Joan E. Bauer: Remembering V. S. Naipaul at the Dawn of a Dark Century
The November rain rat-tats, beads on the window.
I scratch words, anxious birds on a yellow pad.
In your cottage in Wiltshire, perhaps you are writing.
Your anguished Asiatic eyes almost disappearing in your full
brown face, your beard grey, grown long, like a mullah.
Not the fastidious elf-man of forty years ago, when I first met
your shattered expatriates. I hear your voice drop to a whisper—
Simple people write simple things. I am not a simple person.
What panic drove you, nearly killed you at Oxford? Just in time,
the gas meter ran out. You have been my eyes:
Mombai Karachi Buenos Aires Port au Spain Kampala
You called them half-made societies. How did you survive Trinidad—
There wasn’t even a proper general store.Years ago
you traveled the American South, taken with black churches,
rednecks, country music. What would you make of
our mud-green Monongahela, abandoned towns?
The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow
themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
I think: apocalyptic dawn. An orange sun melts the clouds.
The leaves hang on for another day like gold doubloons.
Like you, I believe in no saviors, no holy men. I think of America:
our squandered riches, self-inflicted wounds. I hear your
icy riposte— Hate oppression; fear the oppressed.
For years, I’ve thought of you as my venerable distant uncle:
acerbic, edgy, master of disenchantment. You who wear
the world like a hair shirt. Your imagination, the cauldron
purging the dross, creating something pure, unholy.
Do you see the slick-black flight of birds? The yellow light?
Copyright 2018 Joan E. Bauer
Previously published in The New Renaissance. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul TC ; 17 August 1932 – 11 August 2018), known as Vidia Naipaul or V. S. Naipaul, was a Trinidadian-British writer who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was born in Trinidad in a family with Indian roots, resided in England as an adult, and travelled across, and wrote about, India, Africa, the Islamic world, and South and North America in his novels and non-fiction works. He is known for his comic early novels set in Trinidad and Tobago, his bleaker later novels of the wider world, and his autobiographical chronicles of life and travels. He published more than thirty books, both of fiction and nonfiction, over some fifty years.