Rabindranath in the Island of Birds

Writing his art as were song and dance
He took to painting his last years
So we, his brothers, Gagendra and Abanindra
Welcome him into our world as good guest
Wonderful host that he had been --
The man, by then, had been reduced to the basics
So we painted him in cubes, prisms of his mind
From which shone forth the birds of light:
Orioles dipping into his heart, a hoopoe in his ear
Owls at his heel or in his beard
Swallows at his temple-eaves... the nightingales...!
It was twilight and he was gently turning away
To the shadows of his etching.                Yes
From a cloak or a forelock, a sleeve or a hem
Sprang fountains of light
As if from the blue
As grey-pigeons sometimes turn up a whitest feather
And we who roamed worlds for art-treasures
Found ourselves in him
By moonlight, in rain, in the Island of Birds            Above all
In the Island of Birds
Where melody comes out piping on a paper left untouched
As empty space.        Or, as a black, subsuming all colour.

And now we, brotherless and sonless yet
Sit with a son, brother
Smoking reefers outside art galleries
Trying to lift ourselves to a tree's birdsong at sunset
Trying to bear a fifth dimension since
He calls from a sixth.

National Gallery
New Delhi

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