• Gems of Indian Poetry translated into English


  • Timeless Indian Poems now available in English language


Day & Night

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

Has the time come I may go in at last?
All day I’ve been outdoors in summer air.
It seemed a sin to turn my back on splendor.
As if the rising sun had laid before me
a gift from which no sane man turns away.

But now the dark, and weariness, descend.
To lie in blackness seems a kind of solace
that brilliance cannot bring, try as it might.
All day the sun embraced me like a lover,
then left me—with a craving for the night.


Translated by
Words
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
Dust
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

Words

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

Words have wooed yet failed to win her.
Deeds done for her performed in vain.
What could he say to bring her closer?
What could he do to make her care?

Asked to abandon all he loved
he would have left it far behind.
Had he known how to sell his soul
he’d happily have made the trade.

None of that mattered, not at all.
Nothing he did--or might have done.
He watches her, from far away,
move through the life she chose instead.

She made her choice, took his away.
What choice had he but to endure
and wonder now, observing her,
if she regretted it at all?

Endure? Regret? Words, words. What good
are words to him when what he’d craved
was to be at her side right now,
to live with her through all his days?


Translated by
Day & Night
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
Dust
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

The Visitors

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

They took their seat in a corner,
and they sat so quiet and meek.

I asked them why they’d come,
but still they spoke not a word.

I offered them food and drink,
but smiling they looked away.

What else can I offer? I asked.
And again: Why are you here?

They turned to look back at me
and sorrow flowed into their eyes.

They rose then and bowed solemnly
and backed away toward the door.

Where will you go? I cried.
Tell me before you depart.

Their sad eyes rose to the sky,
then dropped down to the floor.

Is there nothing you can say?
I need you to speak to me.

They passed beyond the door
with a smile and a wave and were gone.

I found myself all alone,
just as I’d been before

but not quite as I had been
for the room looked emptier

and something had gone with them
to wherever they’d disappeared.

I sank to the ground and wept
mourning whatever I’d lost

till a voice inside me cried:
Let the time not pass in vain!

I ceased weeping then and rose
and left that place far behind

seeking I hardly knew what
but the road and its solitude

meaning to travel until
I could hear my soul exclaim

and my body sigh under the strain
and the air fill with shouts and screams

and the harp of the road break out
in the sweet music of pain

then take myself home and sit
in the corner so quiet and meek

as sorrow flowed into my eyes
and ask myself why I had come

and who I supposed I might be
and offer myself no reply.



Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
Dust
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

The Air Is Still

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

The air is still
and silent about you.

It has no tale
to tell to anyone.

The secrets locked
inside your sleeping skull

cannot escape,
cannot betray you.

No breeze, no wind
carries away your story

to ears that might
receive it gracelessly,

perhaps distort it
past all recognition

to do you harm,
to tell a vicious tale.

Sleep on. You’re safe
now as you’ll ever be.

Not safe at all,
of course, for no man can

evade his end,
approaching silently.

Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Visitors
As If You Knew
Dust
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

As If You Knew

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

Think it your good fortune
to sit perfectly still
where you are placed.

Think of the frantic times
spent wandering about
and settling nowhere.

If the time has now come
to remain where you are
it is not for nothing.

Everything that ever
happened has led to this
moment, here and now.

Out in the great beyond
a terrible chaos
rushes through the void.

But you are in this place
resplendent with silence
if only for a time.

Surrender yourself to
stillness as if you knew
what it meant to live.

As if you understood death,
though patient, lies in wait
out there . . . somewhere.


Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
Dust
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

Dust

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

Stained with dust
he keeps himself
from the world
and is afraid
even to move.

Movement could
well imply a hope
that he might be
so much more
than simple dust.

He feels no need
to ask how he
might move this
world were he
to lose his fear.

Or does he fear
moving he’ll find
the world itself
mere dust and
nothing more?

Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
The Traveler’s Song
Autumn

The Traveler’s Song

John Menaghan

From THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

The traveler has to knock
at every alien door
to come to his own.

At the wayside where
shadow chases light
and the rain comes

in the wake of summer,
I sit here before my door
and I sing all alone.

Fires and shadows mingle
with the gloom of dust.
I have done all I could.

Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
Dust
Autumn

Autumn

John Menaghan

From  THE TAGORE VARIATIONS: A Series of Poems Inspired by lines from Rabindranath Tagore

The horizon is fiercely naked,
still and keen and cruel.

I am like a remnant of cloud
uselessly roaming the sky.

Let the cloud of grace bend low,
take this emptiness of mine.

Float it on the wanton wind
and vanish away in the dark.

Translated by
Day & Night
Words
The Visitors
The Air Is Still
As If You Knew
Dust
The Traveler’s Song

NAMING THE BIRDS

Stanley Barkan

Tired of naming cattle & fish,
Adam turned to the birds.
“Raven,” he said;
then “dove,”
prophetically,
these first creatures of the air
who’d be symbols in a later time
of rain and flood and rainbow.
Of the birds who would
sing at dawn and dusk
he had little interest;
so Eve decided to try
her onomastic skill.
“Nightingale,” she whispered.
“Ibis, heron, flamingo,
parrot, peacock, tanager,”
mystery, grace, magnificence
of thought, motion, and design.
It took a woman
to properly name
the birds of Paradise.

Translated by

Rimbaud

Richard Berengarten

Precocious pupil, teenage layabout,
he’s played provincial brat, brash schoolboy slut,
barbarian beast, filthy louse-ridden mutt –
until piss-artist drink-mates chuck him out;
absinthe and argot mingling in his throat,
teacher’s best pet, deranged, turns foul-slanged slob,
illumination-seeker, cannon-gob,
working his passage on a drunken boat . . .
And then he’s twenty-two. And poetry stops.
And then, as if he’s cleaned up, done the cure,
and doesn’t need the hit, crack, high (or crutch?),
his previous life, he says, has been rinçures –
rinsewater, dishswirl, drainwaste, sloshmurk, slops –
yeah, been there, done that, thank you very much.

Translated by

Nobodies

Patrick Deeley

Whether we work with pens or guns, shovels
or brooms, or stare at flickering screens
in air-conditioned rooms, or hang for hours

on telephone lines, or cope with big diseases
that sound definite and purposeful,
each its own answer, its withering solution

to resources we exhaust – and even
if we throw dizzying, plume-looped aerobatics
across the sky, or hold the high C

with the bravura of Pavarotti in his heyday –
this business of being nobodies
overtakes us: the abundant, open-ended world

a vast nothingness, the trees and waterfalls
whispering ghosts in ghostly breezes,
our firm friends and faithful lovers found to be

insubstantial. See them now, grown
forgetful of how they are undone by the dream
that animates them. See ourselves,

given to the gift of the moment as we savour
the salt trickle of their tears, inhale
the animal musk still pirouetting on their skin.

Translated by

Swinging Boats

Angela Patten

Sometimes it seems as if your life
is all about trying to balance
on a swinging boat, the painted kind
youused to loveat the old time
carnivalon Dun Laoghairepier.

It wasn’t Coney Island but what
did you know of foreign parts?

The helter-skelter where you slid
hell-for-leather on a burlap mat
downa winding metal chute
seemed to go on for miles
what with all the howling kids
and the general hullabaloo.

The swinging boatwas gaudily daubed
in blue and yellow swirls, slung
like a cradle between two spars.

A man in a lead-colored coat
and tweed cap took your money.
Then you stepped in one end,
your sisterin the other,
and you pulled on the ropesin tandem
to make the boat sway back and forth
like a clockless pendulum.

It wasn’t Venicebut what
did you know of gondoliers?

Some days,caught up
in the endless round of tasks
dictated by your To Do list,
as if your frantic busyness
were a requirement for sainthood
or a penance for past iniquities,
you might be a carousel pony
galloping in everlasting orbit
or a girl clad in a secondhand frock
going nowhere fast
in a swinging boat.



Translated by

A While

Glenn Shea

Near Yangxua, Guangji Province

The light westering, the shadows playing at angles;
the abrupt round hills leap up to surround us.
Lili leads us from the village onto a footpath
into a grove. The trees are afire with fine ripe oranges,
fat wet globes of fruit. We exclaim at them,
chewing the juicy skins. All day we’ve been greeted
and waved at, known as visitors. A neighbor
drove her old blue clunker into town
to pick us up. Lili says of the village,
when there’s trouble we help each other,
and for just some moments whatever isn’t calm
and a joy goes away. We linger in it,
saying little, the green trees misting over.
The dusk comes with the first words of dark behind it,
and at last we turn to go back,
the oranges bright in our hands as lanterns.

Translated by

Meaning-making

Shelly Bhoil

it was about then when we didn’t understand what it is
and set out into meaning-making exercises

                                  i gently stole a strand of hair from my class-
                                  mate’s blazer and pulled one mine to juxtapose
                                  the two in sunshine. a few more strands got
                                  pulled and stolen. then my head scratched to not
                                  understand how some hair could be ‘thin’ and
                                  some not!

my talkative twin chased words that danced on elders’
lips and struggled to speak every split second their lips
sealed that she should be speaking now because she has
understood a ‘conversation’ (at the end of which she was
allowed to speak) means a word.

    the father’s face became red while the mother tapped her forehead!

we traced the patterns of O and C in the moon, Y the trees
we climbed, V W and M in valleys and mountains we saw,
hanging from the trees, upside down. the mountains, a few
walks away on our last birthday, appeared distant now. the
grandfather explained the phenomenon to our growing tall.

                          we settled down to writing when my twin rhymed
           flower with shower. I wrote ‘a smiling flower in the
                          rain shower.’ we tried to bring in even ‘power.’ Then
           we discovered the dictionary and began replacing
                         ‘condition’ with ‘predicament’

the rhyming became inexpedient as meanings socialized

those un-publishable poems and experiential meanings had a joy lost to us like those years in the years we have grown up to understand what it is
                   and that my twin never was nor will be

Translated by
Home sickness
Blood-soaked

Home sickness

Shelly Bhoil

These ballerinas,
the migratory birds
lift their toes
swiftly
unfolding feathers
in harmony
to perform the sky dance
and exit the horizon
leaving behind empty-nes(t)s
echoing with joyous, envious
songs of home and return
for this solitary immigrant
whose path is chartered on
a seamless ocean
of individual drops

In the sprawling waves
of loneliness and longing
I drift between things banal
tv, tea, smokes and car
to the corner street
where someone's soot-clad feet
comfortably dislodged
from a card box home
shatter my ballerina romance

for I realize-
home sickness is a luxury
unavailable to the homeless!

Translated by
Meaning-making
Blood-soaked

Blood-soaked

Shelly Bhoil

That's right, I carry
between my legs
a bag with a napkin
soaked in blood.

Wait, haven't I been carrying
in me a fountain
of blood since the first mother
ever came on earth?

Indeed, I am, oh goodness,
an enduring river of blood
flowing in your veins
from my uterus urn!

And you! Where do you drain off
your mothers' blood each time
you carry your bloodless body
to the exclusive shrine of your mind?

Translated by
Meaning-making
Home sickness

LET US BUILD A BRIDGE

Yogesh Joshi

Let’s go then
We shall erect a bridge
So what, if there is no river?
If we build a bridge
it is possible
that the river may arrive
in our hamlet.

Who said
that a river starts from a mountain?
In our village
it may come from the sea.

The sky and the sea
are equally close like us.
It is true,
that the birds do not have
a affiliation to their nest
as is with the sky.

By now I can see
fish and scallops and conch-shells
in the mirages.

What do you think of the mirages?
Diving in them
from their bottoms
one can bring pearls also.

If one genuinely wants
to drown
it can be done within igneous rcok.
One can sow something in the wind.
Just with a drop of water
many a rock can be splintered.

Do you want to come? Speak up.
Let’s go then
to raise a bridge.

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati
SAND DUNES

SAND DUNES

Yogesh Joshi

In the end
I long to be planted
in this desert.

Between two tall ridges
I am sitting
like Mount Olympus
I whisper a little
in the ears of the wind
and in next to no time
scading sand
starts pouring down
on my head...

From all the four sides
sprinting ardently
streams down
scorching sand
on my head...

Now chest-deep
Now neck-deep
Now head-deep
Now I am under the mound...

Now
above me
taller than the mountains
sandbanks after sandbanks
sandbacks after sandbanks
moving like surf
with the speed of a snail...

The mounds
above me
keep on rising...
and from my underneath
ascends lava higher and higher...

And still
even now
why
it is not possible
to be planted
to be intered
or to be burnt down?!



ઢૂવા

રોપાઈ જવા
ઝંખું છું હું
છેવટે
આ રણમાં.
બે ઊંચા
ઢૂવાઓ વચ્ચે
બેઠો છું હું
મેરુ ની જેમ.
પવનના કાનમાં
કશુંક કહું છું
કે તરત
બળબળતી રેત
ઠલવાવા લાગે છે
મારા શિર પર...
ચારે બાજુથી
ઉમળકાભેર ધસી આવીને
ઠલવાતી રહે છે
ગરમલાહ્ય રેત
મારા શિર પર..
હવે છાતી સુધી રેત
હવે ગળા સુધી રેત..
હવે હું
ઢૂવાની નીચે...
હવે
મારી ઉપર
ઊંચા ઊંચા પહાડ જેવડા
ઢૂવેઢૂવા..
ઢૂવેઢૂવા..
ગોકળગાયની ગતિએ
મોજાંઓની જેમ વહેતાં..
વધુ ને વધુ
ઊંચા ને ઊંચા થતા જાય છે
મારી ઉપરના ઢૂવા..
ને મારા તળિયેથી
ઉપર ઊઠતો જાય છે લાવા..
છતાં
કેમ હજીયે
નથી તો રોપાઈ શકાતું
નથી તો દટાઈ શકાતું
કે નથી તો બળી જઈ શકાતું?!

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati
LET US BUILD A BRIDGE

Love You a Pound

Song Huiyuan

Four tenths cooked rice, three tenths vegetables,
two tenths beans, one tenth meat
is my unvarying life.

Domestic life, fully itemized.
I love you, too, up to a pound.

One tenth kindness and scorn,
two tenths getting together and breaking up,
three tenths not giving up, still leaves four tenths.
I am writing you a lyric poem.

Nothing compares to these four tenths,
I use four tenths to win me a fair lady.

Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Cliché

Rong Rong

A man and a woman—
it's like a traffic accident
between an old car and an even older car.
The old street had been rerouted,
so they met at the new freeway exchange one day.
During a traffic jam, they collided
— he and she —
like two vehicles.

The promises were the first to be broken,
but lies will live another day
with growing disappointments.
The sky looks shattered through the windshield,
and dealing with loss will devour half of the spring.
In the dark, secrets and pangs of desire
all come to the fore, again and again.
Who knows how to navigate the maze of traffic rules?

It hurts because of the commitment,
but once again it proves the weakness of the human will.
After one bloody injury: from the nerve ends to the brain,
even the flesh contracted anxiety disorder.
Speeding, red lights, one-way streets, traffic tickets—
a love affair has become a mad maneuver—
no ambulance but time can come to their rescue.

They are two survivors.
Can he realign?
Can she be less suspicious of the car's reliability?
She has become the most careful driver,
worried about wrecking her second-hand car.

Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

November

Meng Ye

She knows in November my eyes
will gain a little more depth.
She comes to see me then.

Every year when November comes, she grows a little uneasy.
She knows my eyes on such days
will have a deeper shade.

In November, the sky is almost empty, few birds are overhead.
I know on such days, eyes gains a little more depth,
not just mine but everyone else’s.
”Let me have a look at you? ” She holds my face up.
”Ah…”
It’s as if a big bird, beating its wings, is diving into
the deep pool of my eyes.

“Is it a bird?”
I can’t really tell,
but I feel that it reaches very deep.

She always looks at me so quietly. She must be able to see
I become a little more shriveled every year…

Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Wednesday Afternoon Tea

Liu Yali

Wednesday afternoon,
I drank four cups of tea
and dozed off three times.
It is called Spring Blossom green tea;
it tastes a little bitter.
Wednesday afternoons, I join colleagues
around a round table to drink tea.

Tea does not detoxicate,
or purify the mind;
Spring Blossom Tea is kept in a tea-tin,
until it loses all human touch.
It is served at every single weekly meeting,
meetings so serious they resemble
newspaper text ‘set solid’.

Wednesday afternoons
are not tile-roof, paper-window afternoons.
They are not clear-spring, pottery-and-china afternoons.
I join my colleagues in a cup of strong tea.
We drink alone, in the meeting room,
and become a flock of wooden chickens.

Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Tree Rings

Li Zhuang

The ripples inside the tree
grow and spread,
but no one saw the perpetrator who cast the stone
to create them.

Under the tree, one heard cicadas and rain;
a dog wandered by and lifted his hind leg;
lovers embraced, parting four lips;
but the thunderclap didn't break the trunk,
though a rumble was heard...

What a tender heart it has,
as if made by a heavenly touch!
Let's lay a needle on its groove
to feel, to hear
time’s recording

Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Short Journal Entries (Excerpts)

Li Zhiyong

April 22

In the park, at the town square,
wherever there is a fountain, a giant whale is trapped beneath it.
There she is, in the dark, unable to move for many years,
When she breathes and shoots out a spout,
what a marvel to see. The giant whale is a small world by herself,
no cries, perhaps no suffering, either.
We stroll leisurely over her back;
as she blows, we revel at the beauty of the fountain
and gradually forget about her.


Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Peaceful Avenue

Li Longnian

I always feel that fish
probably swim up the avenues, to the trees.
I catch in the air
the exhalations of shellfish
and the silver streaks of scabbard fish.
Their palpi touch the leaves
so they secrete tiny green bubbles.

An avenue of graceful trees.
I guess it has to do with sea fish.
The trees twist and twirl, like fish.
In fact, they breathe
through the trees’ leafy lungs,
nestling up to them carefully,
this way they feel the air's pulse
and delicate ripples.

I am thrilled to discover this secret:
With regard to the word “graceful”,
the ocean has enchanting explanations.
They are encoded
in the pure radiance of women’s eyes.


Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

A Petite Flower in Ta'er Monastery

Hu Yonggang

In the low ground, even lower, I saw a petite flower.
Its head comes out of dense grass, quietly approaching the sunlight,

and its golden tendrils, resting on the leaves, dazzle in the sun.
It bends menially in the wind as if a pilgrim is giving greetings.

It has a dream unknown to all, hidden under tall grasses,
but each time a wind blows by, the little flower sees its innermost self.

Walking by the petite flower, I feel curiously calm.
Dewdrops moisten my garment, my inner emptiness and loneliness.

Afar, a prayer in the snow sways his praying wheel,
then prostrates lower than the flower, like the wild grass on the plateau.

In this vermillion monastery, flowers are the most touching sight,
and no passage in the sutra is more vivid than the mutual dependence of two hearts.
Copyright: Journal of 21st Century Chinese Poetry, ISSN 2166-3688
http://modernchinesepoetry.com

Translated by Meifu Wang and Michael Soper from Chinese

Cracked Looking-Glass of A Servant

Philip Cummings

Fathers and sons under cars,
the world upside down,
experience being passed on
from generation to generation,
a smell of burnt rubber,
a close crampedness that isn’t
– completely – uncomfortable.

A son and a father under a car,
a smell of burnt rubber,
but this is Belfast in the seventies,
I am screaming
and, down the road from us,
bullets are being exchanged as freely as opinions:
an upside-down world.


Translated by Poet from Irish to English

Call

Doireann Ni Ghriofa

No slender thread,
no telephone cord
binds us anymore.
Now that our computers call each other,
I can’t
press your voice to my ear.
No longer can I hear you breathe. Now, we are bound only
by a weak connection
and we break up
and break up
and break up.

Translated by Poet from Irish to English

Break, Break, Break

Alfred Tennyson

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

Translated by

Question

Pratishtha Pandya

what is the speed at which sorrow travels?
what is the velocity of a sigh?
if i were to shed a tear
for you this morning
will it reach you by tonight?
Would you be able to spot it
in your night sky
burning up as it enters
leaving a dust trail of emotions
Will it be moist to your touch
hide a scent of my sorrow
the shade of my memories
the incandescent pain
for your loss
the agony of lives
lived far apart?


પ્રશ્ન

શું હશે ઉદ્વેગની ગતિ?
કેટલા વેગે આગળ વધતો હશે નિસાસો?
ધાર કે હું એક આંસુ સારું
આજ સવારે તારા સાટું
તો શું મળશે તને રાત સુધીમાં?
જોઈ શકીશ તું નરી આંખે ઉલ્કાઓને
જ્વાળાઓમાં ઘેરાતી પ્રવેશતી
તારી રાતના આકાશમાં
લઈ આંદોલનોના  તેજ લિસોટા
અનુભવી શકીશ તું એના ભીના સ્પર્શને
એમાં સંતાયેલા મારા દર્દની સુવાસને
મારી યાદોની ઝાંયને
તેં જે ખોયું એ માટેની
મારી પ્રજ્વલિત વેદનાને
ખોવાઈ ગયેલી
વહેરાઈ ગયેલી
જિંદગીઓની
અસહ્ય પીડને?
--પ્રતિષ્ઠા પંડ્યા

Translated by the Poet from Gujarati

Stepping Beyond Fifty-two*

Saroop Dhruv

What if hair have turned gray
and I have entered vanapravesh**.
still frisky is the insider
the child it is forever.

One changes at prodding one’s tongue, hair and dress
yet someone within may say fearfully: change is ruinous!
(But….you know, how it is with me….?)

Soon as eyes opened the yard was pearly wet
to- day I vowed that the past gone by…. was void.

It is not as if so far
all said – seen was void
but today the wish arose
to understand the folk.

Mapped a path, took to it, from the land veered
left behind the shade, burnt the noon overhead.

Took the path of poetry, this lonely poetess did
was welcomed warmly but then later on expelled.
Noted daily life’s shows so many with a lonesome pen
to find how to overcome the search in earnest began.

Took off alone to battle
but felt so incapable.
Yet could take on the world
when language became my arsenal.
Took up cudgel, found a companion
stepped off together to take on mankind.

Carried in scabbards diction
and wore the shields of song
the hue kasumbal*** ran down the mien
such was the battlefield passion.

Entered the root fray, and saw people fight
stalwart spoke up, and some even perished.
So many of the devoted have cautioned me and beckoned
showed the path and departed, domain is now so illumined.

To those who had given
for half a century light
the only wish I have now is
lovingly to recompense.

The frog-princess named Aspiration, in pride so bloated
let her fret in desperation, I have ordered her deported.

On entering public life
matter criticism and omen?
The mind sprinting shouts
“Stop me if you can!”

There it is going, beyond fifty-two’s domain it goes,
aim now at fifty-three, burn I now all disguise.

* Age; and the number of cards in a pack
**Age (50) at which Hindus are supposed to withdraw from the householder
world.
***Saffron colour derived from a plant, significator of the passion to fight.

Translated by Pradip Khandwalla from Gujarati

A SONG

Ramesh Parekh

The tree askes its leaf 'Why?'
Why did you doubt that you are not mine?'

The leaf asks back
'When my name is leaf
Why is your name tree?
Why is there this barrier
Of branches between you and me?’

The tree said
‘I am sheltering your tender greenness
And that is all I know’
The leaf said
‘I want to reach the sky
And why are you fettering me?’
The tree said
'It is the love of earth
That binds us with all,
And not even a hint of separation
Should affect you, snap you
That is what I call my love for you'


Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

Who Sent Dotage

Narsinh Mehta

Whoever sent this dotage?
Youth was forever I had thought.

Threshold has turned into a hill
and outskirts are now like abroad.
Body’s hair have turned white
distant Ganga now is the water pot.

How came this infirmity uninvited?
Never for it had I waited.
Respect at home I have lost:
“Push his cot into a corner”, they talk.

In childhood loved laddus*
savouries I relish in old age
daily desire rabadi**
wretched this craving of dotage.

Come every morning
I am famished.
“He isn’t perishing”, cry kin
“Can’t you just sit still?”

Sons have gone their way
daughters-in-law revile and rage
daughters with their men are away
what further agonies of old age?

The body’s nine arteries beat awry;
the hour indeed has come.
Womenfolk and children cry fie;
heaps calumny even an urchin.

Sons have gathered at the gate
the god of death has arrived
the breath is parting from the rib-cage
carries it away this time.

Shameless is this infirmity
so shed all conceit.
By imbibing the verities of faith
has Narsinh redeemed his fate.


ઘડપણ કોણે મોકલ્યું જાણ્યું જોબન રહે સૌ કાળ - ઘડપણ. - ટેક.

ઉંબરા તો ડુંગરા થયા રે, પાદર થયાં રે પરદેશ,
ગોળી તો ગંગા થઈ રે, અંગે ઊજળા થયા છે કેશ. -- ઘડપણ

નહોતું જોઈતું તે શીદ આવિયું રે, નહોતી જોઈ તારી વાટ,
ઘરમાંથી હળવા થયા રે, કહે ખૂણે ઢાળો એની ખાટ. -- ઘડપણ

નાનપણે ભાવે લાડવા રે, ઘડપણે ભાવે સેવ,
રોજ ને રોજ જોઈએ રાબડી રે, એવી બળી રે ઘડપણની ટેવ. -- ઘડપણ

પ્રાતકાળે પ્રાણ માહરા રે, અન્ન વિના અકળાય,
ઘરના કહે મરતો નથી રે, તેને બેસી રહેતા શું થાય. -- ઘડપણ

દીકરા તો જૂજવા થયા રે, વહૂઅરો દે છે ગાળ,
દીકરીઓને જમાઈ લઈ ગયા રે, હવે ઘડપણના શા હાલ. -- ઘડપણ

નવ નાડીઓ જૂજવી પડી રે, આવી પહોંચ્યો કાળ,
બૈરાંછોકરાં ફટ ફટ કરે રે, નાનાં મોટા મળી દે છે ગાળ.-- ઘડપણ

આવી વેળા અંતકાળની રે, દીકરા પધાર્યા દ્વાર,
પાંસળીએથી છોડી વાંસળી રે, લઈ લીધી તેણી વાર. -- ઘડપણ

એવું જાણી સૌ હરી ભજો રે, સાંભળજો સૌ સાથ,
પરઉપકાર કરી પામશો રે, જે કંઈ કીધું હશે જમણે હાથ. -- ઘડપણ

એવું નફટ છે આ વૃદ્ધપણું રે, મૂકી દો સૌ અહંકાર,
ધરમના સત્ય વચન થકી રે મહેતો નરસૈંયો ઊતર્યો ભવપાર. -- ઘડપણ

-નરસિંહ મહેતા


*a sweet made of flour, relished especially by Brahmins

** a viscous eatable made of gruel, meant mostly for the elderly and the sick

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

A GAZAL - Miskin

Rajesh Vyas

If you have just nothing, forsake it, and come over
If you have everything, renounce it and reveal

Where the rooms are illuminated by your name
I am that house, even if you do not come

You are my garb and you are my quilt
You are my every word and you are my sign

Like sugar I will dissolve
But first, send you overflowing bowl

Miskin, you will reach him beyond the seven seas
But, if in your palm there is no travel line, get it grooved

તારું કશું ન હોય તો છોડીને આવ તું,
તારું જ બધું હોય તો છોડી બતાવ તું.

અજવાળું જેના ઓરડે તારાં જ નામનું,
હું એ જ ઘર છું, એ જ ભલે ને ન આવ તું.

પહેર્યું છે એ ય તું જ છે, ઓઢ્યું છે એ ય તું,
મારો દરેક શબ્દ તું, મારો સ્વભાવ તું.

સાકરની જેમ ઓગળી જઈશ હું ય પણ,
છલકાતો કટોરો ભલેને મોકલાવ તું.

‘મિસ્કીન’ સાત દરિયા કરી પાર એ મળે,
એ રેખા હથેળીમાં નથી તો પડાવ તું.

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

*HOME*

Yagnesh Dave

1.
In the home
Aroma of frying curry
Colour spray of swerving sarees
The child's giggling was afloat
Curtains were fluttering
Folded clothes
Dried utensils
Arrayed books
Fresh potted plants
Not a sign of dust
I recollect every detail speck by speck

2.
I roamed
Jaipur, Delhi, Shimla
Wandered in buses, trains
Over the road, in the mountains along footpaths
In hotels
The home remained where it was –
At home
Of course
What came along everywhere I went
Was only the home

3.
I am nowhere else
Either I am out of home
Or returning home
Only that

4.
I was all alone at home
At late night
A cat arrived
She was self willed
Felicia
Came
Came and took a round
Honestly, if felt very good

5.
You are so much absentminded
When you go –
Would that you carry everything with you!
A week ago
In the bathroom
Near the mirror
Was your lipstick
Today
Under the pillow
Your hair-pin
It is not good to forget like this
From now onwards
Carry away everything remembering

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

FEAR

Dileep Jhaveri

From Khandit Kaand Poems:

Fear grips me
And then
My tongue gets tied throat turns dry
A stone swings over the heart and sweat breaks out from armpits.
Eyes screw shut and piss and shit turn loose

Cattle bellow in fear
Centipedes coil up porcupines spread their quills
Feathers of birds get stuck
Aquatic animals shove to cling to each other

When the land gets scared
there is earthquake
What if an ant is afraid ?
When a mountain panics where does it hide?
On the spot it spews lava

Sensing danger the sand pulls storm over it
Shedding leaves in the wind the tree bares its frame
Then what would the forest do?

When pursued by randy floods rushing to rape
the jittery river runs wild
and like a child seeking shelter of mother's bosom
merges in the sea

Occasionally even the language is terrified
Then the grammar like a gown is ripped from her tattered blouse
and the spellings are yanked above the knees
Underneath them
the honour of
life force – love – humanity – universal consciousness
is mangled, rent and violated
Afterwards
to cast out the evil eye
by flinging out
some sinister malevolent ill omened object from the house
the language, swaying like one possessed,
would throw
Poetry out
And then
fear grips me

Translated by the Poet from Gujarati
Launderer

THE MATTER OF THE BIRD

Harish Meenashru

1.
A tree with thousands of leaves
Thousands of flowers
Thousands of fruits
Stands
With a bird
In one of its palms
A tree so much alive
That it is stock-still
As if dead

One could ask the bird
The question regarding its flights and fights
Quite legitimately

But the teacher asks the archer instead
What do you see, my son
A tree, a branch, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a flower?

The bowstrings taut
Everyone will resolutely aim at the target

Everyone knows :
He who sees the bird fully
Along with the entire tree
Will be a hunter

He who sees the bird fully
Along with each and every leaf
Will be a merchant

He who sees the bird fully
With each and every ripe fruit
Will be a house holder

He who sees the bird fully
With the entire flower
Will be a lover

He who sees only the bird
Will be a loner

He who sees on the eye of the bird
Will be a Yogi.

But the bird alone knows
That he who sees his reflection in its eye
Will be the Archer

He who is himself pierced
Will alone succeed
In hitting the target

At this decisive juncture
On the palms of the thousand handed tree
With thousand intrepid postures
The bird is present

2.
The bird is building a nest
In a cranny of the wishing-tree.
The bird is without an adjective,
Then how to call it one or solitary
With certainty?

Formidable skies are rent apart.
And suddenly blazing lightening mends them.
And the pounding of the bird’s heart eases
But by saying such things
At the most
Uncertain images of simple suffering and happiness
Can be constructed.
But to what purpose?
 
This is not a homely tale
Of stringing the pearls.
Here at any time with a flash of lightening
A danger of minor fire is there.
And after everything turns to ash
Who is going to honour the legend
That from the heap a new bird will again flutter
Its pristine wings?

It is customary among the bird community of forests.
That is why it builds.
The nest.

In the cranny of the wishing- tree.
Without choice.
Otherwise in this saga
Ah, none has conviction
That it will lay eggs, hatch them
And take care of the household.
Making an excuse of the night
The cold sky squeezes
The speech mingled with darkness.
The bird cry tries to pierce its blind darkness.
No one halts in the forest
To name that sound

An ardour or appeal
Hankering or hope
No rhyme is available
For the sound struggling to reach the birds.
Till now.

Night long the defeated wishing tree keeps shedding
its tremblingly falling leaves in the bird. Throughout
the night. And the unquestioning bird keeps flying in
the darkness of the stem. Throughout the night.
Flutter flutter.
Fumbling for a way, throughout the night.
Smoothly and unswervingly keeps flying, throughout the night.
And in the end, pat, it pecks at a tiny seed
And dawn breaks.

After the language is erased
Let alone the paper even and inkling of paper also
Is not left.
I have no courage to call this void nothingness.

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

WHEN IT COMES

Nitin Mehta


Solitude
has unobtrusively entered
the written word

In this final move
Let no one accompany
Only I have to walk

I know that you are restive
and will not leave me soon
Still you will make me walk some more
prod me some more
exhaust me some more
torture me over and over
But I shall continue walking wheezing
tired tortured
Yet I will not surrender

Every illness keeps erasing me
little by little
And your image
keeps turning clearer
Still you will not be able to change me

Okay, enough now
Let me first reach the realm beyond language
You will still have some time left to know what you are
Bye then
Follow me

Translated by Dileep Jhaveri from Gujarati

Launderer

Dileep Jhaveri

FROM KHANDIT KAAND POEMS:
Written after demolition of Babri Masjid 1992
And Gujarat riots 2002.

Someone, go fetch a launderer
There are stains all over
We gathered waters from every eye
But fell short
We thought that
Dipping all in a single colour
One can dye everything red
In the end the blood was not enough
Again, please, someone go find a launderer launderer launderer
In the crowds there are
Carpenters without hands
Potters without thumbs
Blacksmiths with broken arms
Porters with wrenched necks
Legless farmers
Wood cutters are there but no axe
Masons are there but no bricks
Painters are there but no walls
From the fields one cannot pick even a fistful of seeds to swear
From the sky let alone a mizzle even lightening does not fall
Parched palms are uprooted, no palm beer to drown the base hunger.
Only a leafless berry tree stands alone on the desolate periphery
For covering its nakedness there are no thorns even.

Still to clear the soiled air
To wash it clean
Somebody, go, fetch a launderer

Translated by the Poet from Gujarati
FEAR

HOW NACHIKETA CAME TO KNOW

Sitanshu Yashaschandra

The earth,
an African water buffalo,
young and fearless,
pokes her horn of hammered bronze playfully into the full flank
of the mahisha, the mount
from whose broad back Yama, death-god, has not yet quite got
down.
“Nachiketa must be waiting for me,” He mutters to himself
and quickly goes up the flight of steps to his palace,
tossing his dreaded lasso across his shoulder like the sacred thread.

Above,
a black night, comforted by the might of muscular body of a dark
sky,
gets excited and welcomes in her valleys the moonlight-juice,
bright like sperm.
Darkness-Man rubs his lips, beard and mustachio
in the salty sweat-drops, the stars, blazing on the slopes of her
breasts.
Shapeless souls
Gratefully receive their gifts of hard-to-get life-forms
inside the bodies of yellow lionesses, red she-scorpions
and female elephants black and wet like heaps of soft mud.

She-birds, singing and bold, drink up
from quickly woven leaf-bowls, sparkling drinks of angry sperms
of sages fallen from their tapas.

Nachiketa,
Who was not noticed by the hesitant gaze of an embarrassed
death-god,
sits enthralled on the broad steps of Yama’s palace.
He gives up his old thoughts about his father’s sickly cows;
And finds for himself an answer to his original question.

Without asking for any other boon from the god,
Quite tired and thirsty from his long journey, Nachiketa
returns the same night to his home-place, sits near
the steps of the village well, full with water,
and awaits her
who would come with a new earthen pot

નચિકેતાનું વરદાન
પૃથ્વી
જવાન આફ્રિકન ભેંશનું રૂપ ધરીને
પોતાનું ટીપેલા તાંબાનું બનેલું શીંગડું, સહેજે ડર્યા વિના, રમતિયાળપણે,
હજી તો જેની પીઠ પરથી યમરાજા પૂરા ઊતર્યાયે નથી એવા માતેલા
પાડાના પડખામાં અથડાવે છે.

‘નચિકેતા આવી ગયો હશે’ એવું ઝડપથી બોલતા ધર્મદેવ
પોતાના પાશને જનોઈ જેમ ખભે નાખી
મહેલનાં પગથિયાં સડસડાટ ચઢી જાય છે.

ઉપર
અંધારાના ભરપૂર શરીરની વિશ્વાસ જગાડતી ભીંસમાં
અમાસની રાત ઉત્તેજિત થઈ જાય છે ને પોતાની ફળદ્રુપ કંદરામાં
વીર્ય જેવા સફેદ ચંદ્રરસને આવકારે છે.
એનાં ભર્યાંભર્યાં સ્તનોના ગોળાવ પર પરસેવે ઊપસી આવેલા
ઝગમગતા તારાઓનાં ખારાં ખારાં ટીપાંથી
અંધકારપુરુષ પોતાનાં હોઠ, મૂછ અને દાઢી ભીનાં ભીનાં કરી લે છે.

પિંગળી સિંહણો, રાતી વીંછણો
અને માટીની કરાડો જેવી કાળી હાથણોનાં શરીરોની દુનિયામાં
આત્માને દુર્લભ આકારો મળે છે.

તપોભ્રષ્ટ ઋષિનું કોપેલું વીર્ય, પડિયો ભરીને પી જાય છે કલબલતી
નિર્ભય પંખિણીઓ.
ભોંઠપ અનુભવતા યમરાજની ઝંખવાયેલી નજર જેના પર પડી નહિ
એવો નચિકેતા
યમસદનનાં પહોળાં પગથિયાં પર બેઠો બેઠો
માંદલી ગાયો વિશેના વિચારો છોડી દે છે
ને પોતાના મૂળ પ્રશ્નનો જવાબ પામી જાય છે.

બીજું કોઈ વરદાન માગ્યા વિના
લાંબી મુસાફરીથી તરસ્યો ને રજોટાયેલો
એ રાતોરાત પોતાના ગામના કૂવાકાંઠે પાછો આવે છે
ને માટીનો નવો ઘડો લઈ ત્યાં આવનારીની
વાટ જુએ છે.

- સિતાંશુ યશશ્ચંદ્ર

Translated by the Poet from Gujarati

Here you will find English translations of poems written in Gujarati –poems that will compare well with some of the best in the world.

Gujarat is a state in India, and its language, Gujarati, is spoken by about 50 million people world-wide. Gujarati has a poetic tradition of seven centuries. The subjects of Medieval Gujarati poetry were largely religion and mysticism. Social reform and national awakening were themes for the nineteenth century. If compassion for the downtrodden was reflected in the early twentieth century, in later years poetry strived for beauty for beauty's sake. The Modern poet was disillusioned with city life if not distraught.

Gujarati Poetry is rich in variety - the long narrative poem, the devotional song, the lovey-dovey ghazal, sonnets and haikus, couplets, the prose poem ...

Read on. Allow us to amaze you.