A Ballad for Bopoluchi

Daljit Nagra

Hauling pails from the village well
the girls fell a-talking of weddings to come.
Said one: My uncle will bring me chum-chums.
Said a second: My uncle will bear me gilded
satin saris. The third, Bopoluchi, the fairest
and fastest of the lot: My uncle, with caskets
of jewels and fruits on a luscious white horse
will ride us to his palace to win me a suitor!

Poor Bopoluchi, the orphan, knew no uncle
to manicure her caste in the matter of marriage;
instead at the well from where he sold his wares,
a robber’s heart roly-poly’d for her wild cat eyes,
and hungered for a virginal feast. On a horse
at dawn beside Bopoluchi’s hut he pronounced
he was her father’s brother. He bore caskets
of jewels – he was just what she’d prophesied!

As they galloped along Bandicoot Lane, she nuzzled
her cheek in his chest as he claimed a noble past.
But a crow on a branch viciously croaked:
Oh Bopoluchi, have you lost your headdd?
This hot-head thief will cut off your neckkk!
Uncle, said Bopoluchi, that crow sounds anxious.
Pooh, said the robber, the crows in this country,
that peacock, that jackal are like niggling wives!

In a room with a thousand rowdy jewels
the robber peeled back his rubbery disguise
and powered his legs on Bopoluchi. A knock
at the door rocked him off for a knock-out deal.
He locked her indoors with his bald-headed mother
who dribbled her goofy chops at Bopoluchi’s down-
to-her-feet braided mane! At once Bopoluchi put on
a simpleton’s simper, professing her hair had grown

from its stubble with stipples from her mother’s
pestle about her head in their rice-husking mortar.
When that bald-headed dreamer of long plaited hair
laid her head in a mortar her brains were bashed!
Bopoluchi arranged the body in her scarlet bridal dress
on a low bridal chair. The robber returned cock-a-hoop
and thought he saw Bopoluchi sat on a bridal chair.
Each time he bawled her name she bounced no reply.

He flipped his lid. He flung a mortar! Bopoluchi snuck
out the front as the robber blubbered into his beard
having eye-balled his twice-killed mummy-jee!
He went with his men to detect that slinky vixen.
Through the chink of a night they glimpsed her asleep
in the bed of her own audacious hut. And slithered in
like snakes to skilfully raise the bed by the legs
across a stream. When they reached the desert,

Bopoluchi, who all along had pretended to snore,
pulled ever so sweetly a snarling bill-hook. Swirling
its dervish screams she sliced off the goon-heads!
Except the robber who shot up a tree. Cried Bopoluchi,
You pukpukpuk chicken! Still he held to a branch
till she lit her stick-pile. Before heading for his house
on his horse to bag his pearls she purred when the food
that flew off the branch ready-made was roasted robber!