Personal Site Of Sanjay Panda


Home | Ekadashi | Back To School | My-Self | Write Me | Back To Godhead

Ancient Oriya Poetry
An Aesthetic Expression of Indian Spirituality


   I shall highlight here some prominent features of ancient Oriya poetry, which is not different from other Indian poetry in its essence and spirit. For this I have taken into account the poetry of fifteenth century to nineteenth century A.D., starting from Sarala Das of Mahabharata fame to the mystic poet Bhima Bhoi. Strangely, almost all the poets of these 400 years were spiritual seekers; they belonged to one or other path of Indian spirituality. They were seekers, saints, bhaktas, tantrics and mystics. But they did not express their experience just as an intellectual or philosophical concept, they converted it to living poetry, full of vitality and beauty, so that it could be received by the readers aesthetically.

Prior to fifteenth century, there were a series of poetical compositions, called Charyapada, composed by Buddhist Siddhacharyas. They were practitioners of esoteric Tantrism of Sahaja Jana. Here I am giving an example from the poet Kanhupad of tenth century :

Your hut stands outside the city
Oh, untouchable maid
The bald Brahmin passes sneaking close by
Oh, my maid, I would make you my companion
Kanha is a kapali, a yogi
He is naked and has no disgust
There is a lotus with sixtyfour petals
Upon that the maid will climb with this poor self and dance.

Here the image ‘untouchable maid’ is used for ‘ shakti’, it resides outside the city, i.e., outside the ordinary consciousness. Though she is untouchable, the bald Brahmin, meaning the so-called wise man, has a secret hankering for her. But only a kapali or an extreme Tantric can be a fit companion for her, because he is also an outcaste ; he is naked, for he does not have any social identity or artificiality. After the union with the shakti both of them would climb on the 64-petalled lotus Sahasrara Chakra, and dance there.

Evidently, the poet had drawn images and symbols from existing social milieu, social psychology, so that this deep realization could be easily grasped by the readers. This kind of poetry, full with the mystery of Tantra, spread over the Northeastern region of India from the tenth to the fourteenth century, and its style of expression was revived by the Oriya poets of sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

Oriya poetry with a distinct language started with Sarala Das of fifteenth century who was acclaimed as “Adikabi” or the first poet. He is also a Shudra Muni, or a seer from backward class. He had no formal education and did not know Sanskrit. It is believed that he got his poetic gift from goddess Sarala (Sarasswati), and wrote Mahabharata as it was dictated by her. Among many of his poems and epics, he is best remembered for his Mahabharata. Though he took the original theme of Vyasadev, he departed from it in many ways and aspects. He visualized the Mahabharata in the atmosphere of Orissa, created many life situations peculiar to Orissa. Here Kunti is called Koenta, Draupadi is Drupati, Yuddhisthira is Jujesthi,  Duryodhana is Managobindai – so that characters will seem familiar and closer to the imagination of common people. From many original episodes I give here two examples, which are not found in Vyasa’s Mahabharata.

When Yuddhisthira lost everything, including his wife Draupadi, in the game of dice with Sakuni, Duhsasana dragged her to Kurusabha, by pulling her loose, luxuriant hair. He wanted to make her a slave and tried to take away her clothes. Fortunately, Krishna heard her prayer and saved her from this utter humiliation. But an enraged and revengeful Draupadi took a terrible vow, that her hair would remain loose and unbraided till she could wash it with Duhsasana’s blood. After killing him in the war, Bhima brought his blood for Draupadi, and she washed her hair with it, licking it even as it flowed down her face. This is the image of Mahakali of Indian spirituality, who takes delight in killing Asuras and drinking their blood. Thus Draupadi is painted here as a very strong woman, who believes in defending her honour and dharma by destroying the Asuric forces.

Another episode is in the last phase of the Kurukshetra war. All the Kauravas and great warriors like Karna, Drona, Sakuni are dead. Duryodhana, alone and panic-stricken, finds himself beside a long, deep river of blood. Innumerable dead bodies are floating there. Duryodhana cries a lot, catches hold of corpses one by one, and tries to sit on one in order to cross the river. But as soon as he sits, it sinks to the bottom of the river. Finally, with the help of a solid, strong body he crosses the river. On the other side, he discovers that it was the dead body of his son Laxman. Absolutely frustrated, he weeps, embraces his son’s corpse, remembers his glory and also remembers how Laxman requested him to give at least five villages to the Pandavas. So he repents : “Now I promise to give them half of my kingdom, please come back to life, my son.”

This incident makes one conscious of the consequences of an egocentric, ambitious, self-assertive way of life. Besides these two, there are many more original episodes, which contribute a lot to Indian culture.

The poet Jagannath Das of late fifteenth century was a scholar, philosopher and a bhakta.  He had given a new language to Orissa, which was almost sanskritised and it is presently spoken and written by Oriyas. There is a story regarding the translation of the Sanskrit Bhagavata into Oriya. At that time religious scriptures being in the custody of Sanskrit pundits, fees were collected from the villagers who wanted to listen to their discourses. One day, Jagannath Das’s mother was denied entry to the discourses of Bhagavata, as she did not have enough money. Greatly moved by the incident, Jagannatha translated it into Oriya for his own dear and Krishna-devoted mother, thereby helping the whole of Orissa to enjoy the privilege of reading their most favourite scripture of Hindu dharma. Afterwards, Bhagabata tungis or study circles were founded in each village of Orissa, where people of all classes would come and listen : even the illiterate womenfolk and children were not left out. 

Even though it is a translation, Jagannath made it quite original by his poetic genius. It is composed in Nabakhari, which means that each line consists of nine letters. An example will show the difference between the original and the translation. The original text in Vyasa (Chapter I, Book I) reads :

The fruit of Bhagavata has fallen from the tree of Vedic literature
It is sweet with the nectar of Suka’s mouth
Oh, the men of great sensibility of the world
Drink this and attain Divine Delight.

As is well know, though Vyasa wrote the Bhagavata, his son Sukadeva was its propagator. In Oriya and Sanskrit, “Suka” means parrot. Hence, the metaphors of tree and fruit are justified. In the Oriya version, these four lines have been expressed in fourteen lines ; Bhagabata is read in Oriya in a melody of this sort  :

“All the Vedas became a tree
And bore a fruit in the vast space
As the fruit ripened, it fell down
Suka the parrot came flying to the spot,
Leaving the company of friends
He drank the juice of the fruit
From his mouth flows it
Sweeter than nectar
Oh men of great sensibility
Drink this and attain Divine Delight.”

We can see how, without hampering the purity of the original, he had conveyed more with fresh, pictorial images.

The chapter Rasa-lila in the tenth Book of Bhagabata is a magnificent piece of poetry, just as in the eleventh Book Krishna’s message to Uddhaba, before leaving his body, has become a masterpiece in Jagannath’s able hand. In a full-moon night of autumn, Krishna calls his devotees, the Gopis with his magic flute. The Gopis, the married cowherd women of Gopa, come running, leaving their marital status and their home, leaving all the barriers of society and tradition of ages. And Krishna dances in Brindavan, near the river Yamuna, under fragrant Kadamba trees so lovingly, so passionately that each and every Gopi thinks that Krishna is dancing with herself alone : 16,000 Krishnas appear to be dancing with 16,000 Gopis. Thus, Krishna’s devotees who aspired to get him as a lover were delivered from earthly bondage by this love play. The entire scene of sensuous, love play has been transmuted into a piece of beauty – it would not be exaggerated to say that by sheer force of poetry, Jagannath made the eternal Brindavan descend on earth : it becomes real and vivid for one who reads with humility and devotion. On Sri Krishna’s birthday, every Oriya reads the chapter Balalila and, on his deathbed, listens to the eleventh Book.

The theme of Radha-Krishna dominated the field of Oriya poetry for the next 300 years. A versatile poet, Upendra Bhanja of seventeenth century, was an exception who wrote epics and poems in new and imaginary themes, such as his epic VaidehishaVilas, composed on Rama and Sita. Each line of the whole epic starts with the letter ‘Ba” and is based on ragas, so that it can be sung and used in dance.

 Then came the Vaishnava poets, like Abhimanyu Samanta singhar, Kabisurya Baladev Rath, Banamali Das, Gopalakrisna and Bhaktacharan. Their poems are also a combination of song and dance. These are called Odissi songs and are used in the world-famous Odissi dance. Students from abroad come to research on it and learn it. Its significance lie in the deep emotion, of surrender, and ecstasy of union and pang of separation in Radha-Krishna’s love. 

In Bidagdha Chintamani, one of the best epics of the age, Abhimanyu tries to give definition of this love through Bisakha, an intimate friend of Radha. Unable to bear the pain of separation, Radha asks her friend about the criteria, quality and source of love. Bisakha replies  :

“It is not fire
But it burns the body
It is not a weapon
But it pierces the heart
It is not an intoxicant
But it intoxicates
It is not a fishing rod
But attracts the fish of the mind.”

So, love, like Brahman of Indian spirituality, is “not this” and “not that” – then what is it? Again she says  :

“It is difficult to sustain this love
More difficult than climbing the sky
Than walking on the edge of sword
It is as if one tries to catch air in a net
Or to hold mercury in one’s palm.”

It is a long and extraordinary poem written on love, which takes one away from the limited to the limitless.

Expression of love has been more simple, refined with Baladev Rath, who was honoured with a title of  “Sun among the poets.” He is best in an unusual poetic structure, called Champu – its first poem starts with the first letter of alphabet, “ka,” and it continues in that way till the last poem, which starts with the last letter, “khya.” It is surprising to find such a beautiful dance drama with a self-imposed regulation of form. Here is one of his poem, based on a raga, with a befitting rhythm or taal, so that it can be used in dance :

In Bhakta Charan’s epic poem Mathura Mangala, through the Gopis’ love for Krishna, the poet proves the superiority of Bhakti Yoga to Jana yoga After finishing a talking with them, Uddhaba was overwhelmed by their sincerity, self-surrender and entire trust, and realized that Gopis had identified themselves completely with Sri Krishna, so he is not worthy of consoling these enlightened souls. 

Almost all the poets I have discussed here also composed many songs, as prayers to their personal god or Krishna or to Jagannath, the presiding deity of Orissa. Indian spirituality never believes God to be in heaven. God is one’s father, mother, teacher, son and friend. So the tone of all these prayers, or bhajans, is very intimate. We see Balaram Das begging nothing from Jagannath except a handful of dust from his temple courtyard ; we see Chandan Hajuri singing his glory, begging God’s grace, and Baladev Rath scolding him as much as he can ; by comparing him with a poisonous snake – a Kala Sarpa who devours living beings – Bhktacharan exposes the crude reality of the body’s death to make one conscious of the divine and transcend death. And there are also some heart-rending Bhajans by a Muslim poet Selabega, which proves that at that time Bhakti for Jagannath was beyond religion.

But the mystic poets had no personal god, they were praying to a formless being or void. The poet Achyutananda of sixteenth century conceived the creation of Brahman as such :

There was a place called non-void
It became the void in a strange way
In this void resides the formless
From the body of the formless supreme Brahman embodied

Or, to express that state of Brahman experience, he says :

In the moonless night
Shines a full moon
In the eternal night a sun is seen
A lamp burns day and night here
And a wild wind kindles the lamp.

That is the kind of riddles and contradictory images which mystic poets used to express their abstract experience and create situations full of ambiguity. 

The last poet of this discussion is Bhima Bhoi of nineteenth century, who belonged to tribal community – he is also called a saint-poet. His divinity is sunya or a formless, nameless being called Anama, but sometimes he sees him as a renunciate, wearing yellow robes, roaming around the world in summer and rain. He is never contented with his own salvation, he wants to uplift mankind to a spiritual height. At times he gets very angry with the people for their folly, inertia, and ignorance, and at other times he becomes so compassionate that he says :

“How can one tolerate the terrible suffering and misery 
                                           of these living beings
Even if my life goes to hell
                                           Let the world be saved.”

This is the ultimate message of Indian spirituality – to see the Divine in his creation, to be united with it, to try to raise it – which is wonderfully expressed it Bhima Bhoi’s poetry.

Have I told enough of my favourite and revered poets? I can now look back to that age of 450 years ago, when there was no printing press, no electronic media and these poets were writing on palm leaves. Some of them were uneducated, some were striving hard to earn their daily needs, some were dedicated Bhaktas or renunciates, but all of them were highly talented, with a thorough knowledge of poetry, music and dance. They loved Orissa and its language, they knew the people’s psychology and need, above all, they did not bother for name, fame or awards. They were immensely popular, but never came down to the level of common herd ; instead, they touched their souls and lifted them to a higher level of consciousness.

Should one not expect a little of this from modern-age artists, poets or writers? Must art and literature be either for an enlightened few or be perverted and commercialized to have a widespread mass appeal? It is a grave and serious point to ponder about. As stated by Sri Aurobindo :

“The greatness of a literature lies first in the greatness and worth of its substance, the value of its thought and the beauty of its forms, but also in the degree to which, satisfying the highest conditions of the art of speech, it avails to bring out and raise the soul and life or the living and the ideal mind of a people, an age, a culture, through the genius of some of its greatest or most sensitive representative spirits.” 

Should not we want Indian poetry to become as great as it was?

Thank you.


I have lost the accredition papers
My address is temporary
Any house I live in
is my embassy under threat

Every man looks like a wily foreigner
For each language I ask for
a translator,an interpreter
Every woman seems to be
a venom-maiden
How do I bathe,every river
vanishes at the sight of my feet
The wind wafts past me
doesn't bring
the vintage scent of a country my own

caves and sanctums:
nowhere I meet my peer,
my "samanadharma"

Up there,perhaps,
the Master gets replaced

Who really recalls the terms
of the last Treaty-of-Peace
Parleying over the new draft
I'm afraid
a Great War may blast
the very next moment

I do not know the country
of which or to which
I'm the Ambassador:
an envoy-in-peril
At every stride I get
more and more exiled
And every poem:
just a fragile pact
for a transient ceasefire
with Time the Terrible


Smoke soars up
as water streams down
it's natural

Not that smoke really uncapped
a bottle
and leapt into the shape
of a shrieking demon
all of a sudden
it wasn't that way

on the moving potters'-wheel
I was playing
with moist clay

To shape the globe anew
grip over the hands
is a must
fire comes next

How can art take birth
unless the hands waver?
a cherished curse

Clay that enters a mould
and gets out of it
remains mere clay
dead though shapely
I don't need moulds

memory,being and dreams
I blended into a dough
to keep the clay moist
braving the sun
Waiting for new distortions
of varied ilks

My hands trembled
From the whirring wheel soared
a blue ascension
a lean column of incense
in cool grace

Clay becoming smoke
who could have fancied?
Now I know
why the sky is blue
why sculpting
is so cruel

Some day
the needletip of my blue smoke
will reach up to the sun
and,piercing it,
prick the sky to etch
a new star
a red lone star

Had the colour of the smoke
been red
had the colour of the wet clay
been red,ah,
at the beginning
of the beginning


one to the other
all of us
in spring time

Earth-crawling creeper
suddenly stands up
like a twisted goldstick
and then shivers
The viewer gets numbed

Cruel her stare
like the breasts
of a girl in early teens
His eyes get lowered

Buds of white thirst
sprout on tiny shoots
and yet
the root drinks fire

You,hot rock floor,
give up your dream
of rising like a minar
melt and confess
the defeat

Thunder this time
shall not strike
though sky
may collapse
Only a peacock-plume
dropping down and down
will touch tenderly
the tip of consciousness
of the green shoots
at the top.



My lost crown appears
                                    to me
                                    as I face the sea, 
                                    watch it rolling about on the sands. 
                                    And here my kingdom lies in shards, 
                                    enveloping me like a fortress 
                                    vast, and the limit's past. 
                                    I forget myself, forgetting my first name 
                                    in time to become my second self, 
                                    turning a stranger to myself, 
                                    aloof and unfamiliar. 
                                    In the sky of my own self 
                                    I lose myself, losing too 
                                    my beginning and my end: 
                                    the truth of all that was or wasn't, and is. 
                                    All words in an instant 
                                    turn wordless, 
                                    the word's past, 
                                    the unheard of what is heard. 
                                    All sounds seem meaningless, 
                                    the quest for all meaning futile. 
                                    Oh, if only these sounds unite 
                                    to become a signal, a sign or symbol 
                                    that would open 
                                    the entrance to a magical cave 
                                    at the touch of a finger... 
                                    To say, to know, to understand 
                                    Useless are these words and voices, 
                                    all the prepared prayers. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayanta Mahapatra 


                                    She is the one who slays me,  
                                    moment by moment,  
                                    In the grove of casuarinas,  
                                    by the shores of the sea,  
                                    She is the one who slays me,  
                                    in the very last act of the play.  
                                    With every single gut of my blood  
                                    is woven a pattern of immense terror.  
                                    She is the one who slays me  
                                    hour by hour  
                                    In the white man's cemetry, or here.  
                                    She is the one who pushes me  
                                    down the abyss of death.  
                                    Drawing me with the beak of her gaze,  
                                    She slays me with the strands of her smile  
                                    Here within, or in some lonely river isle,  
                                    In an abandoned citadel.  
                                    And I live again, fall in love with her.  
                                    My Sumba-Nisumba existence only resembles her.  
                                    So she is a Goddess, for how else  
                                    Can she secure the slayed,  
                                    Death and love, with strings of slaughter;  
                                    Because love is death, her order ultimate.  
                                    And receiving and giving seem complete  
                                    when each other we annihilate.  
                                    She is the one who slays me  
                                    with eyes of murder,  
                                    Slays me in the cell of love,  
                                    Over a secret stairway,  
                                    or on some forgotten border,  
                                    For she is a Goddess:  
                                    truly she makes me hers  
                                    Under the pretense of worship,  
                                    each moment by moment  
                                    In every single act of the play. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayanta Mahapatra 


                                    It's night.  
                                    It's cold.  
                                    What incredible fury of the blizzard !  
                                    An unbearable death  
                                    could break into this house  
                                    like a hungry wild cat.  
                                    Close the doors and windows.  
                                    It's better here,in this corner of the lounge  
                                    of this house.  
                                    The chairs, the carpet and the table do not talk.  
                                    Talk, sing, or do something  
                                    entirely petty and entirely unnecessary.  
                                    Or take a book, lie down, and do not speak.  
                                    Whatever you do today will have some meaning—
                                    a mile-long sip from a teacup,  
                                    drawing in cigarette smoke and puffing it out,  
                                    the violin's sad melody—
                                    whatever you do will have meaning,  
                                    whatever you do will clearly be better.  
                                    Close the windows and doors.  
                                    Let's build a pathway paved with echoes,  
                                    away from solidified mysteries,  
                                    and arrive at the abode that's our very own.  
                                    There, in that abode,  
                                    a single moment holds  
                                    the reflection of our whole familiar world.  
                                    In light's green effulgence,  
                                    and in darkness that contains  
                                    God knows how many layers,  
                                    the blue sky descends in dewdrops  
                                    into the abyss of consciousness.  
                                    Let's go then to the frontier  
                                    where all disquiet has ceased.  
                                    Let's go into the house  
                                    set apart for us  
                                    by God knows who.  
                                    Some day, however, those terrible paws  
                                    will break into the house.  
                                    Its doors and windows will fall apart.  
                                    Electricity will be switched off.  
                                    It will embezzle every single certitude  
                                    of my universe  
                                    and, then, disappear for ever.  
                                    This moment will be the moment  
                                    of all-devouring time  
                                    that has no beginning,  
                                    and no end.  
                                    Look, the black wild cat  
                                    is here once again.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Ramakanta Rath   



                                    Why must one live for one hundred years?  
                                    Bereft of the poison-tooth, defenceless,  
                                    and unable to lift one's own bow,  
                                    must one still live?  
                                    Why must one play host to one hundred autumns year after year  
                                    opening and closing and reopening and bolting again  
                                    the doors and windows?  
                                    Must one go on playing the same game for eternity,  
                                    keep on doing the same sum till infinity?  
                                    Who will be my witness:  
                                    the snippets of Vietnamese valour  
                                    from the pitiful daily newspaper  
                                    in between sips of milk-powdered tea,  
                                    that act like vitamins?  
                                    The old guileless photograph of the well-dressed  
                                    young man smiling with his bride,  
                                    preserved inside the glass cupboard,  
                                    that warms up one's strained nerves?  
                                    Or the "farewell-message"  
                                    presented with garlands of now-faded camphor  
                                    by the office-staff  
                                    on one occasion of a transfer from Bhadrak to Koraput,  
                                    displayed on the wall?  
                                    Thereafter the same formulae of multiplication  
                                    from one to twenty and from twenty to one,  
                                    framed photographs hung on dusty dark walls:  
                                    the eldest daughter donning the black gown and hood  
                                    and holding her diplomas,  
                                    the younger one doing her Odissi number.  
                                    And the picture, framed from a newspaper cutting,  
                                    of my dear lovabale son, unemployed,  
                                    arrested under MISA,  
                                    standing inside the police-cordon.  
                                    I can hear the bids of my daughters  
                                    trying their luck  
                                    in the matrimonial auction of the bridegroom-market.  
                                    What do they signify—
                                    these basic ingredients of my world?  
                                    What do they stand for :  
                                    my tattered lungi and dirty vest and office-shirt?  
                                    A cake of soap is too costly, costlier is food;  
                                    it is only life that gets devalued day by day.  
                                    I do not want a boxful of birthdays, I don't.  
                                    One inch of life is all I ask for,  
                                    the inch-long life of a matchstick.  
                                    I feel I have all, yet nothing at all,  
                                    for the spark that ignites  
                                    is missing.  
                                    My wintry breath buries the cold sun  
                                    in the snow of slumber.  
                                    Still comes the heat wave,  
                                    and people die in Bihar  
                                    and people die in the north.  
                                    And people die of suicide in villages,  
                                    and they die without food.  
                                    But no one dies for the living.  
                                    No one waves his tattered shirt  
                                    soaked red in blood.  
                                    No one knows where food lies  
                                    except the rats and the intelligent ants  
                                    who dismiss humans as fools.  
                                    I begin my day with the steam  
                                    of the flavourless tea in the morning;  
                                    I retire at midnight with hollow dreams  
                                    in the much-mended mattress of silk.  
                                    Nightlong the lamp-post mocks at me.  
                                    In my courtyard blossoms the kadamba tree  
                                    from where my bicycle had been stolen  
                                    on a moonlit night.  
                                    Meanwhile I grow a day older  
                                    and wane a month upstream,  
                                    and then I drift through awakened slumber  
                                    towards the next birthday.  
                                    Why must one be so kind  
                                    to live for one hundred years?  
                                    And what does a birthday stand for :  
                                    to be or not to be  
                                    or non-being?  
                                    Translation :
                                    Rajendra Kishore Panda  


                                    The seashore of faith  
                                    is swept away  
                                    by the seven waves;  
                                    a speck of dust  
                                    is better than a vast void—  
                                    let the sand castle crumble  
                                    or its three shingle steps  
                                    be swept away,  
                                    the centre holds  
                                    life's magical flower,  
                                    faith's secret self.  
                                    Men may come  
                                    and then may go  
                                    but the primal truth  
                                    is left in footprints.  
                                    A sign  
                                    means a form  
                                    and also the formless,  
                                    the source  
                                    of soul and self  
                                    and the all-pervasive.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayashree Mohanraj  


                                    The doves of my eyes strike against 
                                    the steel of the sky, 
                                    and repulsed, return to earth, 
                                    where, each day you wait alone 
                                    to discover the many meanings of life and death. 
                                    When the words, with their little palms, 
                                    touch the body of the motionless sands, 
                                    running through the grey heat of noons 
                                    I seek ancestral memories in your flesh. 
                                    You whisper the secrets of leaf and grass, 
                                    of cliffs and woods, moss and shell, 
                                    in forlorn nights through the tatter of clouds 
                                    the myths of the moon sailing to its death. 
                                    As you retrieve the ruined body of April 
                                    drifting helplessly in the whirlpools of sand, 
                                    it seems you love me and want me to come, 
                                    but where is your soul? and where my body? 
                                    And when the doves of my eyes return, 
                                    ripping the sky's wrongs, it is time's river 
                                    that flows through the weariness of your flesh 
                                    and carries my dreams along. 
                                    Leaves fall, unheard, in the quiet noon, 
                                    and the sun respires in silence. 
                                    The pine forest pales like smoke in the sky. 
                                    And I don't remember when, the doves of my eyes 
                                    flew into Ujjain or Cuttack, pursuing you.
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayanta Mahapatra 


                                    How could the gulmohur 
                                    preserve its redness 
                                    in the unceasing traffic 
                                    of automobiles? 
                                    At some nondescript moment 
                                    of some forever-lost century 
                                    this redness began its journey 
                                    from some first stirring of blood 
                                    to the April sunlight of today. 
                                    This summer day 
                                    heaps red dust on the road 
                                    meandering across the treeless hill. 
                                    Tyres of cars, buses, trucks and jeeps 
                                    and the chimneys of the steel plant 
                                    belch red dust all the time. 
                                    How then can the gulmohur 
                                    preserve its own redness? 
                                    I look out of the window 
                                    of the superfast bus 
                                    through my sunglasses 
                                    and try to comprehend 
                                    actual problems of the red colour 
                                    and its present-day motives and conduct. 
                                    Are my looks as stupid 
                                    as the look of 
                                    the superannuated old chairman 
                                    of the Enquiry-Commission 
                                    set up after the crowd 
                                    took out processions, burnt buses, and 
                                    was lathi-charged and fired upon? 
                                    From its origin in ether 
                                    the gulmohur's redness 
                                    has descended on the road. 
                                    How could redness continue to be red 
                                    amidst all this automobile traffic? 
                                    Where does this redness go 
                                    after the annihilation of its being? 
                                    Does it travel to a sad, disarrayed, 
                                    unsure and ravaged sunset 
                                    in some horizon? 
                                    Translation :
                                    Ramakanta Rath   


                                    I know there is blood on my hands.  
                                    I further know my hands will be stained  
                                    with much further blood.  
                                    But to stand amidst the crowd  
                                    and throw bouquets on tyrants  
                                    was not my intention of coming here.  
                                    They will die someday. So will I.  
                                    And therefore, the restlessness of the night of unceasing rains  
                                    instils its wildness  
                                    into each of my days and each of my nights.  
                                    My life, clearly, is contingent on their death.  
                                    I shall no doubt die of the shame  
                                    of continuing to live unless they die quickly.  
                                    Unless they die quickly,  
                                    how shall I explain to the moon  
                                    the reason why my laughter has become a grimace ?  
                                    How shall I explain to that faraway woman  
                                    the reason why I turned into a stone?  
                                    If they kill me, they will surely manufacture a legend  
                                    to prove to people  
                                    that my death had become so necessary  
                                    that, as soon as I fell, voices in the sky  
                                    spoke, loudly and clearly,  
                                    their thanksgiving for the assasins.  
                                    Whether people believe them or do not  
                                    is for them an irrelevent matter.  
                                    They have never cared to understand  
                                    why citizens of this country pray everyday  
                                    that this life of theirs should be the very last  
                                    on this planet.  
                                    If, on the contrary, I kill them  
                                    it will be unnecessary to think up a story.  
                                    Even their own widows, in the course of their lament,  
                                    will never, never incite their children  
                                    to avenge the murder of their fathers.  
                                    And as soon as they die, I too shall go away.  
                                    But where? I have absolutely no idea.  
                                    Maybe that woman's face would lead me on like a star  
                                    to some place where the sword I had carried  
                                    to kill myself  
                                    would at once begin preparing itself  
                                    for someone else's murder. 
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet 


                                    I offer this water to you,  
                                    my father, grandfather and great grandfather,  
                                    and to you, soldiers and generals  
                                    who fought for us and who fought against us  
                                    and who were killed by this war.  
                                    I stand here, on this battlefield,  
                                    and give this water and this rice to you—
                                    you must be hungry and thirsty.  
                                    Ask for nothing  
                                    other than water and rice,  
                                    don't add to the long list  
                                    of things I was not able to give;  
                                    be content with this water and this rice  
                                    and return  
                                    to wherever you came from.  
                                    Consider this: the years  
                                    I have spent with you were many;  
                                    and this: it will not be long  
                                    before I join you wherever you sojourn.  
                                    Had I possessed things  
                                    other than this water and this rice,  
                                    would I have denied them to you  
                                    and asked you to return ?  
                                    Whatever I have  
                                    other than this water and this rice  
                                    are surely not appropriate offerings  
                                    for departed souls.  
                                    True, I traverse everyday of my life  
                                    with this baggage of witheld things,  
                                    but whenever I look at them  
                                    I disintegrate and cry out  
                                    with a voice that rends  
                                    the heavens  
                                    and the underworld.  
                                    Tears fill my eyes  
                                    when I make this offering  
                                    of water and rice.  
                                    I know, when my turn comes,  
                                    I shall have neither.  
                                    Look, the sun has almost set.  
                                    Now, go back to wherever you came from  
                                    with the little water and the little rice I gave you.  
                                    Look, I myself do not have  
                                    either any water or any rice.  
                                    Look, I have nothing except the few things  
                                    I didn't give  
                                    and kept with myself.
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet   


                                    Sometimes I wish I should return,  
                                    throw this body to the ground before the judges  
                                    installed in all the marketplaces of my country,  
                                    and tell them, come, hang it  
                                    on your gallows of prefabricated words.  
                                    Sometimes I wish I should stop hiding among rocks,  
                                    and feeding on the sunlight and on the wind,  
                                    sail across the ocean's nights and days.  
                                    I would then unload all my bones  
                                    into the arms of the soil smiling at my homecoming  
                                    and tell it I have no further part  
                                    in its future.  
                                    I however hesitate.  
                                    The shores of my country would be inaccessible  
                                    with stones dislodged by vengeance and counter-vengeance  
                                    and with putrid weeds of mangled interpretations,  
                                    all its green and proud forests would have been burnt  
                                    by loud proclamations of conquests that never occurred,  
                                    its body bleeding,  
                                    its railways and roadways and harbours shattered,  
                                    enacampments of imported mercenaries  
                                    all along the banks of its moist eyes.  
                                    All this notwithstanding,  
                                    I sometimes wish I should return,  
                                    but some other times I do not wish I should return.  
                                    Sometimes it seems all my love is a moon  
                                    rising every evening and setting every dawn  
                                    in the sky above wherever I exist.  
                                    Sometimes, however, I wish I should return.
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet   


                                    Come, take half  
                                    of the remainder of my life,  
                                    but fill every moment  
                                    of the half that is mine  
                                    with your infatuation.  
                                    Was the bargain unfair?  
                                    Then leave me with a single moment  
                                    and take away the rest of my life,  
                                    but like the sky,  
                                    fill the whole space  
                                    above that moment.  
                                    No, not like the sky.  
                                    Come closer and become the cloud  
                                    over my past, present and future  
                                    so that, when I touched myself,  
                                    I would touch the monsoon of your body.  
                                    Your sighs would breathe  
                                    the gale spewed by the despair  
                                    of a distant ocean  
                                    and, when I smile  
                                    and touch myself,  
                                    the gale would cease.  
                                    My lifetime,  
                                    unconcerned with its nearing death,  
                                    would everyday renew its pilgrimage  
                                    to the early years of your youth.  
                                    You would exist as a mass of blue  
                                    carved by my command,  
                                    or as the blue total  
                                    of all my known, partly known  
                                    and unknown desires.  
                                    Since I always dress in blue,  
                                    you too must be blue.  
                                    How can you have any other colour when  
                                    it would break my heart  
                                    if you had in colour other than blue?  
                                    Was the bargain unfair?  
                                    Then come, take away  
                                    even that single moment.  
                                    But do not bend down, look straight  
                                    into my eyes.  
                                    Meet there the impudent traveller  
                                    who has passed through hell after hell  
                                    and, at the end of the very last hell,  
                                    stands under a kadamba tree  
                                    and awaits your coming. 
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet 


                                    You are the fragrance of rocks,  
                                    the lamentation of each flower,  
                                    the unbearable heat of the moon,  
                                    the icy coolness of the blazing sun,  
                                    the language of my letters to myself,  
                                    the smile with which all despair is borne,  
                                    the millenniums of waiting without a wink of sleep,  
                                    the ultimate futility of all rebellion,  
                                    the exquisite idol made of aspirations,  
                                    the green yesterdays of deserts,  
                                    the monsoon in an apparel of leaves and flowers,  
                                    the illuminated pathway from the clay to the farthest planet,  
                                    the fantastic time that's half-day and half-night,  
                                    the eternity of the sea's brief silence,  
                                    the solace-filled conclusion of incomplete dreams,  
                                    the dishevelled moment of waking up with a start,  
                                    the reluctant star in the sky brightening at dawn,  
                                    the unspoken sentences at farewell,  
                                    the restless wind sentenced to solitary confinement,  
                                    the body of fog seated on a throne,  
                                    the reflection asleep on the river's abysmal bed,  
                                    the undiscovered mine of the most precious jewels,  
                                    the outlines of lunacy engraved on space, and  
                                    the untold story of lightning.  
                                    You have, my dearest, always suffered  
                                    all my inadequacies with a smile.  
                                    I know I am not destined to bring you back once you've left.  
                                    All I can do hereafter, till the last day of my life,  
                                    is to collect the fragments of what you are  
                                    and try to piece them together. 
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet   


                                    I had thought  
                                    I had forgotten you entirely.  
                                    And then, one day, I quarrelled  
                                    with everyone—with wife, children,  
                                    with Government and God.  
                                    Before the quarrel ended, I walked away,  
                                    and stood near the window.  
                                    Outside the window  
                                    A moonlit fog extended  
                                    till the world's end.  
                                    You were there, draped in  
                                    Clothes made of the trees and the shurbs  
                                    on the river's banks.  
                                    A smile glimmered  
                                    on you melancholy skin.  
                                    In your eyes there was  
                                    a rain-wet paddy field that never ended.  
                                    Your uncombed hair fluttered in the wind  
                                    like leaves of sugarcane.  
                                    Your mouth, half-open and half-shut,  
                                    stood where all dialogue terminates.  
                                    Your legs rose from the dark depths of dreams.  
                                    Your body shook, and every single letter of your name  
                                    was written in the indelible ink of time past.  
                                    I knew you would leave soon.  
                                    How could you stay  
                                    Unless the time for staying came?  
                                    Wherever you go, a hand raised above shoulders  
                                    can touch the stars.  
                                    The steamer arrives every morning  
                                    to say good morning to women  
                                    who hold entire rivers in their eyes.  
                                    The earth and the outer space are one.  
                                    The eyes of eyes and the ears of ears  
                                    walk about in shaded coconut groves,  
                                    and gods and goddesses stand at your doorsteps  
                                    yearning for morsels of benediction  
                                    flowing from your meditation on yourself.  
                                    After your leave, what remains?  
                                    bare rocks, the moonlight's darkness  
                                    erasing all future,  
                                    several blood-stained years, dead soldiers  
                                    guarding unused gunpower on the sea-bed,  
                                    and the desolate road I must walk on  
                                    till the last day of my life.  
                                    Go, then, with so few days left to me,  
                                    a change in my condition can no longer be  
                                    the subject-matter of hope.  
                                    I now have fever almost everyday,  
                                    nerves from the waist to the heels ache,  
                                    and, if I rise up without proper precaution,  
                                    I feel I am descending into some bottomless depth.  
                                    The skin is loose and dry, the weight  
                                    has fallen, maybe someday now  
                                    my breath will stop somewhere inside the lungs.  
                                    I would have notified all this to you,  
                                    but then, didn't you and I discover long ago  
                                    that news of this kind was utterly useless  
                                    both for you and for me?  
                                    Translation :
                                    The Poet   


                                    Armed from head to toe,  
                                    the two warriors are arraigned against each other.  
                                    Some anger enlarges  
                                    the dimensions of their narrow necks.  
                                    Battle drums announce  
                                    a face-to-face contest.  
                                    Hunting for insects has ceased.  
                                    Seeking refuge from hungry cats and hungrier men  
                                    has also ceased.  
                                    As battle cries rend the air  
                                    and carnage is due to commence,  
                                    the villagers leave behind their long history of cowardice,  
                                    and gather here.  
                                    The warriors do not know  
                                    what this war is about,  
                                    or who is whose enemy.  
                                    They do not comprehend  
                                    the clamour that rushes on this dumb village  
                                    like a bellowing sea.  
                                    The weapons they wear  
                                    strain their nerves.  
                                    And, suddenly, their blood is on fire,  
                                    feathers almost fly off their flesh,  
                                    and each cell of the body overflows with hatred.  
                                    The war is only a moment away,  
                                    and, when it arrives,  
                                    to kill to be killed will be all the same.  
                                    Evening descends  
                                    on a sky smeared with blood.  
                                    It's all over  
                                    in a moment.  
                                    Darkness erases all  
                                    the day's colours, the day's blood.  
                                    A day ends.  
                                    Carrying a handful of meat  
                                    that has lost its voice  
                                    the crowd returns.  
                                    The village is once again enclosed  
                                    by silence  
                                    breathing like an abandoned child.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Ramakanta Rath  


                                    On the mythic enchantress's open navel fall  
                                    the stars and the dew all through the night, silently.  
                                    On the steps of the temple's pond,  
                                    on the large shoulders of the wise Ganesa  
                                    are washed the greasy patchwork garments  
                                    of tradition and history.  
                                    Like the blind whimsical gods, or sometimes  
                                    like a sudden rush of wind, two or four bats  
                                    fly out from inside the dark along  
                                    the sharp lines of an indifferent sky  
                                    towards an uncertain tomorrow.  
                                    The long, unending afternoon comes to an end.  
                                    From some faraway place comes creaking  
                                    the sound of the bullock-cart's wheels.  
                                    It seems as though in a moment  
                                    time would stop—
                                    over the distant untilled fields,  
                                    in the evening's lonely darkness.  
                                    Who calls whom—  
                                    so affectionately, full of desire and grief, greedily  
                                    (in this life, in the other life) ?  
                                    The smile on the water's broad and shining face,  
                                    like the gesture of a sudden wish, pulls  
                                    the temple's shadow and the rising moon  
                                    together, lovingly.  
                                    The long day ends, waiting.  
                                    The leprous beggar-woman begins to think—
                                    if only some poor helpless worshipper should arrive  
                                    before she left the place  
                                    with her day's last weary yawn.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Bibhu Padhi   


                                    The sun has quite a few things to say.  
                                    But it hops from a bend in the river  
                                    to a downstream bathing place  
                                    where there are no bathers,  
                                    from there to yellow Aswattha leaves,  
                                    and then to malignant tumours in ovaries.  
                                    It thus squanders its time,  
                                    and when evening comes  
                                    it sets, without having said a thing.  
                                    The river has quite a few things to say.  
                                    But it flows on and on,  
                                    trying to inscribe the sun's wasted life  
                                    on the restless paper of its waters.  
                                    Its time terminates  
                                    in the incompetence of an obese ocean.  
                                    It's always impossible  
                                    to say even an infinitesemal part  
                                    of what one intended to say.  
                                    The soil, for example,  
                                    swells with the intent to speak  
                                    and, ultimately, disintegrates.  
                                    The day's light  
                                    hovers around the stamen of flowers,  
                                    around the raised hoods of snakes,  
                                    but in the end settles on the wings of a kite  
                                    and disappears into the immeasurable void.  
                                    This, probably, is the destiny of the poet.  
                                    Before he can relieve the mule of grammar  
                                    of sacks filled with intended speech,  
                                    crows descend and sit in a circle  
                                    around the cleansed wound.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Ramakanta Rath  


                                    Afraid? Should I leave?  
                                    Heard from both sides, always—
                                    and still no one comes near  
                                    from among those who ask and those who hear.  
                                    Do I stand in the interior dark  
                                    that I wouldn't feel fright or fear?  
                                    True, that on many disturbing mornings  
                                    I have noticed the alarm  
                                    in fresh tyre-marks on the wet earth;  
                                    just crushing the fruit in my fist  
                                    and admitting my hunger  
                                    have made me forgetful.  
                                    Such darkness that even the sky is invisible,  
                                    only innumerable stars  
                                    disclose how  
                                    they have slipped away  
                                    from that imperious cloud's hold,  
                                    the one who circles the leafless tree.  
                                    I don't wish to see anyone at all;  
                                    at a dangerous moment, certain words  
                                    are so full of arrogance  
                                    that they only strut insolently  
                                    in dark lanes.  
                                    Be seated wherever you are  
                                    by the window— 
                                    simply don't notice the sins I commit. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayanta Mahapatra  


                                    Halfknown, halfstranger 
                                    one to the other 
                                    all of us 
                                    in spring time 
                                    Earth-crawling creeper 
                                    suddenly stands up 
                                    like a twisted goldstick 
                                    and then shivers 
                                    The viewer gets numbed 
                                    Cruel her stare 
                                    like the breasts 
                                    of a girl in early teens 
                                    His eyes get lowered 
                                    Buds of white thirst 
                                    sprout on tiny shoots 
                                    and yet 
                                    the root drinks fire 
                                    You, hot rock floor, 
                                    give up your dream 
                                    of rising like a minar 
                                    melt and confess 
                                    the defeat 
                                    Thunder this time 
                                    shall not strike 
                                    though sky 
                                    may collapse 
                                    Only a peacock-plume 
                                    dropping down and down 
                                    will touch tenderly 
                                    the tip of consciousness 
                                    of the green shoots 
                                    at the top. 
                                    There's no horn, 
                                    no nail, no tooth,
                                    no prick—
                                    you, handsome one, debonair,
                                    raise your eyes
                                    you, innocent one !
                                    Thirst is the pitcher,
                                    It's drinkable, too;
                                    take a palmful, 
                                    In gentle-wild anger
                                    it gets injured—
                                    the sitar in the lap.
                                    Fire of root on the lips :
                                    touch it, 
                                    taste it.
                                    If a minar bends down 
                                    does a cannon
                                    get born ?
                                    From the root to the top
                                    today it's all buds,
                                    Even if a cannon bursts
                                    colours squirt through.
                                    it's spring time—
                                    Even betrayal
                                    is love 


                                    You are so faraway, 
                                    and, yet,
                                    I hear the footfalls of your breath 
                                    on the wind's corridor. 
                                    Remain faraway 
                                    so that my soul 
                                    that bought whole history with 
                                    a few drops of blood 
                                    may smile a little longer 
                                    on the crucifix. 
                                    In the end, of course, 
                                    I shall raise my body 
                                    on the podium of your unbelief. 
                                    And you, Jesus, 
                                    will be its keeper 
                                    when a new shroud is spread 
                                    on the indestructible coffin 
                                    of History. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Ramakanta Rath 


                                    What shall I do now? 
                                    Shall water the day and 
                                    watch it melting away or 
                                    sleep inside the 
                                    fruit of our shame its 
                                    seeds hardening with fear? 
                                    The first night followed by 
                                    a million other nights I 
                                    grow old the killer's amorphous 
                                    quest sans quest locked 
                                    in the barrel, motionless, waiting 
                                    for the hours to dry and 
                                    the roots to unlock 
                                    the door on the mask 
                                    into my plain face my 
                                    secret harvest 
                                    Translation :
                                    The poet 


                                    I will be here  
                                    like the words made of bones  
                                    like a hill of metal  
                                    like an inscription;  
                                    I will be here  
                                    in every wound, every injury  
                                    in bleedings not dried up still.  
                                    So long as I am here  
                                    fire will not be extinguished,  
                                    eyelids will not droop,  
                                    words will not be silent;  
                                    so long as I am here  
                                    there will be no secrets.  
                                    I will be here  
                                    at the end of all the evolutions.  
                                    After all the crimes  
                                    have been committed  
                                    I will be here  
                                    as witness and proof.  
                                    Who can cover me up  
                                    with ash or mud?  
                                    Who can ever hide me  
                                    in a box or in the grave?  
                                    I will dump, in the debris behind the eyes,  
                                    all those illusions  
                                    daring to dazzle.  
                                    Amid the eddies of all streams  
                                    I will stand erect like a pole,  
                                    hardened though,  
                                    with tales not to be lost  
                                    interlining my heart.  
                                    Faces would be appearing with guises,  
                                    hands stretching like hooks,  
                                    the hawk will be demanding flesh,  
                                    the god will be demanding obedience.  
                                    Presuming me deaf  
                                    some will be indulging in obscene talks,  
                                    presuming me to be blind,  
                                    some will be dancing naked before me,  
                                    again, presuming me to be dead  
                                    some will be taking me in a funeral march.  
                                    I will be here.  
                                    If someone curses me dead  
                                    I will be getting born,  
                                    again and again.  
                                    I will not be burnt  
                                    in fire, will not  
                                    drown in water.  
                                    I will inscribe on my chest  
                                    all that has happened,  
                                    is happening  
                                    or will ever happen.  
                                    So long as I am here  
                                    there will be crops in the fields,  
                                    there will be flowers in the gardens;  
                                    so long as I am here  
                                    there will be blood-flow  
                                    in the veins of humans.  
                                    I will be here,  
                                    living, as long as  
                                    the world is there.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Rabindra K Swain  


                                    Could one confer it  
                                    or ever can :  
                                    the right  
                                    to walk on earth,  
                                    to touch the wind,  
                                    to look at the sun  
                                    to love the moon.  
                                    Could one confer it, or ever can?  
                                    But the time of my birth  
                                    was such that all the rights  
                                    had been looted.  
                                    What remained was  
                                    only a reddish body,  
                                    only left-outs, faeces,  
                                    vomits, sputum;  
                                    only defeats  
                                    accumulated over births and rebirths.  
                                    The day I started walking  
                                    an earthen pot was hung  
                                    on my chest where  
                                    I would collect my spit  
                                    and a broom on my waist  
                                    that would clear  
                                    all the way my feet travelled.  
                                    Who were you there  
                                    watching me?  
                                    Man or monster?  
                                    The walls without gates  
                                    looked like hills.  
                                    All the valuables of the world  
                                    were kept hidden from my eyes.  
                                    No human being was there,  
                                    except me.  
                                    There was no right  
                                    on land or water.  
                                    It was not there in the scriptures,  
                                    among the people or in the society.  
                                    What was there  
                                    was only defeat  
                                    of the flowers of the dreams  
                                    and heaps of corpses.  
                                    The right  
                                    was of touching those corpses,  
                                    of carrying them;  
                                    was of diving into the drain water  
                                    till one touched the hell  
                                    and the curse was there  
                                    to litter, to crawl like worms.  
                                    Where am I now :  
                                    close by or in exile?  
                                    in drain or with fire?  
                                    Do you search me  
                                    in the deepest wound  
                                    of the earth?  
                                    In the brute pages of history?  
                                    Do you search me  
                                    in some metamorphosis of humans?  
                                    Translation :
                                    Rabindra K Swain  


                                    The blossoming of a flower 
                                    is not the end-all of things, 
                                    a day will come when someone will pluck it 
                                    to place it somewhere only he knows. 
                                    It seems perfectly worthwhile for us 
                                    to guard it, staying hidden somewhere, 
                                    or else no one will ever know 
                                    when this stealer of flowers 
                                    would come in stealth 
                                    to complete his mission. 
                                    For plucking a flower 
                                    is not such an arduous task 
                                    nor is it such a priceless object 
                                    that we'd worry about it so much. 
                                    Whatever you might say, 
                                    there is some mystery 
                                    behind the plucking of a flower, 
                                    and who can deny the twofold role 
                                    that exists between the flower's blooming 
                                    and its dropping to earth? 
                                    It's unbecoming to keep a watch 
                                    for the flower to bloom, 
                                    for who can tell the moment of flowering? 
                                    Can one say 
                                    that it will rain for certain 
                                    when clouds spread across the sky? 
                                    It's not easy to assert 
                                    there is a last word for everything. 
                                    Simply raise both your palms upward, 
                                    may be you'll find a flower 
                                    falling from somewhere. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Jayanta Mahapatra 


                                    The tree sifts the wind with its clutch. 
                                    The wind leafs in someone's ribs. 
                                    A skeleton lies at close range. 
                                    Dogs and jackals hold a mass dinner 
                                    on your bones. 
                                    The wind remains.Dogs and vultures 
                                    remain. A corpse lies abandoned. 
                                    Whose it is ? Maybe some cow or ox. 
                                    In the distant bamboo grove rattles 
                                    the wind—the ruffian that beats down 
                                    The hunter shot a bird dead with 
                                    his gun.Men were coming along the way. 
                                    The gushing blood dried up on the dead bird's 
                                    body.Who dried it up? 
                                    It is the wind. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Harishankar Acharya 


                                    like the petal of drenched roses.  
                                    Six nude bodies  
                                    furtively glide forward  
                                    in the practised motions of some dance,  
                                    rippling the water's sleek body.  
                                    Slowly they close in towards one another,  
                                    cutting across the cries  
                                    of the kingfisher and the kite.  
                                    They move up, six torsos,  
                                    black and naked,  
                                    deepening the repose of snail and pristine toad.  
                                    And now the net is wound,  
                                    rising up  
                                    under twelve greedy, watchful eyes;  
                                    threshing bodies of mahseer and tiny fry,  
                                    brilliant as the sun.  


                                    When you tell the flower  
                                    to remain in bloom until you return,  
                                    I will weep then for the first time,  
                                    and the flower trembling in the spring breeze  
                                    will wilt in the sun like a memory in blossom.  
                                    The second weeping will take place  
                                    with the corpse of the day's end,  
                                    waiting for your return when the stricken flower  
                                    would see the evening come in.  
                                    Then perhaps, in the dark, the flower  
                                    would quietly come down from the tree  
                                    and be lost strangely somewhere.  
                                    I will weep for the last time  
                                    when in the blackest darkness  
                                    you will not return.  


                                    I didn't see it, dangling  
                                    on the bough bearing the forbidden fruit,  
                                    the nude, primaeval Woman  
                                    in God's garden.  
                                    Its coiled elegance, its bejewelled hood  
                                    I did not see.  
                                    I didn't see its fragile frame,  
                                    in the dewy fields of November  
                                    inching its way  
                                    upto the farmer's hearth,  
                                    aroused again,  
                                    warmer and fiercer.  
                                    Nor did I see it, wafting  
                                    in a tame, enchanted game  
                                    like a wavelet of the unruly sea  
                                    playing around the feet  
                                    of the celestial fairy, Urvasi,  
                                    on a spring dawn.  
                                    I saw it  
                                    like the cold hand of Death,  
                                    I saw it slithering in dark  
                                    underneath the bamboo-grove.  
                                    And suddenly it sprang up  
                                    like a hot summerstorm,  
                                    upraised hood,  
                                    Under its eyes a spread of desert  
                                    and thirsty mirages,  
                                    I saw it :  
                                    a garland around the blue neck  
                                    of the Lord-of-Destruction:  
                                    Shiva !  
                                    Above the neck  
                                    gnarled, auburn hair.  
                                    Lips chanting belligerence.  
                                    Venom dripping  
                                    from the cracked urn.  
                                    And, beyond that I saw  
                                    the stream of white consciousness,  
                                    the eternal descent of RiverGanga...  
                                    I saw it :  
                                    I saw the snake.  


                                    Once, a long-haired girl had come to my room,  
                                    her breasts like melting light, hands wreathed  
                                    in flowers and death, two cool eyes in the rust  
                                    of her tears.  
                                    An actress of unforgiving love  
                                    and impassive blood,the pores of her skin excited  
                                    with envy, the glory of her lies bedazzling her youth  
                                    over and over again, the lines of her body in gleaming gold,  
                                    and on her face sin and prayer.  
                                    One day a long-haired girl had come to my room.  
                                    All alone. For a brief moment, and then was gone,  
                                    for I was away in some distant land; and in my house  
                                    a slave, an eunuch, stood on guard.  


                                    It's true—and not a rumour— 
                                    that sometimes, after moonrise,  
                                    the night is as bright as the day.  
                                    The moon, too, as much as the sun,  
                                    throws out shadows.  
                                    It's true—and no rumour—  
                                    that sometimes dead men and women smile.  
                                    I have myself seen a young woman called Priyamvada  
                                    smiling after she hanged herself  
                                    on a full-moon night.  
                                    When they laid her on the hearse  
                                    she blew away, with a gust of her smile,  
                                    the face of the lover who should have come.  
                                    I had never seen a smile  
                                    so beautiful and so full of life  
                                    on her lips, in her eyes and, above all,  
                                    on her face  
                                    as long as she had lived.  
                                    It's true—and no rumour—
                                    that sometimes darkness spreads like a fog.  
                                    Look at the child,sleeping quietly in the cradle.  
                                    He had raised quite a clamour  
                                    in his mother's lap just a moment ago.  
                                    Memories from some earlier life  
                                    come down in dreams  
                                    and settle on the face  
                                    that now looks like the inside of an ancient temple--  
                                    dark, except for the tentative glow  
                                    of an earthen lamp.  
                                    Practically everyone can  
                                    swim his way through a pool.  
                                    Crossing the wind's rough sea  
                                    is a far more difficult enterprise.  
                                    Not many can continue to be themselves  
                                    once they are face to face  
                                    with memory gushing down like a river in spate,  
                                    or arriving in inconsolable blasts  
                                    of a restless storm.  
                                    I shall continue to be myself.  
                                    I am no fool, and shall never believe  
                                    in rumours according to which  
                                    thinking about one who has gone away  
                                    always makes one very,very sad.  


                                    Along with the flow of my blood,  
                                    through the body's blue cavern,  
                                    they come,  
                                    those millions of fireflies, stars and nebulae;  
                                    thousands of fish lift me,  
                                    like memories, from the ocean floor.  
                                    And, like a snake,  
                                    the twelve-cubit-long sigh of despair  
                                    rises from the small temple of my body  
                                    and crawls up its broken walls.  
                                    Drenched in rain  
                                    and in the anguish of moonlight, 
                                    many inert shadows  
                                    huddle about its burnt-out wick's smell,  
                                    and the newcomer who once left  
                                    returns through the open spaces in the leaves.  
                                    Morning brings back the body's distances,  
                                    with bewildered cries  
                                    night-birds swaying from its nerves fly away,  
                                    as the fortified morning  
                                    breaks through the chest-walls.  
                                    And I lose myself,melting away elsewhere.  
                                    my sacrificial fire's smoke rises into the sky.  


                                    Put away the road maps now.  
                                    To go there,  
                                    you do not need  
                                    helicopters any more;  
                                    wherever there is hunger,  
                                    there Kalahandi is.  
                                    The god of rain  
                                    turned away his face.  
                                    There was not one green leaf  
                                    left on the trees for supper.  
                                    The whole village a graveyard.  
                                    Cracked ground,  
                                    drab river sand.  
                                    All the plans failed;  
                                    the poverty line  
                                    receded further.  
                                    Wherever you stare,  
                                    there Kalahandi is :  
                                    in the sunken eyes  
                                    of living skeletons,  
                                    in rags which do not  
                                    cover the frail bodies,  
                                    in the utensils  
                                    pawned off for food,  
                                    in the crumbling huts  
                                    with unthatched roofs,  
                                    in the exclusive prosperity  
                                    of having owned  
                                    two earthen pots.  
                                    Kalahandi is there everywhere :  
                                    in the gathering of famished crowds  
                                    before charity kitchens,  
                                    in market places  
                                    where children are auctioned off,  
                                    in the sighs of young girls  
                                    sold to brothels,  
                                    in the silent procession  
                                    of helpless people  
                                    leaving their hearth and home.  
                                    Come, look at Kalahandi closer:  
                                    in the crocodile tears  
                                    of false press statements,  
                                    in the exaggerated statistics  
                                    of computer print-outs,  
                                    in the cheap sympathies  
                                    doled out at conferences,  
                                    and in the false assurances  
                                    presented by planners.  
                                    Kalahandi is very close to us :  
                                    in the occasional contribution  
                                    of our souls,  
                                    in the unexpected nagging of conscience,  
                                    in the rare repentance  
                                    in empathy,  
                                    in the nightmares  
                                    appearing through sound sleep,  
                                    in disease, in hunger,  
                                    in helplessness,  
                                    in the abject fear  
                                    of an impending bloodshed.  
                                    How could we then walk  
                                    into the celebrated portals  
                                    of the twentyfirst century,  
                                    leaving Kalahandi behind ?  


                                    How does  
                                    a bird  
                                    when the wings are cleft,  
                                    a child  
                                    when the mother dies,  
                                    a lyric  
                                    when the song is over  
                                    As with  
                                    the counting  
                                    of waves, night ends;  
                                    the counting of days  
                                    night breaks in,  
                                    life ends!  
                                    life ends.  


                                    The man in front of you is a mirror  
                                    Gaze at his eyes that sketch your image  
                                    As your eyes sketch his.  
                                    No, a reflection is never a household thing  
                                    Which can be concealed in a box,  
                                    In the heart, in a mirror, in the skull or in trees and flowers.  
                                    Your image floats in a moving fan and from  
                                    The turning wheel a fish watches the arrowpoint  
                                    Although I know Death is dancing like the aerial roots  
                                    I pin rest of my days in your hair  
                                    The man in front of you is a mirror  
                                    Gaze at his eyes that sketch your image  
                                    As your eyes sketch his.  
                                    In your eyes the cornfields and the sprawling clouds  
                                    The rivulets sketch different pictures  
                                    Do they know how things have been rolled into one  
                                    How cloud is not different from rivulet,  
                                    Rivulet from rock  
                                    Rock from mountain range  
                                    And Mother Earth  
                                    From that ocean is not separate also  
                                    The underlined words of the verse  
                                    Are not delinked from the sentence,  
                                    From inquiry and mind  
                                    And never the desires are different from grinding intellect.  
                                    To such views eye appears as banian leaf  
                                    The left half of my body is different from the right  
                                    And the universe from the mirror  
                                    Roots and shoots from the tree and the claws from aerial roots  
                                    The fish from arrowpoint and so forth and so forth.  
                                    The man in front of you is a mirror  
                                    And there is a mirror behind  
                                    Mirror to the left and mirror to the right and above and below  
                                    Your myriad images flash in dancing mirrors  
                                    And inside the mirror whose heart is it  
                                    Whose heart you are sketching  
                                    The thousand-handed, the million-footed, the billion-handed has one heart  
                                    That throws thousands of silver swords into the sky:  
                                    A sun of never-ending love and pricks.  


                                    The bird sings in false notes.  
                                    No fish in the river, no star in the sky.  
                                    No dawn breaks  
                                    No hope, no curse,  
                                    No letter,  
                                    Not even the barest sign of an address.  
                                    Everywhere scattered ink-drops  
                                    Like wrong acts of life.  
                                    The bird sings in false notes.  
                                    No more through eyes  
                                    Memory now seeks other avenues.  
                                    Where the black pigeon flaps its wings  
                                    The deceptive moon betrays the morning,  
                                    Where the wide steps of the wind  
                                    Disturb the waters of the river.  
                                    Which Midas touch  
                                    Turns memory into tears ?  
                                    Memory is the squarefoot of time  
                                    And the capital is a city of tears.  
                                    Memory is regular like time  
                                    And each clock has a punishing look.  
                                    The ticking clock  
                                    Love's eternal enemy, the graveyard of memory.  
                                    Memory : the squarefoot of time  
                                    And the city only a city of tears.  
                                    Drops of void absence  
                                    Like the empty girls' commonroom in summer vacation.  
                                    Alas, the bird sings false notes, false notes


                                    All your breasts  
                                    overflow with milk.  
                                    Overbrimmed pitchers, spilling water,  
                                    Mothers ! You'll pass this way !  
                                    On this path, from the river.  
                                    Dripping milk, you'll pass by,  
                                    drop by drop...  
                                    Mother died  
                                    unable to give birth to me,  
                                    I died without being born.  
                                    Same womb, same flower, same pain,  
                                    and the accumulated milk meant for me, dying;  
                                    now in this tree like an unseen bird  
                                    I perch, oh mother!  
                                    Like you, too my mother  
                                    used to fetch water from the river,  
                                    I could have been born from your womb too,  
                                    I too could have been cradled in your arms,  
                                    I too could have reached for the milk in your breasts,  
                                    and I too could have been the star of your eye.  
                                    But I have no lips,  
                                    and thirst cries on only for milk.  
                                    This way you will always pass by,oh mothers,  
                                    I could have been your child too


                                    You had sought a place in history.  
                                    Well, you will now exist  
                                    in history and nowhere else.  
                                    It probably did not occur to you  
                                    that once you entered history there was no exit,  
                                    you would forever remain  
                                    far away from my embrace.  
                                    I had always wanted  
                                    that you did not turn into history,  
                                    that you stayed beside me,  
                                    that your eyes accompanied me like stars,  
                                    that your midnight whisper caressed me  
                                    like a tender word of solace,  
                                    that your love played about like a breeze  
                                    in my body's universe  
                                    spread out like a peacock's feathers.  
                                    I had never wanted  
                                    my secret life to turn into history.  
                                    I have seen history's rock-like silence.  
                                    I comprehend  
                                    the sadness in time's eyes.  
                                    I therefore know there is no way out for you  
                                    in history's pages,  
                                    there are no steps you can climb  
                                    in the dark region of time  
                                    you inhabit.  
                                    The road will always be without traffic.  
                                    Blasts of cold wind will never cease.  
                                    There will be darkness everywhere.  
                                    God knows how many times you will be dismantled  
                                    and reassembled by the useless magic of my thought.  
                                    History is an emperor.  
                                    It does not know common folk like you and me.  
                                    Senseless with the pride of its eternal life,  
                                    it tramples upon the soul's longings  
                                    uttered in a language without words.  


                                    The small boy performs in the circus.  
                                    His thin hands and feet  
                                    are ant-eaten timber  
                                    between living and dying  
                                    only an ignoble truce.  
                                    Even now in his eyes  
                                    the mango grove  
                                    of his village, the fairy tales;  
                                    in his feet the mad intoxication  
                                    of running after butterflies, snapped kites;  
                                    but he performs in the circus  
                                    controlling his hands and feet  
                                    he only performs in the circus.  
                                    His laughter, tears and innocent demands  
                                    are now sweat on his forehead;  
                                    in the emptiness of living  
                                    he is only an articulate  
                                    a truncated tree in the public park  
                                    a burnt-out black grain of rice;  
                                    he is crippled time incarnate.  
                                    The small boy performs in the circus  
                                    in the soft lap of Time  
                                    only a victim, a moth-eaten moment.  


                                    I love myself, immersed in my own mystery  
                                    in the fast-moving years of youth;  
                                    and yet how little I know  
                                    the image of my love, the voice of my body  
                                    the song of my gestures known, unknown  
                                    the smiles and the looks !  
                                    Like the sea or the vocalist  
                                    how I lose myself in unknowing  
                                    the mysterious voice of the silence !  
                                    I too love you  
                                    you are nearest to me like my own self;  
                                    may be that is why you make me  
                                    pine for the unknown  
                                    in unrealised eagerness.  
                                    The waves of desires dancing  
                                    on your nubile gestures in  
                                    the intricate leela of Vrindaban  
                                    you are my self's self  
                                    as obscure to me as my own self.  


                                    My feet slipped in the yard,  
                                    too much of moss there.  
                                    So what if I fell down ?  
                                    Ashamed ?  
                                    What should I be ashamed of ?  
                                    It's natural to fall.And there is glory  
                                    in getting up.  
                                    Some are smiling as if their feet  
                                    haven't slipped ever  
                                    on this moss.  
                                    Scrub you may hard and often,  
                                    it grows again, this moss :  
                                    to grow is its nature,  
                                    and nothing can make it vanish.  
                                    Of course, I should have been careful  
                                    while walking down the yard.  
                                    That would have spared me  
                                    such a big fall.  
                                    My hands and feet are injured.  
                                    In the unhurt body  
                                    this injury is not much.  
                                    Soon it will heal, the ache  
                                    may last till tomorrow.  
                                    The scar will remain for sometime,and  
                                    gradually it will merge into my skin.  
                                    After my fall, I hope you will be cautious  
                                    as you walk from this side to that,  
                                    you've to move very slowly, you know,  
                                    pressing your feet to the ground.  
                                    And if you slip even after that  
                                    I must say you didn't move with caution,  
                                    only faked to do so.  
                                    Mark these three words : moss, fall and caution;  
                                    inevitably linked they are.  
                                    If you take them together and infer a meaning,  
                                    it's of some use, otherwise  
                                    you will continue to slip-and-fall, again and again,  
                                    and take in its pain.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Rabindra K Swain 


                                    Someone makes me write with my hand in his,  
                                    His breath in my experience,  
                                    his breathing warm in my ears.  
                                    Yet do I know what gets written on this paper?  
                                    Intoxicated as I am then by that ecstatic closeness,  
                                    I live on in my own amazement.  
                                    But realization makes me aware then  
                                    That he isn't there; where then is the delight  
                                    of his touch ?  
                                    Merely he has written a poem and left it behind,  
                                    A poem resembling a poem,  
                                    For me to be the poet of the poem.  


                                    The ovum of pains  
                                    and pleasures  
                                    is so imprisoned  
                                    within the impenetrable webs of time  
                                    that the rainbow of passion  
                                    drops down like a sacred thread  
                                    from the chest of the violet skies.  
                                    Who's going to be born  
                                    out of the unbroken endurance  
                                    of the holy mother earth?  
                                    A tramp of a poet  
                                    restlessly pining for his beloved...  
                                    Or an unearthly Pururava  
                                    longing for coition  
                                    with Urvasi—the darling of gods...  
                                    Or a thorn-crowned Son of Man ?  
                                    In the divine dawn of compassion  
                                    the subtle pierces the gross  
                                    and a formless "anustup" metre  
                                    penetrates into the subtle.  
                                    And then is annihilated  
                                    the mystic kingdom  
                                    of the spider.  


                                    O my fallen leaf of pausa  
                                    why did you fall  
                                    forgetting your cradling  
                                    on the green boughs ?  
                                    Is the kiss of the grey earth  
                                    sweeter, dearer  
                                    the blue embrace of the sky ?  
                                    Last spring  
                                    when you came  
                                    as a new bride  
                                    drenched in shame  
                                    wearing a pink saree,  
                                    to welcome you 
                                    the sweet moaning shehnai of  
                                    lakhs of bees echoed;  
                                    when you fall silently  
                                    why are these tears of sorrow  
                                    in the eyes of pausa ?  
                                    O fallen leaf,  
                                    Pausa's fallen leaf,  
                                    what have you left for me :  
                                    the embrace of the blue sky  
                                    the kiss of the grey earth ? 


                                    Upon your beach  
                                    now I stand as an exile  
                                    a loving and doleful soul.  
                                    I have a mind  
                                    that's pale and poisoned.  
                                    I have a heart  
                                    that's torn and bleeding.  
                                    I have a conscience  
                                    that's complex and bitten.  
                                    But, my dear,  
                                    in the looks of your loving azure eyes  
                                    in a single kiss on your passionate cheeks  
                                    I shall get back  
                                    my primaeval mind, heart and conscience,  
                                    and my marine soul.  
                                    Can you offer me these ?  
                                    But I hear in your trembling voice  
                                    a broken and doleful tune.  
                                    They have taken away  
                                    by churning, vexing and plundering  
                                    they have pinched away  
                                    the fragrance of your rich elegance.  
                                    Well, let them take these away.  
                                    Let them appear bright and godly  
                                    in your illumination.  
                                    I am a lover of ugliness,  
                                    of scandal and lethal poison.  
                                    I am a mysterious adept  
                                    of death and graveyard,  
                                    of all-devouring Time.  
                                    In your drinking bowl  
                                    if you have left the lees  
                                    of stain, scandal and venom,  
                                    give these to me, I pray  
                                    give me now.  
                                    I want to drain away from your cheeks  
                                    all that's insinuating  
                                    sinful and venomous.  
                                    In my nerves and veins  
                                    in each drop of my blood  
                                    for you only  
                                    my thirst :  
                                    quenched and unquenched.  
                                    My darling,  
                                    just in one kiss only  
                                    I shall dry up  
                                    all the agony  
                                    of your briny soul


                                    set me free...  
                                    to relish freedom  
                                    that is in the grave.  
                                    If life means only pain  
                                    it's not bad,  
                                    if life is only an ominous dream  
                                    not bad  
                                    if life is only a battle.  
                                    In the stream of time  
                                    decimal by decimal  
                                    life devalues into an effect  
                                    a brass coin  
                                    and life means  
                                    the penance of a lifeless mountain  
                                    with uplifted hands  
                                    that touch the limitless sky.  
                                    Then, o beloved,  
                                    is not life suicidal?  
                                    I hate suicide  
                                    but I want freedom.  
                                    set me free...  
                                    to get such freedom in the grave  
                                    after the fulfilled copulation  
                                    with you  
                                    poised in urdhwapada.  


                                    Like a night of lost consciousness  
                                    your intimate presence  
                                    wordless silent pain,  
                                    time and again  
                                    tumbling on the rough time  
                                    this procession of existence  
                                    towards nonexistence  
                                    is your intimate presence.  
                                    Let me paint one evening.  
                                    And then, seasons were disciplined  
                                    but rivers were uncontrolled  
                                    like menstruating women.  
                                    Bathing in the moonlight  
                                    the mountains seemed aslumber:  
                                    like blue-lily breasts  
                                    of women facing upward.  
                                    In such an evening  
                                    and being nothing,  
                                    I am searching my way  
                                    sometimes moving fast— 
                                    and then, encircling my own self  
                                    as a blind deer  
                                    sniffs at her own body  
                                    feels aroused and blind  
                                    in the soft darkness.  
                                    For me the world is an illusion  
                                    I am a gipsy woman,  
                                    the inheritor of  
                                    life, death and life-after-death.  
                                    Yet, I am counterfeit  
                                    I have defeated the knight chivalrous  
                                    strange, sober, handsome,  
                                    but imprisoned for ever  
                                    in a horseman,  
                                    and he being lost  
                                    in me for eternity.  
                                    In such an evening  
                                    when I try to feel myself  
                                    I am nowhere  
                                    and you,  
                                    hurdling over your existence  
                                    merge into the nonexistence.  
                                    I never think that I am a river  
                                    of freedom  
                                    and to get my freedom  
                                    this is my own march  
                                    towards my own death,  
                                    pierced by my own arrow  
                                    I am the cause of my own death.  
                                    I am my own dhrupadi.  


                                    The corpse is in slumber  
                                    and all the choicest flowers of his eyes  
                                    have withered. They slept  
                                    for the last time in his eyes;  
                                    nevertheless two drops of tears  
                                    have rolled down  
                                    from his affectionate eyes:  
                                    all will burn : those eyes,  
                                    those flowers and tears.  
                                    The corpse is burning:  
                                    with it get burnt  
                                    a few dialogues— Time's,  
                                    a few mournful voices—his unquenched thirst's.  
                                    Flowers get burnt, tears too.  
                                    So lonely the eyes when they began to burn!  
                                    I am also burning : in my breath,  
                                    my dearest flowers are also  
                                    burning in my eyes  
                                    and my eyes  
                                    are also burning : as if  
                                    I am a corpse;  
                                    bewildered, unconcerned  
                                    but innocent.  
                                    On the eve of the New Year  
                                    in the letters  
                                    I have received  
                                    everyone has written—
                                    they are also burning  
                                    like me  
                                    like the corpse.  


                                    The golden lines of Devisutra or Geeta 
                                    begin the day's first move.  
                                    And then the hot steam of excited cups of tea,  
                                    ignoring all rules of hygiene.  
                                    While sipping tea, gather the kith and kin.  
                                    There comes the seven-year-old daughter, Pupun,  
                                    holding a Picture-Book : Ramayana.  
                                    The wife begins her day's chores,  
                                    with "Songs-on-Request"  
                                    blasting from her Radio.  
                                    Brightening the cause of the hour of trial,  
                                    with immense eagerness I narrate to Pupun  
                                    the stories of Seeta and Ravana.  
                                    But unmindfully,  
                                    like a red, red ripe apple  
                                    the sun comes  
                                    and stands in front of me.  
                                    While shaving, I get wish-waves,tempting.  
                                    Breaking down all walls  
                                    come in to cling onto my body.  
                                    Like an intoxicated boat  
                                    float towards the indefinite time.  
                                    The bell resounds inside the body.  
                                    On heaps of falsehood  
                                    the scattered sunshine of impatience.  
                                    And, while searching the stairs of freedom,  
                                    with all interests  
                                    arrives :  
                                    the birthtime of another morning...  
                                    The world seems old  
                                    and, under the vast sky,  
                                    one feels himself dispensable,  


                                    Not time.  
                                    Many times I have proudly thought  
                                    of loving you;  
                                    each of these moments of mine  
                                    are themselves victims  
                                    like that dog Laika  
                                    moving for years in the emptiness of space.  
                                    The victim is this age we are born.  
                                    The victim is not just that man  
                                    crucified two thousand years back  
                                    or that old man  
                                    who fell with his face down  
                                    in the prayer meeting at Delhi  
                                    forty five years ago  
                                    or Sakya  
                                    or the youthfulness of Marylin Monroe.  
                                    at last sacrfice lies  
                                    in the justification of life.  
                                    Sometimes you are very close to me  
                                    or sometimes you are not there  
                                    sometimes I am not there  
                                    and at other times  
                                    neither both of us nor others are there  
                                    and rain and summer and winter  
                                    come and go;only a little of happiness,  
                                    a little of sadness,  
                                    a little of emptiness  
                                    goes on being sacrificed.  
                                    Translation :
                                    Rabindra K Swain 


                                    No, the price has not gone up  
                                    for long years.  
                                    Even in this new budget  
                                    the price remains the same  
                                    as before : fifteen paise.  
                                    take this Malli,for example.  
                                    She would be nearly seventy  
                                    but till today  
                                    she has not written a post card.  
                                    She has never had the need of it.  
                                    Only two or three months back  
                                    she got a card from her grandson  
                                    after her daughter and son-in-law  
                                    settled in Kharagpur  
                                    getting a job in the Railways.  
                                    Says the oldwoman,  
                                    this Puja vacation  
                                    her daughter and son-in-law  
                                    will come home.  
                                    Her neighbours will compliment her  
                                    on her house being festive on the occasion.  
                                    Would Mallibudhi care anybody, then ?  
                                    Malli will go on being a silent onlooker  
                                    to her children's cries,  
                                    jokes and laughter, to the rites  
                                    and festivals, to time's maya  
                                    and to the increased expenditure in the family.  
                                    The old days of her poverty would then brew  
                                    in the dry bones of her conscience—  
                                    it is the slow dying, not her death, 
                                    that would then cascade like water  
                                    down her wrinkled hands.  
                                    how would she know the world is so big ?  
                                    Is she a cloud in the sky  
                                    or a barge drifting on some sea ?  
                                    Has she ever seen the hands of history  
                                    in the book of her grandchild ?  
                                    Hers is only a small life  
                                    standing day after day  
                                    like that fifteen-paise post card  
                                    whose price has not gone up for a long time.  


                                    The children are not home, they are gone.  
                                    The home is empty and rooms so blank.  
                                    Void spreads, layer by layer like slough  
                                    The time has no throb of life  
                                    for it is still  
                                    and dead like the vast eternity.  
                                    Moments born of Time,  
                                    the fond mother of all  
                                    search for their playmates  
                                    for it is the time for play.  
                                    The children are not home, they are gone  
                                    The walls are mute  
                                    and the floor of my room  
                                    seems like an old lady  
                                    that has suddenly stopped telling tales  
                                    to children fond of her tales.  
                                    The rooms are blank and stillness hangs  
                                    from the ceiling  
                                    that seeks to be thrilled to life.  
                                    The floor seeks  
                                    the words of a coaxing mother  
                                    and the look of fear and helplessness  
                                    that once kept it alive andgay.  
                                    The eyes rub my limbs  
                                    and set balloons high  
                                    letting them soar with laughter  
                                    that cannot be easily grasped.  
                                    The children are not home, they are gone.  
                                    From afar I can see  
                                    the soft palms like tender leaves  
                                    glistening in the light  
                                    of the eyes beyond the gate.  
                                    Are they speaking to me or telling a tale  
                                    of fairies in gardens  
                                    or knights in the woods?  
                                    Suddenly I leap  
                                    to the street bathed in the sun  
                                    leaving this lonely room, vast and blank  
                                    and there I can feel  
                                    the uproar of my children giggling  
                                    or the language of eyes  
                                    in their wistful liberty.  
                                    But the street becomes a stretch of void  
                                    and the trees stare on  
                                    with mute eyes that cannot see the fun.  
                                    I return to the room  
                                    and switch on the fan.  
                                    As I close my eyes I feel,  
                                    my body dissolving by degrees  
                                    slowly and slowly  
                                    the uproar of children come  
                                    floating to my ear  
                                    like the fainting waves of a distant sea.  
                                    And in me the waves dance eagerly.  
                                    And that faint uproar  
                                    of my children cacklingis transformed  
                                    into a bright flood of light in me.  
                                    In me the smiles of flowers of charming  
                                    colours take to wings.  
                                    The blankness of the room  
                                    dissolves in me.  
                                    I am lost in reverie  
                                    and silence is drowned  
                                    in that enthralling noise.  
                                    that plaintive note fades  
                                    from my mind.  
                                    I ask myself :  
                                    Are not the children home ? Are they gone ?  


                                    The snow sparkles  
                                    Over the Himalayas...  
                                    A little sparrow  
                                    Lisping the Lord's prayer  
                                    Flutters its wings  
                                    And knows not  
                                    Where to perch itself.  
                                    A camp here  
                                    And a camp there  
                                    Crying against each other  
                                    Lure the winged one  
                                    To jump into the fire  
                                    They have lit for the night.  
                                    From afar  
                                    You can hear  
                                    The supersonic shouts  
                                    Of the camp followers  
                                    Frantically trying to tear apart  
                                    The soul of the little sparrow  
                                    With their dogmas  
                                    And doctrines.  
                                    All around hovers  
                                    The shroud  
                                    Of a killing chill  
                                    And the sparrow  
                                    Keeps on whispering  
                                    Into eternity  
                                    The sublime words  
                                    Of the Lord's Prayer:  
                                    Hallowed by thy name  
                                    Thy kingdom come  
                                    Thy will be done.


                                    Even darkness fears  
                                    To step into this prison.  
                                    But, whom to fear?  
                                    The sentry  
                                    or the sleepless prisoners?  
                                    The sound of the tired feet  
                                    Of the sentry  
                                    Lapses into the throb  
                                    Of the prisoners' hearts.  
                                    The iron-bars,  
                                    Trembling with human breath,  
                                    Concede their defeat.  
                                    The dark shadows  
                                    Of the prison cells  
                                    Turn into a chiaroscuro  
                                    In the sharp emanation of light.  
                                    The earth under the sentry's feet  
                                    slips away.  
                                    The bird-of-light,  
                                    Flying out of the prisoner's heart  
                                    Watches from the sky  
                                    How the underground saplings  
                                    Break the rocks open  
                                    And lift up in speed  
                                    Towards light.  


                                    With the long breaths of time  
                                    looks bright  
                                    this album,  
                                    where lie ensconced  
                                    our infancy and youth  
                                    memories of the rainbow  
                                    and dreams of you;  
                                    even the toys and ribbons of our children  
                                    when they were toddlers,  
                                    safely preserved.  
                                    In some nights like this  
                                    when my illusive heart  
                                    bends in pain  
                                    and in intolerable loneliness,  
                                    I open  
                                    my album.  
                                    Then the loud shivering laughter  
                                    of phantoms  
                                    melts in the empty air.  


                                    In the front  
                                    everything is visible  
                                    yet astonishing  
                                    the sudden deep embrace  
                                    and the unconscious conscience.  
                                    fill up your pocket  
                                    with whatever you get  
                                    fill up the basket  
                                    plucking flowers to your fulfilment  
                                    assume darkness  
                                    to be light  
                                    march on— 
                                    it does not mean anything  
                                    as to which tree is  
                                    without blossom  
                                    which village is  
                                    washed away in the flood.  
                                    The only witnesses to your sin are:  
                                    the deceiving smile  
                                    foolish hypocrites  
                                    torn pieces of papers  
                                    corrupt practitioners  
                                    for recognition  
                                    or begging bowls !  
                                    In the blessed dreams of luxury  
                                    the tireless chhau dance  
                                    as if in the dense boughs  
                                    a thirsty bird twitters  
                                    looking at  
                                    the sudden burst of rain.  
                                    The day, eyes opened,  
                                    the ocean is  
                                    sailing on waves  
                                    uncertainty in the air  
                                    the bright moon  
                                    the promise of a shore  
                                    to anchor. 
                                    The wild waves washed away  
                                    the sand castles  
                                    and threw them back again  
                                    from the lap of the aged mother  
                                    from the earth to the sky  
                                    from the sky to the earth  
                                    in search of freedom  
                                    move restlessly  
                                    from the shade of the Bodhidruma  
                                    to the thirst of jnana yoga.  
                                    The stick of the helpless age  
                                    in hand  
                                    the clock of painted relationship  
                                    on body  
                                    the delight of the greenery  
                                    in the mind  
                                    freedom is a consolation  
                                    in darkness,  
                                    the statue of one's  
                                    smiles and tears  
                                    is recognised in the mirror  
                                    or in a drop of tear  
                                    in someone's eyes.  


                                    Emperor !  
                                    when you command  
                                    the grey and serene earth shivers  
                                    the stars and planets  
                                    silently like balls  
                                    here and there  
                                    in the empty space.  
                                    The sky is throbbing  
                                    with the chorus  
                                    singing the glory of  
                                    the associated deities,  
                                    at a wink  
                                    come in  
                                    like the disciplined patient mountain  
                                    the thunderous storm and rain.  
                                    In the midst of the thunder  
                                    you can withstand, o Emperor !  
                                    under your ominous  
                                    illusive, strange cover.  
                                    The spontaneity of your life  
                                    is shocked and silent  
                                    encircled by the  
                                    poisonous smoky words  
                                    of hypocrisy,  
                                    your humanitarian consciousness  
                                    becoming mechanical.  
                                    O great Emperor,  
                                    have you ever thought  
                                    in this vast universe  
                                    your worda of vanity  
                                    to show your power,  
                                    your loud commanding voice  
                                    like foolish soliloquies  
                                    seem meaningless,  
                                    and will be lost  
                                    in a wink of an eye.  
                                    So what is the way, Emperor ?  
                                    Will you love the poor  
                                    grow sympathy and relationship  
                                    drop tears of fondness,  
                                    the face, an affectionate  
                                    image of smile, love, kindness,  
                                    or will you be  
                                    the cursed, fearful expression  
                                    of a blind revenge,  
                                    a face full of jealousy,  
                                    like the blood-thirsty butcher's  
                                    bright, burning eyes  
                                    of fire ?  


                                    The world appears as if to end,  
                                    like grains of rice hard to find  
                                    on a leaf-plate after a meal— 
                                    the diverse movements of a lifetime,  
                                    a gust of unforeseen wind  
                                    traces its marks and leaves.  
                                    Afternoon, and in a swing of eager sunlight  
                                    is it a pale picture that rocks back and forth?  
                                    Who is the artist ?  
                                    Afterwards,just a blur of shadow  
                                    For in a sudden explosion  
                                    was everything wiped out, creatures all,  
                                    every sound, each and every inanimate.  
                                    Does memory ever have a body ?  
                                    And can a body carry its memory for all time ?  
                                    Unspoken despair stands up  
                                    and sits down over and over again,  
                                    unable to escape from itself  
                                    being itself alone.  
                                    Man is buried  
                                    in a world of his own making,  
                                    like a river that has reached its end  
                                    in a small shack of a labourer repairing the bank,  
                                    leftover life,having lost its identity,  
                                    keeps on tormenting at every instant.  


                                    To this we have come, through many sorrows  
                                    past the ashes of Troy, forgetting the tyranny  
                                    and lawlessness, forgetting adultery, the faces  
                                    of rebellion, the loaned houses of Harappa,  
                                    the lanes and corners and swarms of children,  
                                    the memories of those other islands  
                                    washed by the seven seas.  
                                    Will we go back again to that first tangled evening ?  
                                    If we wish to remember today  
                                    Libya's Lotophagi, our friends of countless lotuses,  
                                    to have our fill of many-splendoured dreams,  
                                    to enjoy the soft spume of this rood  
                                    and as swine under Circe's magic spell.  
                                    If here we spend some days— 
                                    why then should we suffer remorse ?  
                                    Why should we invoke phantoms, hoping for prophecies to come about ?  
                                    May be they will shatter our dreams again  
                                    with loud proclamations  
                                    in the words of Gandhi, Buddha, or Jesus.  


                                    The sun sets behind the hills,  
                                    songs swell, cattle plod their way home  
                                    and dream-boats float on  
                                    the flood of flute-tune;  
                                    the sun sets behind the hills and beyond  
                                    the cliffs and crests.  
                                    The pine woods lengthen their shadows  
                                    like giraffe stretching its neck  
                                    and the wayfarer sings on his way home,  
                                    and one can hear  
                                    the strains of a plaintive flute  
                                    in the mottled shadows beyond the hills.  
                                    You come stealthily tiptoeing  
                                    crossing the marshland and ferns,  
                                    leaping over fields and fence.  
                                    You come tinkling the ankle-bells  
                                    like the incorporeal soul,  
                                    you come to play to spraying colour with my blood  
                                    so that you can forget who you are.  
                                    All ways are lost,  
                                    all memories are wiped clean  
                                    all words dissolve in the blood gush  
                                    of this sunset  
                                    and the accursed night seems never to end.  
                                    The sun sets behind the hills  
                                    and shadows lengthen growing dense;  
                                    the wayfarer breaks down in a cold apathy.  
                                    The lonely shadow walks, losing its legs;  
                                    hands cannot clasp the shadows of one's own  
                                    and the sunset spreads a shoreless sea of pain  
                                    unfathomed, unplumbed.  


                                    Perchance there looms up a rare dark
                                    with muted footfalls of solitude
                                    or an eerie surge from the north-east
                                    and then, for a moment,
                                    the eyes of Born-Blind liven up
                                    and see a rainbow
                                    on the sloping bough of the sky.
                                    And, what a rainbow!
                                    Its first shade soused with blood-colour
                                    of the slayed bee-swarm.
                                    In its second shade :
                                    the consent of the Queen-Bee, a visualized shape
                                    of a new Hive yet to be sculpted.
                                    In the third, the shadow of the white breeze
                                    Sin and slur in the fourth.
                                    The fifth colour : a grotesque void.
                                    The stench of burnt-out kadamba-tree
                                    in the sixth.
                                    The seventh takes its hue from the agony
                                    of the trounced enemy.
                                    Such is that rainbow!
                                    It has an eighth colour, in which
                                    Born-Blind sights a well-studded star of another darkness
                                    and the third bank of a river not yet astream.


                                    Say it again, the simple words  
                                    won't denote meaning to such banal  
                                    meaninglessness, as we know,  
                                    the precious waiting is a dignified  
                                    entity, the backside of your temperamental  
                                    visiting card.  
                                    Bones have this funny habit,they have to  
                                    shed flesh, water down the blood and  
                                    have to embrace dust to become dust.  
                                    Inevitably our knowledge regarding  
                                    despair does never flower into  
                                    protected relationship and, it is really funny, that  
                                    relationship is like fossilized bone,  
                                    once intact, now seemingly meaningless dust  
                                    even nostrils failing to acknowledge.  
                                    One's own silence pesters wayward motives  
                                    to branch out and emote in a  
                                    stabilised world of unfamiliar shadows.  
                                    Say it again, the familiar human touch  
                                    can be so monotonous that one will  
                                    prefer to stay back, at least knowing that  
                                    shadows are after all shadows,if  
                                    once can get hurt by absent images,  
                                    then knowledge have not reached yet  
                                    regarding what harms these harmless  
                                    shadows can bring upon.  


                                    Self-propelled resolves the fireball—the earth 
                                    heaped in the cold storage : 
                                    shimmer the two eyes of the fish, 
                                    cloud, the dry teats of a canine female, 
                                    drinks to the dregs 
                                    the dark. 
                                    Sex-tear wets the soul. 
                                    boiling in winter, rain and cold. 
                                    the Supreme Lord of Life and Death, 
                                    Time has expired : 
                                    Who,our own, is left alive? 
                                    Heart or sorrow? Crematorium or the Cell ? 
                                    Vasectomy indulged in self-preservation, 
                                    test-tube babies keep on taking birth, 
                                    hunger digests hunger, 
                                    thirst is immortal. 
                                    Love saturates the bloody balloon, 
                                    soul, in its vacuum, 
                                    perforce creates the Cleavage and the Pupa—
                                    the family symbols of the bipeds. Pyramids 
                                    scan the transformation of form and qualities 
                                    of civilisation sans feelings of sex. 
                                    Its existence will be dissolved, 
                                    leaving memories 
                                    like those of Dinosaur, Amphioxus, 
                                    with biologists alone. 
                                    A new leaf of civilisation is opened in the planet 
                                    as if a fresh poster gets pasted 
                                    on a cinema poster again. 
                                    Translation :
                                    Manmohan Thakore 


                                    Then it will be morning 
                                    and birds will sing; 
                                    in the polluted harbour 
                                    I will anchor to safety 
                                    and look at the sky, 
                                    when it will be morning. 
                                    Sirens sound 
                                    the call of war 
                                    the whole body burns 
                                    no light no darkness 
                                    no ship no drumbeats 
                                    shall I go out to the street ? 
                                    Layers of the dust of sorrow 
                                    harden to stone 
                                    splitting open that stone 
                                    new crops will smile. 
                                    I will drink milk from the breasts of the earth 
                                    I will kiss everybody's heart 
                                    I will distribute the nirmalya of love, 
                                    When will it be morning ? 


                                    The horizon between  
                                    the sea and the sky  
                                    fastens my sorrows  
                                    stretching over miles of lands  
                                    and frays its gap.  
                                    The wind blows in  
                                    the perfumes of a frozen laugh.  
                                    Time whacks its way  
                                    into the void of my life  
                                    broken sighs of a treacherous love  
                                    in the past, sears my heart.  
                                    Tempered with hate  
                                    it wets my  
                                    sorrows and the sea.  
                                    A frightful season  
                                    like the shrill of a  
                                    hill-area cuckoo,  
                                    peaceful and slow.  
                                    Time keeps no record  
                                    of our rendezvous  
                                    or of my lewd thoughts  
                                    caught in the sky's stupor  
                                    your carved thighs  
                                    like floating waves.  
                                    Today—countless loves.  
                                    Myriads of strange forms  
                                    on mysterious mirrors.  
                                    You can pat their blood  
                                    spy into their ills.  
                                    Wind burrs on the spurred  
                                    branches, breathless and bright,  
                                    its luscent whispers all flying  
                                    from unwelcome seasons.  
                                    This landscape—better not to have.  
                                    This life--better not to live  
                                    This earth—better not to touch  
                                    My love!  
                                    I have layers of sorrows  
                                    the sandalpaste of my life.  
                                    A throbbing emptiness  
                                    of earth in the thirsty seas  
                                    circling round my  
                                    drab existence.  
                                    Smile a little, at least for  
                                    the sake of my child in your womb  
                                    life dribbles out  
                                    like drops of tears  
                                    in wounded springs.  
                                    The tears roll in clouds,  
                                    the clouds let loose a river  
                                    the river seeps into a sea.  
                                    The sea's thick efforts  
                                    listlessly hurl the sky  
                                    and the sea-bound streams.  


                                    Whatever we have not achieved  
                                    so far, is heaven.  
                                    Whatever we have left behind is history.  
                                    Whatever we have already expressed  
                                    is now our silence.  
                                    Whatever we failed to articulate hitherto  
                                    is poetry.  
                                    All our piled up laughter  
                                    is now satire, self-deceit.  
                                    Whatever unhesitatingly we have gifted away  
                                    is our desire, passion.  
                                    Whatever we failed to fling apart  
                                    is our memory.  
                                    Whatever we have survived  
                                    is only a deep darkness.  
                                    Whatever we have bought so far  
                                    is the grocery of our selfishness...  
                                    Whatever we have not built so far  
                                    is our home.  


                                    That is perahaps the first meeting.  
                                    For calm appearance of the sea  
                                    that swallows layers of civilization  
                                    her words  
                                    only in her trembling top-like breasts.  
                                    She thinks  
                                    for the kitten waiting on window sill  
                                    stretched flat on its belly like the sunlight  
                                    the pregnant cow would turn  
                                    into a frightened mouse,  
                                    the dark clouds would come flying  
                                    into the folds of her eye  
                                    like my solitary self.  
                                    Have you heard  
                                    the stories of vague greatmen?  
                                    Red, the horizon  
                                    red like fresh blood, have you seen?  
                                    The echo of wind  
                                    from the breaking mast of a ship?  
                                    For the sorrow without anxiety  
                                    for the lotus of a rotten pond  
                                    for the lovely cloth of a familiar old lady  
                                    all the ecstasy,  
                                    folded desires  
                                    like a mirage of the sky  
                                    like a white dream  
                                    and very close to us.  
                                    Translation :
                                    The poet  


                                    Little above Mahanadi  
                                    like a holyman in white  
                                    the moon watches  
                                    even like a constable.  
                                    The clouds of a last spring  
                                    her sorrows, maybe  
                                    the crumbling ant-hills.  
                                    As the lonely bed of a princess  
                                    this cold sand  
                                    that both of you cannot warm.  
                                    Go near the old bony bridge  
                                    the train crawls slowly,  
                                    and the sensuous moments.  
                                    In the still, solitary afternoon  
                                    waves of illusion  
                                    embrace the hot sand.  
                                    Grazing, an old cow asks the age of the sand  
                                    against the cheerful green around  
                                    The water in her eyes lost in them


                                    Today I have become the night.  
                                    Let no light touch me.  
                                    Let the meaning I have been cease.  
                                    Let my body become a different body.  
                                    Let all names signifying me disappear.  
                                    Pushed by an irresistible impulse  
                                    to become the night  
                                    I arrived here.  
                                    Let me become the night today.  
                                    I have a single aspiration today—  
                                    to become the night,  
                                    to abolish the ugliness in everything  
                                    and install beauty in its place.  
                                    How long must I wait  
                                    before it is night ?  
                                    One cannot recollect the day's looks  
                                    unless it is night.  
                                    The moon and the stars will not arrive  
                                    unless it is night.  
                                    The whole sky will be a wilderness  
                                    unless it is night.  
                                    How do I get the time  
                                    to bring back to my mind  
                                    your celebrated eyes  
                                    unless it is night ?  
                                    How can the tuberoses of my steadfast love  
                                    blossom into expanding whiteness  
                                    unless it is night ?  
                                    How long must I wait  
                                    before it is night ?  
                                    Describing that night is unholy.  
                                    Remembering the eyes of that night  
                                    is also unholy.  
                                    Years pass,but that exquisite night  
                                    does not re-enter my mind  
                                    that's still, and on the way to holiness.  
                                    Some unfinished poem  
                                    was inscribed on that night's face.  
                                    In the lamplight of my soul  
                                    I had once read its lines.  
                                    I am the despair of that poem,  
                                    and I dissolve  
                                    in the night.  
                                    I am already an ingredient of the night,  
                                    but the splendour of that night  
                                    (which, once upon a time,  
                                    was my own body's splendour)  
                                    does not return,  
                                    and years pass.  


                                    On the mirror, a naked child  
                                    in the mouth of a snake  
                                    on its belly;  
                                    no water, no mantra,no one around.  
                                    There in the garden  
                                    a fear keeps growing.  
                                    The shade of a faintly acquainted pomegranate  
                                    keeps on lenthening.  
                                    The naughty child  
                                    boxes the ear of the snake,  
                                    the shade goes still  
                                    on the boundary.  
                                    The naked child  
                                    in the mouth of a snake  
                                    on its belly  
                                    goes on blabbering :  
                                    this time I have been caught;  
                                    I will not play with you, once again.  
                                    No water, no mantra, no one around.  


                                    It's immaterial  
                                    as to who loses  
                                    and who wins  
                                    in the war.  
                                    Only that  
                                    the earth is soaked,  
                                    in blood, time and again.  
                                    Who fights with whom ?  
                                    Who is sacrificed?  
                                    The war  
                                    wipes blue and greenery  
                                    from the sky and trees,  
                                    breaks the wings of the wind,  
                                    throttles the swans  
                                    of the rains. 
                                    Who fights with whom ?  
                                    Who is sacrificed ?  
                                    No one on the banks  
                                    of the river of blood,  
                                    no kith and kin;  
                                    afloat on it  
                                    rafters of bones,  
                                    and bones.  
                                    On the edge of the sword  
                                    a chunck of flesh  
                                    of the earth;  
                                    the obssessed warrior  
                                    busy in wiping  
                                    from it the rust.  
                                    It's immaterial  
                                    as to who loses,  
                                    who wins  
                                    in the war.  


                                    I am not convinced yet  
                                    that everything would go wrong  
                                    if the world changes.  
                                    Even when  
                                    the houses are changed into shops  
                                    a distrait shopkeeper would surely be there  
                                    to stare at the gamesome sparrows in the foliage.  
                                    There would still be someone  
                                    to hum a forlorn tune to himself  
                                    and yet another to run out into the open  
                                    to soak himself in the rains.  
                                    I am not sure yet that the people  
                                    would all go dusty if the world changes itself.  
                                    The begging hand of a man  
                                    has been the same all through the ages.  
                                    People of bowing heads have been retaining  
                                    the same postures all along.  
                                    The burdened spine, the leaking eyes  
                                    and the faces small with disgrace  
                                    haven't ever changed a shade.  
                                    If ever all the people get cankered down  
                                    a few others would still be there  
                                    and you would discover they aren't any more the beings  
                                    they have very subtly  
                                    changed themselves into the snipping sorrows  
                                    the unalterable sorrows of this world.  


                                    An entire life absentminded,  
                                    no listing, no counting :  
                                    an act of blooming  
                                    is no different from flooding,  
                                    the music for marriage  
                                    is no different from storm,  
                                    listening to music  
                                    is as good as kissing a thorn;  
                                    no stocktaking, everything careless.  
                                    Although sometimes  
                                    the naughty children  
                                    trespass into the garden to play,  
                                    the butterflies have adulterous  
                                    relationship withs the seasons,  
                                    minor like girls,  
                                    the pregnancies of the snails  
                                    get destroyed,  
                                    the heavy steps of the wind  
                                    trample pregnant youth,  
                                    stones weighing tons  
                                    are falling from templetops  
                                    and snakes digest what charm them.  
                                    Everywhere there is life,  
                                    everywhere it is not.  
                                    To be entirely  
                                    absentiminded is life itself.  
                                    There is no record of  
                                    what goes on, what is lost  
                                    and what can be held in a list.  
                                    Tasting the edge of the axe  
                                    I, the woodcutter, have  
                                    split myself into two :  
                                    one the fire, the other the blood.  


                                    The crow has started cawing;  
                                    it's almost dawn.  
                                    Please wake up.  
                                    We'll put the bed in order.  
                                    Now the eagle-eyed sun will be up.  
                                    let us go to the river.  
                                    We will wash  
                                    the footprints of sin.  
                                    let us go to the river.  
                                    We went to the river.  
                                    From the womb of the river  
                                    we were born again.  
                                    We put  
                                    the tassles and flower before the mirror,  
                                    we tucked shyness on our faces  
                                    and quickly put on  
                                    Pressed sari and pyjamas.  
                                    the morning can come,  
                                    if it wishes.  
                                    What harm the bloody sun  
                                    can do to us.  
                                    Ah, no sight of morning, or sun!  
                                    As usual,  
                                    the night is asleep.  
                                    Then, does this crow caw  
                                    when the night is not yet over ?  
                                    Let this crow be murdered.  


                                    I think  
                                    I'd have a word or two with Father  
                                    But what words could conspire  
                                    between a son and father ?  
                                    My father  
                                    sees me every day  
                                    I see him too  
                                    Yet why doesn't a single word  
                                    come to my lips,  
                                    some word that would  
                                    be just right for a father ?  
                                    Suddenly confronted by him  
                                    my mouth turns sticky and dry,  
                                    my tongue rolls like a rope of straw,  
                                    the breeze grips the tip of my navel.  
                                    Father understands my problem  
                                    He watches me, hidden somewhere  
                                    He watches me while I am asleep  
                                    I think  
                                    I'll have a word with Father  
                                    My father approaches from a distance  
                                    I had never met him  
                                    halfway in the street  
                                    Father and I  
                                    are travellers  
                                    I think  
                                    I'll have a word or two with Father :  
                                    about this undiminished distance between us  
                                    which we have kept up, unchanged  
                                    through those many roads we have travelled long,  
                                    the ache on the soles of our feet  
                                    has long since blossomed  
                                    into dust-smeared flowers,  
                                    the road waiting expectantly for us  
                                    day after day !  


                                    Does he say something  
                                    gesturing his hands, beating his chest ?  
                                    A few yards away  
                                    is a gathering in the college field;  
                                    a mike, a pandal and the shoutings:  
                                    you grabbed the Parliament, the Assembly;  
                                    now you leave us the local bodies.  
                                    That old man still sits  
                                    on the veranda of Junagarh Block office.  
                                    Look, how eloquently does he speak !  
                                    Does he say, the Prime Minister of Fiji  
                                    with the Indian origin  
                                    is in the clutches of the rebels,  
                                    both the Koreas will merge within a year,  
                                    hasn't the exchange rate of dollar  
                                    gone down in this whole decade ?  
                                    Does he say, in our country  
                                    the number of political parties,  
                                    big and small, is around four hundred;  
                                    thirty of them form the government  
                                    but the ministry comprises twenty four ?  
                                    Does he say, in the women's page of the daily  
                                    is the news of the Queen Victoria's lover,  
                                    the socialist leader  
                                    is away in the U.S. for medical treatment,  
                                    his expenses totally borne by the government;  
                                    there is pain in his chest.  
                                    That old man still sits  
                                    on the veranda of Junagarh Block office.  
                                    I think, I have seen him somewhere,  
                                    or is it his photo that I have seen ?  
                                    Did the environmentalists take his snap  
                                    on the Narmada Valley ?  
                                    Did a photo of his, with an axe  
                                    in his hand, appear in the newspaper  
                                    when he protested against  
                                    the proposed test-firing centre at Chandipur ?  
                                    Did he join the opposition party's rally  
                                    against the price-rise of the seeds ?  
                                    Did he sit on the left side of the bier  
                                    of his young son who lost his life  
                                    in protest against prawn culture  
                                    in the lake Chilika ?  
                                    Did he sit, his hand pressed against his chin,  
                                    in the national dailies  
                                    in one report of proselytization ?  
                                    A few yards away  
                                    the pandal is agog with speech  
                                    whereas the old man on the veranda  
                                    goes on shouting nonchalantly.  
                                    On his face flashes the face  
                                    of an old man who has gone back  
                                    dejected for the thirteenth time  
                                    without getting his old-age pension,  
                                    the face of that poor farmer  
                                    who is busy in arranging money  
                                    to bribe the officials to get his quota of  
                                    fertilizer and seeds,  
                                    the face of a young AIDs patient  
                                    who had gone to Surat  
                                    in search of a job,  
                                    the face of the one  
                                    rendered homeless in the supercyclone  
                                    who now waits for a yard of polythene,  
                                    and the face of that labourer  
                                    who died of an accident in the Oswal factory  
                                    but whose name is not there in the attendance register.  
                                    That old man still sits  
                                    on the veranda of Junagarh Block office  
                                    in Kalahandi.  
                                    will your hands ever reach out to him?  


                                    Why should someone arrive  
                                    so late at night ?  
                                    Nothing to worry, dear,  
                                    Sleep for another hour.  
                                    One who always wanted to leave  
                                    at last flew away  
                                    in the right direction.  
                                    Tell him to present himself  
                                    whenever I wish.  
                                    When you get tired  
                                    of making the wooden puppets dance,  
                                    and sit down under the shadow  
                                    of the leafless neem tree,  
                                    I will stand up  
                                    and announce :  
                                    I am here,  


                                    The other day we divided our mother  
                                    Chhotu claimed seven months  
                                    And I took five.  
                                    Though the slave of summer and rain  
                                    Destroys the bird's home,  
                                    Though winter's silent lover  
                                    Lays out the dead morning,  
                                    A bird  
                                    Ties the voice of relationship  
                                    Holds back tears,  
                                    Does not plunder anyone's beauty  
                                    Nor squanders anyone's happiness  
                                    Does not pile burning coals  
                                    On some happy family  
                                    At times keeps flying high in the mind's sky  
                                    And at others in the deep depths of the soul  
                                    Neither any bloodshed for mother  
                                    Nor stabbings for wealth  
                                    A bird goes on singing  
                                    For its lost lover.  
                                    That day  
                                    We lit father's funeral pyre  
                                    Chhotu took the plot of land  
                                    And I the house,  
                                    That very day we divided our mother.  


                                    Which bird's call-note  
                                    possessed me ?  
                                    Do you know it  
                                    at its time of return  
                                    to another guise :  
                                    wings of marble,granite claws and beak  
                                    and flights, speckles of memories.  
                                    The kingfisher calls.  
                                    For whose death are you responsible ?  
                                    One among many bends  
                                    of the river Daya,  
                                    the mossy stone under its slow moving water  
                                    and in its crevices  
                                    fish, legend,sands like history  
                                    and a floor of rotten leaves.  
                                    In the neck-deep water  
                                    if you look this way  
                                    a narrow strip of sunshine  
                                    where prophecy lies  
                                    like a twelve-cubit-span sword.  
                                    In the neck-deep water  
                                    if you look that way  
                                    a small patch of cloud  
                                    drifts in like sobbings  
                                    and a small fish gets startled.  
                                    In space  
                                    whose pointed gaze is this ?  
                                    And does the river destroy  
                                    what it creates ?  


                                    Sprinkling my impure blood  
                                    I have purified my yard  
                                    I have arranged rows of wick-lights,  
                                    bright with sin,  
                                    I have made my nightmares stand,  
                                    bowing their heads as arches  
                                    and have gone on pouring  
                                    the welcome song of liquid silence  
                                    from my broken heart.  
                                    My house only awaits  
                                    the touch of your feet  
                                    to be glorified.  
                                    I have kept with me  
                                    the storm of sighs,  
                                    my half-hidden moon  
                                    and a tearful rain  
                                    so that there will be no omen  
                                    on your good wishes for us.  
                                    Do I dare to name  
                                    this house of pretension  
                                    as a temple ?  
                                    The only thing is that  
                                    on the touch of your feet  
                                    my house shall be glorified.  
                                    With the delay in your arrival,  
                                    the thatch of the house  
                                    has started flying off  
                                    and the wall collapsing.  
                                    The roaring forty has already  
                                    announced your non-arrival.  
                                    That this house is yours, 
                                    the ominous hawk has  
                                    gone past, declaring it.  
                                    It is to your house  
                                    that you should have come.  
                                    Why should I be anxious  
                                    at all ?  


                                    Not an inch of the earth belongs to anybody  
                                    We live in a rented house,  
                                    have two square meals per day.  
                                    Want is sacred like an everyday prayer  
                                    of all the family members;  
                                    mother worships the god most.  
                                    The god is a calendar  
                                    or an incomplete wooden toy.  
                                    Be He of earth or stone,  
                                    my sister smears him with sindoor.  
                                    Feigning to be angry with her, father says :  
                                    soon I am getting you married off  
                                    Yet she builds her sand castles.  
                                    All these things sound philosophical to me.  
                                    God is a petty tout,  
                                    life a semblance to a sand castle.  
                                    I make an oratory, sharp like an arrow,  
                                    of hunger, dream and unemployment.  
                                    Although I am an intellectual  
                                    my friends dub me mad.  
                                    Father's job and preachings  
                                    are morning and evening.  
                                    Younger brothers are storms, cut off.  
                                    How much of dowry for sister's marriage ?  
                                    Will you have balloons, balloons,  
                                    red like childhood ?  
                                    Will you tuck flowers ?  
                                    lock of your hairs in the dark night.  
                                    Who will lie on the bier ?  
                                    Come, children, sit on my shoulder,  
                                    I will take you to the land of moon.  
                                    When you are thirsty  
                                    I will give you the water of my eyes.  
                                    When it's night  
                                    you will sleep with my lullabies.  
                                    I had seen the map of Orissa  
                                    in my school geography book.  
                                    How good is my land !  
                                    Can I ever forget it ?  
                                    The family tears  
                                    are like the breaking of the secret rains.  
                                    Tell me, who will accompany me  
                                    to my house for a day or two.  
                                    Don't tell me  
                                    that you don't like this story of mine.  

Enter supporting content here