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Editor: Harley Hammerman
St. Louis, Missouri

Volume 6


Eugene O'Neill and His Settings
Through the Eyes of An Indian

Rupendra Guha Majumdar
University of Delhi, India

Spithead, Bermuda - 1999

I will write as I please—poised precisely for
the while on a middle path—about any igneous thing
on earth : a fringe of mountains in the Hindu Kush
or a lost continent biding time, or that sequestered
fish-hook island in the upper reaches of the North
Atlantic I reached last winter in a rush.

Laced with lichen of many hues upon a scaffolding
of coral, the place preserves its secret in dolphin
guarded coves of lucent crystal I’ve only heard about
but never seen or slept within during nights of
Nietzschean tempests when sky and ocean break even
their millennium fast with a ritual sacrifice.

In the glistening harbor of my room’s mirror, a white
cruiser floats anchored in the middle, motionless, a lone
sea-gull after a squall, resting its feathers.
Our first day abroad bears the loss of an hour—we
adjust our watches over breakfast following an
uninterrupted shower; we behave like familiar natives

of the place, white skin or black or in-between, not
unduly shaken by ‘recorded’ mysteries of war-planes
that once just disappeared into the black-holes
of radars across the horizon of strife; we put on
the straight academic face, no staggered wrinkles on
the brow like the countenance of the lagoon in downtown

Hamilton calm, untrammeled as if by seismic tremors.
The writer who lived here once (no, not me) also
stood before the mast in weathered dungarees—
from the Caribees to Buenos Aires , flicked his black
hair across this brow, his eyes carried the swell
of the ongoing surf in a backlash of tears for sons
abandoned, misbegotten, wandering in pain.

‘Spithead’, his mansion at land’s end lapped by waves,
looks like a ship with its sails down and folded
in the locker while moored in a lush equatorial cove,
no hands on deck, awaiting sealed orders( when all are
back—captain, first mate and rotgut company) to start
the throttle under a darkening sky

for an undisclosed passage,
                    a voyage of primal reckoning
          when the dead awaken

and the curlew sings
          at the edge
                    of the broken shore.

*          *          *          *          *

Spithead, Bermuda, 1999

*          *          *          *          *

Peaked Hill Bars, Provincetown, Cape Cod - 2005


Old Cape Cod’s crooked finger summons us
motley pilgrims of sorts to the northeast upper
corner of the land at the very nail-biting
          tip called Provincetown.

Peaked Hill Bars, which years past broke
the backs of innumerable ships, let
the Mayflower pass by many a dimpled,
bedraggled dune unshaken, no damning noise

of timber splintering or the drowning cry
of mother and child as winds paused to stretch
old sinews, try out a simpler tune. The sand-
bars still crouch like marauding troops below

the waves, holding their breaths
          for a softer kill.


Cape Cod’s a plough-shaped peninsula
girdled by a patchwork of blue ‘n’ white--
grandma’s embroidery of flipping whales
in their prime—marked and classified with

piquant names from amongst our kind: mammals
of a colossal passion from an older past than what
the fugitives of Puritan stamp could bear in spirit
and in mind, a long day’s journey into somber night

known only to a seasoned few of frontiersmen
of the O’Neillian breed--sea-dog Keeney, Cabot,
Venetian son-in-law of the Khan, the elder Tyrone
who from the sheen of histrionic treasures bought

a house on New London bay
          booming with fog,

reverberations on the wooden floor of a peripatetic,
woman’s feet in a drug-laced service of the Lord
almighty who blesses all visions, all sorrows of our
time, all appointed or untimely births at the break
          of dawn, all missions.


We see a shot of giant Nellie’s snout in a glossy,
one-page flyer of a ‘whale-watch’ ad in the lounge
of the Surfside Beach Hotel where we stay: it
          invites us to step out and sail over

the choppy waves, take the helm, to see her spout
and lash her tail. In a map of the Cape on the other
side I see in a flash of surf the totemic connection
          between mythic whale and the land;

keeping all the other metaphors aside—beckoning
finger, plough, anchor and hook-- the topography
suggests to my eyes the fluke of a whale’s tail seen
from the side as it dives back into its darker realm,
          it’s portrait done!


Down the dunes O’Neill’s coast-guard shack is going
with a groan, gone. It slides into the sea like
a capsizing ship far from land as he shirtless stands
on a rock and watches grimly with one hand on hip.

The pounding waves and sands undo his story of
a racial admixture of castaways in an interlude
of “thirst;” a familiar grating noise of timber splintering
amidst the rocks and the spluttering, asphyxiated foam,

his land’s-end, precarious pad goes down like a galleon
          into the further reaches of the frosty night.

I walk through the tangled brush, the red and white
roses cresting the dunes; there are other footsteps on
the sand besides mine own, measuring the outreach
of the ocean at low tide
          when the weeds inscribe sundry

names from the recent memory of northern waves
crashing with a roar before the sun goes down, then
                    where they came from
          under the retreating murmur
                              of a tide of bees.

*          *          *          *          *

Downtown Provincetown, 2005

Downtown Provincetown, 2005

*          *          *          *          *

Pausing at Tao House - 2008


Long, long after the gold-
rush he came out West
to California to garner
those nuggets missed by
the mules and the grizzled lot.

The shadows of Mt. Diablo
pressed athwart his rooms in
the house with the red-tiled
roofs called Tao across
the valley and the streams,

paused there amongst the narrow
bookshelves on the walls for seven
years before the mast in Melville’s,
Dana’s, Conrad’s care past faint
cries of continents at war

and much besides to reach
the darkening roots of sycamore
and oak forged in lightning,
grip the loose black earth
through his crowded dreams.


At the foot of the hill beyond
the barn, the grave-stone of a dog
contains fond memories of a white
firmament of coal-black stars—Blemie,
constellation of the Spotted Hound,

Dalmatian soul poised unleashed
to walk the full distance
of faith uphill
                    as it listens
to a piano playing on its own
accord the song
          of the distant
                              moonlit surf

when all is past
                              and so very still.

*          *          *          *          *

Tao House, Danville , California, 2008



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