To Nissim Ezekiel – Salin Gopinathan, Kollam

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An alarmed squirrel barked
and swished of his tail
alerting the crows on the twigs of the trees.
A woman screamed and ran
to and fro.

Neighbors and passersby poured in.
They did everything to console
the panic-stricken mother
as in the veranda
her two year old child played
with a viper-
A game of life and death.

Maybe he was bitten
Maybe he was not.
Shocked and speechless- the people
kept a distance.
They grouped and talked
about poison and death
and blamed the careless mother.

Not a single rationalist emerged
from the crowd.
No one dared to get near the event horizon.
More people, more prayers, more screams,
more chaos and more spectators.

Only the creature took the initiative.
It darted its fork in and out
tasting the air, sending paralytic
waves across the crowd.

Then wriggled a bit,
loosening itself from the child’s grip
and crawled away from his vicinity.

The play ended
The child was searched
Not a fang mark on his body
Not a symptom of venom in his blood
He didn’t cry
He wasn’t bitten.

The crowd thanked god and
cursed the viper a hundred times.
The mother cried
She kissed her child.

The viper was searched and killed.
A poem- Night of the scorpion
by Nissim Ezekiel flashed in my mind.
Sorry Nissim,
Our attitudes have changed.
The viper was not lucky
As your scorpion.

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