Hugh Hazelton – Temples

Hugh Hazelton LE P&W February 2019

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Temples, poem by Hugh Hazelton

Hugh Hazelton is a Montreal writer and translator who specializes in the comparison of Canadian and Quebec literatures with those of Latin America. He has written four books of poetry, including Antimatter (Broken Jaw Press, 2nd edition, with CD, 2010), and his work has appeared in reviews in Canada, the US, Mexico, Chile and Spain. He translates from Spanish, French and Portuguese into English; his translation of Vétiver, a book of poems by Joël Des Rosiers, won the Governor General’s award for French-English translation in 2006. He is a professor emeritus of Spanish at Concordia University in Montreal and former co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. He received the Linda Garboriau Award in 2016 for his work on behalf of literary translation in Canada, as well as the Lèvres urbaines award from Les Écrits des Forges in 2018 for his dedication to the advancement of poetry.


for Ginette

we walked together through the temples of Khajuraho
lost in the dust of the plains of the Yamuna
the sides of the monumental stone pinnacles
sculpted with scenes of sexual union in dozens of positions
and combinations, gods or people bending, embracing, coupling elegantly
with Apsaras attending, helping them hold their positions, twining around pillars
or simply looking on, combing their hair, glancing into mirrors, smiling or bemused
as the deity couples bonded converging in maithuna to achieve tantric transcendence,
uniting transmitting spontaneous cells fusing adoring blending duality into a single being
returning to the act of creation in search of ecstatic catharsis pulsation through pleasure
their faces focussed serenely joyful smiling lovingly joining together to be transported to new worlds
becoming one within the other in the completion of the universe
all from the tenth to twelfth centuries
and as we left you stopped to adjust your sandal, like an Apsara removing a thorn from her foot
and that night we felt it possible, and like them we combined our bodies and beings
making love in those same positions and feeling closer than ever before
together alone in the vast night of India, journeying on
until Surya the sun god would awake and pick us up once more
and carry us off to the coast of Orissa
in his twenty-four-wheeled chariot to the temples of Konarak
which had similar statues doing similar things
carved into its sides that were once sixty metres high
and later that one last temple visit to a place of living pilgrimage
near land’s end at the tip of Tamil Nadu,
the Ramanathaswamy, with a giant seething gopuram
rising abruptly above the seashore palms
and its hall of twelve hundred and twelve massive pillars
supporting a vast green and orange ceiling of tigers and mandalas
all leading to the centre of activity
the great basalt lingam of Shiva
rising out of Shakti’s enfolding yoni
where women with flowers in their hair
anoint the smooth stone with sacred butter sprinkled with petals
that runs down its fluted sides and pools onto the lips of the awaiting circle
and that night we held each other forever
our temples touching

©Hugh Hazelton