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She’s in My House

From: Manoa
Volume 25, Issue 2, 2013
pp. 22-23 | 10.1353/man.2013.0053

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

prasāde sā diśi diśi ca sā
    pṛṣṭataḥ sā puraḥ sā paryaṅke sā pathi pathi ca sā tadviyogāturasya
haṃho cetaḥ prakṛtir aparā nāsti me kāpi sā sā
    sā sā sā sā jagati sakale ko'yam advaitavādaḥ

  • prasāde. in front (or, in the house)

  • . she (is)

  • diśi diśi. direction direction (in every)

  • ca. and

  • . she

  • pṛṣṭataḥ. behind (west)

  • . she

  • puraḥ. in front (east)

  • . she

  • paryaṃke. on (my) bed, couch

  • . she

  • pathi pathi. path (after) path

  • ca. and

  • . she

  • tad-viyoga-āturasya. (bv. cmpd. with me) of this feverish separation from her

  • tat. (pronoun) from her

  • viyoga. separation

  • āturasya. (ātura) sickness, disease

  • haṃho. (excl.) oh, ah

  • cetaḥ. heart

  • prakṛtir. Nature, primal matter

  • aparā. apart from

  • na asti. there is no

  • me. for or of me

  • kā-api. some woman

  • sā sā sā sā sā sā. she she she she she she

  • jagati. in the universe

  • sakale. entire, whole

  • ko'yam. so what (is this)

  • advaita-vādaḥ. creed (vāda) of the Non-dualists

She’s in my house
she’s west and east
she trails behind me she goes
out ahead
she’s in my bed on path
after path
what a fever—I can’t
even see Nature now that she’s left me—
just she she she she she she
across the whole wheeling planet.
And Non-dualism
they say is for yogins.

The Amaruśataka shows up in at least four versions, differing in what poems they present and in what order. Each version is associated with a region or direction in India. This poem only appears in a Western manuscript. If the entire Amaru collection were not comprised of erotic or love poetry, one could read this as a devotional poem to the Great Goddess. Its language plays off philosophical and religious terms. Prakṛtī (Nature) refers to primal matter or the feminine principle; a-dvaita is a principal school of belief, Non-dualism. Even the complaint at the woman’s (or Goddess’s) distance and the devotee’s obsessive illness, ātura, is completely in line with Śakta or Kālī worship. The poetry of Rāmprasād Sen and Kamalakanta Bhattacharya in Bengal of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries rests on a similar edge between praise and complaint, sometimes called nindā-stuti, praise in the form of abusive reproach.

The cry sā sā sā sā sā sā is unlike anything else I’ve seen in Sanskrit poetry. Repetition, however, is a standard practice in religious verse, as it is in song traditions. Repetition taken to non-sensical lengths is common to mystical and tantric texts, mantra and dharaṇi. I cannot tell if the poet is being ironic, or feeling devastated, devout, mocking, heartbroken, or is speaking from some extreme state in which all these emotions meet.

Andrew Schelling  

Andrew Schelling, born in 1953 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., has written, edited, or translated twenty books. Early opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, plus an encounter with India’s texts, set him on a lifelong engagement with Asian literature. He studied Sanskrit at the University of California at Berkeley, and began to translate from its classical poetry tradition around 1978. His first book, Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India, received the Academy of American Poets translation award in 1992, the first time the Academy had honored work done from an Asian language. Schelling’s own poetry and essays emerge from the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion in which he lives. Recent books of poetry wrangle with the Arapaho language as a way of reading landscape and the natural cycles; they include From the Arapaho Songbook and A Possible Bag. He has edited The Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature and Love and the Turning Seasons: India’s Poetry of Spiritual and Erotic Longing (forthcoming from Counterpoint Press). Living on the Front Range of Colorado, he is active on land-use issues and teaches at Naropa University. He also teaches regularly at Deer Park Institute, in India’s Himalayan foothills.

Copyright © 2013 University of Hawai‘i Press
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