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Exhibit A
The painter of landscapes invites us to the gallery
To gaze at cliffs wrapped in mist. Or waterfalls starting in trickles
rushing down glossy Slopes into riverbeds banked with moss.
Or a lush, tropical forest sold to us as Eden-- Perfect in its promise,
air sweetened, lurking beasts Declawed, no signs of scuffle.
Even fragrant orchards and cultivated fields recede To far horizons that
stay still or creep away from turmoil Outside the frame. The figure of a
Or recluse, modestly miniature, drifts into the scene Standing there to
tell us--look, against this grand design, I am nothing. Backdrop is all
the drama there is
To be found here. We buy this fiction And make out of it a window on our
Exhibit B
Hiroshige * got it right.
Not that he ever disclaimed his civil servant status. Not that he
spurned the privilege of his ancestral Samurai crest. Not that he
knocked at castle gates
Or ever saw the inside of a thatched hut. Not that he followed the
tracks of palanquin-bearers Or ran in the wake of postal runners, or
limped alongside
Ponies laden with goods. Not that he broke his back With paddy planters
standing ankle-deep in flooded fields, Or sweated with the horse
groomers or, with calloused palms,
Pulled the nets of the fish-haulers. Not that he sang With itinerant
musicians or dallied with the dancers. Not that he Haunted the dens of
prostitutes or floated in a fog of opium.
But he was everywhere and he watched. He rode Up and down the highway.
He stared long and hard At the landscape. And the landscape looked back
Cobalt skies, steep mountain passes on cliff sides cut Like gems; the
scent of pine and plum trees, soggy trails, And crunchy gravel; the
ripples of streams, shallow
Ferries, and white boat sails billowing like giant lampshades. Even the
wind played along bending grass and blowing off hats. The landscape
stretched out and leaned back content.
The artist composed, recreating the sturdiness of bodies And the slack
of muscle; the frown of worry and the easy laughter; The hurled
syllables of quarrels, and the slump of regret.
Sometimes, he may have slept at the inns and slurped tea At the tea
stalls, sizing up Sumo wrestlers in transit. In town, He lingered on the
bridges to hear bazaar gossip,
Got drenched in an unexpected downpour and went home To change into a
dry, silk kimono. Outside, the wind howled, The rain beat in slanted
brushstrokes, prying loose
Weeping mudslides. The inky sky invaded his dreams. The next morning,
there he was again, looking. He was Everywhere. He missed nothing. 

* Ando Hiroshige (1795-1858), a Japanese artist, is best known for Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido, a series of color woodblock prints first exhibited in 1832. Against a backdrop of natural and constructed landscapes, Hiroshige records the sights and activities on the pilgrim route between Edo and Kyoto.

Saleem Peeradina, Associate Professor of English at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan, is the author of First Offence (1980), Group Portrait (1992), and Meditations on Desire (2003). He edited Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (1972), one of the earliest and most widely used texts in courses on South Asian literature. The Ocean in My Yard, Peeradina's prose memoir of growing up in Bombay, was published by Penguin Books in 2005. His poetry is represented in major anthologies of Indian, South Asian, and Asian American writing.
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Title Annotation:Two Poems
Author:Peeradina, Saleem
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Poem
Date:Nov 1, 2009
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