Dr. S. Satya Sri’s Man with A Golden Heart draws on the long, varied tradition of sorrow and travail found in such writings as the Bible or the Buddhist Four Noble Truths, as well as in poetry from Shakespeare and Milton to Keats, Hardy, Tennyson and Yeats.
There is a paralyzing despair at the heart of this book: “Time has washed off / Everything from me / Filling me with sadness / Nothing in this world can / Wash that out of me / Only dust can bury it.” But the opposite pole of abjection is defiance: “Why such a cursed life, my Lord? / Don’t you know who I am? / I am Dr. Satya Sri / Who the hell do you think I am anyway?”
The reader is made dizzy by this whiplash between emotions, between dejection and challenge, anguish and provocation. On one page there is the lament, “What can I do? /… My Lord I am helpless,” and on another there is the almost-snarled, “My Lord / Let me not be weak-minded / Let me not think like the ordinary / Let me think like you, my Lord.”
There is a powerfully complex and contradictory tension at work here. Satya tells us of his battles with demons both personal and physical. The outcome of this struggle seems by no means certain. At the end of the book, he writes, “Oh Cancer / Your company has subdued me / I thank you for that… Now I know my limitations…”
The risk with this type of poetry is that of falling into the maudlin, clichéd, and smugly self-righteous — risks Satya does not always avoid. In addition, some passages are repetitious; others are confused and fuzzy. While there is much here to ponder, the work could be made much stronger with some re-writing and pruning. Correcting these problems would leave a forceful, moving book about uneasy survival in the face of great difficulties.
Also available as an ebook.