for the scorpion with candles and with lanterns everywhere. Yet they couldn’t find the scorpion. They said that with every movement the scorpion made, the poison moved inside the speaker’s mother’s blood. The ancient rural superstition is quite evident from the lines.
May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
They prayed that may the scorpion sit still at someplace. They wished that the mother’s sins of her previous birth be purified by her suffering. They hoped that her suffering may decrease in her next birth due to her ordeal in this birth. They wished that may all the evil in this world decrease in the world as a result of her pain and may her flesh be purified of desire and the spirit of ambition by the poison. They surrounded his mother on the floor with her in the centre with the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
More people came with candles and lanterns. There was more neighbours, more insects and endless rain. The speaker’s mother twisted with pain, groaning on the mat. His father who was a sceptic, rationalist being helpless tried every blessing and cure, powder, mixture, herb and hybrid to try to cure her. He poured even paraffin on the bitten toe and set it on fire. The poet saw the flame feeding his mother. Like funeral rites, he saw his father as a holy man trying to tame the poison with incantations. After twenty hours the poison lost its sting. The poet’s mother breathed a sigh of relief and said she was glad that the scorpion spared her children and bit her instead.