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Indian Poetry

Terror Sequence

A J Thomas

New Delhi, 13 September 2008, 6.21 pm

The first newsflash must have been
Beamed about 6.40 pm
As my brother called me up from Kerala
To see all was well with me and mine.
Bombs, he said, had gone off
At Gaffar Market Karol Bagh,
Central Park Connaught Place,
Barakhamba Road, M Block Market GK I.
At first count the figures were
20 injured
Soon it rose to 30-40
Within a few minutes
3 dead
Then
5 dead
7 dead
10 dead
I switched off the TV.

28 and Counting

28 blank picture-masks
In the TV screen
To get a face each…..
A pretty face…
A distraught face…
A ravaged face…
All the rest
Contorted in mortal pain,
Stilled
In a deadly freeze-shot….
Young men, earnest
In grisly irony
Carrying
A pretty body
Limp, lifeless
The shapely legs,
The slender waist and the buxom
Bosom and comely face
TV cameras instinctively zooming in on…..

The Terrorist’s Mind


When he wages a war
He must certainly have
His enemies in his sights.
So, when a two-year-old bundle
Of blood and tender bones shudders lifeless
In a rescuer’s hand
Does the terrorist score off
A name from his list?
Does a face loom up in his mind?
When an 80-year-old patriarch
Lies like a sieve
Bleeding from hundreds of
Pellet wounds,
Which Merciful God
Is the terrorist propitiating?

Saturday, 27 September 2008, Delhi

The mobike snaked its way through
The narrow, crowded gali
And the pillion rider seemed to drop a parcel
Accidentally. The four-year old
Girl-child picked it up and ran after
The slow-moving bike
Piping, “Uncle, uncle
You’ve dropped something,
here it is…” Before she could complete,
smoke came out of the parcel
and the explosion blew her to bits,
her tender brain scattering all around….
This was at 2.30 pm and
The TV visuals repeating
The scene of the disconsolate mother
From whose finger the child
Wrenched herself away
Being forcibly lead towards elders
As she refuses to leave the spot…
This is another Saturday
Fifteen days exactly after 13/9.

My heart is hardened like a criminal’s


i can’t fail to remember it isn’t me out there…
somehow i manage to be not there
i escape nuclear bombs
and rise like a cockroach
the day after the n-holocaust…
i escape earthquakes
and thrive on the debris,
looting what is left…
i escape all accidents, bomb-blasts
all my limbs intact
my heart rubberised.
victory to the great survivor!

I Wanna Go Home

My heart yearns
To go back to my childhood greens.
To the tiny mauve flowers
The succulent eraser-weed stems
The tear-drop grass-roots
Hanging below the tiny gushing cascade
In the rivulet…
The cracker-grass shoots…
The dragon flies…
The hosts of mist rising to the cerulean skies
The giant silk-cotton tree
Glowing at dusk…..
I don’t want to see this cityscape
I don’t belong here…
I don’t want civilization…
Let me run far, far back.,..
Farther and farther,
Till I fall back on earth’s pristine bosom.

Translated by
The Refugee
Being

The Refugee

A J Thomas

He came like a refugee from
The second world, craving human company;
Terminally ill, he seemed to seek
Vitality and hope; his past tumbling from
His lips, as if in a confession,
He felt visibly light and relieved.
Life and death, two sides of the same coin…
He seemed to traverse the thin mass in between.
Like a scout atop a tower who can see both
Sides of the railroad and the two fast-approaching
Trains on the same track, and not able to stop them,
He assumed nonchalance.
Destiny’s immediacy, and the dismay
At discovering it, made him seem
To disbelieve his own words…hesitantly in
A suggestive mode now, instead of falling back on
The assertive ways he was obviously wont to.
His days on earth defined; a reminder
To those who are still in the blind fray.

Translated by
Terror Sequence
Being

Being

A J Thomas

Lying diagonally
In the wide bed, vaguely
Listening to the early morning sounds
Of bird-chirps, an occasional car-horn
Against the soothing murmur of the slow-falling rain
The fan swirling above at tempest-speed…
Smugly detached from the ballasting past
And the mirage smile of the future…
Sixty-one years of struggles and joys,
Blood-bonds close to the heart--
All suddenly a big void…
The haunting prods of should-have-beens
Strangely absent… no place
Even for ambivalence; each individual path
Fading into the fugue horizon at different directions…
Somnolence spreading like a blanket, inducing
Weightlessness—like a kite cut loose, the mind
Hovering around consciousness;
Life’s drama
Unfolding before the inner eye…
…Is this it?

Translated by
Terror Sequence
The Refugee

Pandu, The Masseur in Goa

ABHAY K

My name is Pandu,
I am a masseur from Kolhapur,
the state of Maharashtra

I can do foot massage, head massage
I can massage your genitals
I have been massaging since past twenty years,
mostly Americans, English and Danes
but now the beach is full of Russians
and I don't know much Russian sadly

My fellow masseur met a Swiss woman
they got married and went to Switzerland,
now he asks me give him a massage (chuckles)

I work here only six months in a year -
October to May, then I go back to Kolhapur
to work in the fields, to grow vegetables and fruits

earlier I used to sell grass, opium and other drugs
not any more, it has become too dangerous
but don't worry, I still have some contacts

I can get you whatever you want - drugs, women
please let me give you a massage,
please don't tell anyone what I am telling you

the beach shack owner does not pay me
he does not give me food or any drinks
I pay extortion to the police every month

all I earn is from massages I do
so please let me massage you,
this time I've voted for the opposition

look at my finger tip, the dot of Indian ink,
they will give licences for five years
to run the beach shacks

Government did nothing much in the past six years,
I am building a home here in Goa, I have taken a loan
and have to pay a huge sum as interest every month

please let me give you a massage,
my family will die of hunger back in Kolhapur
be kind, take pity on me, let me give you a massage.

Translated by
Soul Song

Soul Song

ABHAY K

I was always here
as blowing wind
or falling leaves
as shining sun
or flowing streams
as chirping birds
or blooming buds
as blue sky
or empty space
I was never born
I didn’t die

Translated by
Pandu, The Masseur in Goa

TURNING SEVENTY

Adil Jussawalla

My body is a pile of papers
left behind on a bench.
Ordered to be burnt,
it sits unruffled.

My body is a metal tube
of paste, wires, clips.
A number on it diminishes steadily,
a shadow flits.

My body is a plant
that came with the tag
“For show.”
I stand in the garden, puzzled.
All day I stand, splodged with blooms like Pierrot.

*

Sa’adi’s gift comes late.
He writes:
Breathe easy in the garden and be glad.
Be a strange sight.
From this day on
your roses will stay fully open.


Courtesy: Poetry at Sangam

Translated by

Elephant Bathing

Anand Thakore

He will never go there again,

Hip- flask in pocket, camera at hand,

Far from the crowded confines

Of the human animal he could not trust,

To the lush cricket-choired thickets

He so jealously loved;

Dense, creeper-canopied spaces

Where he would listen eagerly

For the sudden slither of a python's tail,

Or the persistent mating calls of leopard and crane,

Studying the stealthy ways of predator and prey,

Till panther, bison, hyena and stag

Seemed p art of a single guileless continuum

He had only begun to see his part in.

Now home and city hunt him down,

Building about him their busy labyrinth

Of doctors, nurses, brothers and sons;

Though tiger and spotted deer remain,

Frozen above his bed in black and white.

An egret pecks noiselessly at a crocodile's jaws,

As pale flamingoes, stripped irretrievably of their pinks,

Leap into a flight forever deferred.

Where you are going, they seem to say,

You will have no need for us or all you remember.

And yet the thought of getting there is not unlike

A great lone tusker taking the plunge,

His vast grey bulk sinking below the river line

Against a clear black sky,

Till there is no more of him to see

Than a single tusk,

White as a quarter-moon in mid-July,

Before the coming of a cloud.

Translated by
Dead, at Your Mother's Funeral
Chandri Villa

Dead, at Your Mother's Funeral

Anand Thakore

As if to quench the first, flickering wisps of flame,

Rain poured in torrents when I reached the grounds,

Beating wildly upon the low tin roof,

Like a great hurt beast no will could tame.


Sweat covered your forehead, your blue sleeves wet,

As you took the hot brand into your palms,

Turning towards me before you lit the sticks,

Your brown hair drenched as when we first met.


Can I say I still loved the man I saw,

Whose loss I turned so quickly away from?

I saw you through tongues of leaping flame,

And cold eyes of ice no flame could thaw,


Your mother burning as I thought of my own,

Seeking no way into the cell of your grief;

No way out of mine as I heaped her with twigs,

Poured oil on damp wood and watched you like a stone.

Translated by
Elephant Bathing
Chandri Villa

Chandri Villa

Anand Thakore

His name was Chandri-my grandfather once said-
Who was to live here, but died of plague. Each of us fails
In the end, but I was born in a house built for the dead:
On the red gate they hammered his name with nails.

Nineteen Nineteen. These bougainvilleas
Have grown since then; the dead leave us, leaving no trails-
Deep in the banyan-grove at Chandri Villa,
A secret sense of loss prevails.

And the very stillness of these trees carries me past an April
Long dead, newly strewn with banyan leaves; thick roots dangle
Above my head-ancient, knotted roots I cannot untangle,
Till I am a child once again though against my will,

The wide grove closing its arms as it to kill;
My veins so many banyan roots twisted into one,
And all their tangled knots come undone,
Till almost I see him – the plagued man I never will.

Translated by
Elephant Bathing
Dead, at Your Mother's Funeral

Bapu

AnIta PInto

He was my grandfather.

when I am eight

he is eighty

large, a giant

a twirling, white mustache

small bright eyes

under thick cotton cloud eyebrows.

a white dhoti

black velvet cap

I am small and frail

I pinch the skin on his hand

and watch it slowly

so slowly

go back

will you die soon? I ask

maybe, he answers

then will the skin stay up forever? I ask

he laughs softly

I climb onto his big armchair

and comb his hair

make it stand

like white candy-floss.

I can’t spell, I tell him

I may fail, I confide

he smiles

and kisses my brow

to blow cleverness there.

when I’m afraid

I hide under his chair

he glares at anyone

who comes looking for me

scuttling them

like dry leaves in a storm

you will cry

when I die, he says.

ha, I laugh

and so will your twenty five grandchildren

yes, but you will cry from your heart, he replies

one september morning he dies

we are called back from school

my sisters and I

I run to his room

his chair is empty

his walking stick standing still

he lies on the bed

his bushy eyebrows calm

his mustache not twitching

his bright eyes closed

I don’t want to pinch his hand

to see if the skin stayed up forever

I touch his candy-floss hair

and run from the room

I fling myself on my bed

and I cry

oh how I cry

great racking sobs choking me

no one, no one

can console me

no one can understand my loss

the first real sorrow

In my life

mine alone

that no one can console

the beginning

of knowledge

that we stand

alone

Translated by

DNA

Anjali Purohit

Whoever was born a tabula rasa?
I came from the womb
with the history of our ancestors
the forks in their tongues
and the venom on their lips
interwoven into the strands of my DNA
wash, scrub and rinse, abrade and buff
it won’t come off.

Put on all the liberal masks of the world
one over the other yet
there will be a chink where the cosmetics melt
and the BB cream cracks
to show teeth and fangs
and atavistic passions
that would put our tribal past to shame

haven’t we now devised means so clinical,
long distant, sophisticated and global
that we can vanquish
entire peoples without a spot of blood
on our manicured white hands.

Translated by

Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces

Arundhathi Subramaniam

This shoebox started out
a stiff-upper-lipped quadrilateral,
Upholder of Symmetry, Proportion, Principle,
sanctuary to an upright couple
of pedigree leather moccasins.

This week
shoebox learns
to sigh
de-
cant,
contemplate
gravity.

Old idealist softens,
grows whiskers,
paw,
drowsing chin,
slumped tail,
Arctic eye.

Form is emptiness
Emptiness is form, Shariputra.

Shoebox abdicates
shape
and Gucci worship,
secedes from
nostalgia.
Pukka sahib
learns
to purr.


A Shoebox Reminisces

I renounced shape
a long time ago,

chose
bagginess,
endless
recess-
ivity,

but there are days
when the longing
returns

and I cannot abide
the sterile cynicism
of the Anti Couples Club,
the smug peddlers
of Uni-sole Advaita.

I know it means
the saga of
two old shoes
all over again,

their grubby leather unions,
tales of childhood,
prejudice, toe jam, politics,

laces in a perpetual snarl
of knots,
footprints,
footprints.

But some days
I’m idolater enough
to want it again:
that old charade,
otherness.

[Where I Live: New and Selected Poems; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2009]

Translated by
No
Learning to Say Yes
The Way You Arrive
A Shoebox Reminisces
My Friends

No

Arundhathi Subramaniam

I wake in the mornings
to find the city at my window,

a giant mouth

that’s forgotten how to close.


The telephone rings,

each ring a reminder

that I have been detected,


that I am She

whose e-mails pile up unanswered,

whose checklists grow

tangled,

matted,

unchecked.


She who is never on the right platform.

She who turns away

from importunate hands at car windows.

She who smiles when she doesn’t mean it.

She who didn’t vote at three elections.


But what no one guesses

is that it is She who after sundown

stalks the dark alleys,

hungry to annihilate anyone

who seeks to tame her

with clammy malarial tentacles

of guilt.


And on full-moon nights

She even dares

to look the world

square in the face

and say

no.


[Where I Live: New and Selected Poems; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2009]


NO
Arundhathi Subramaniam

Me despierto por las mañanas
para encontrar la ciudad en mi ventana,
una boca gigante
que ha olvidado cómo cerrar.

El teléfono suena,
cada ring, un recordatorio
de que he sido detectada,

de que soy Ella
cuyos correos electrónicos se acumulan sin respuesta,
cuyas listas de control crecen
enredadas,
enmarañadas,
desenfrenadas.

Ella quien nunca está en la plataforma correcta.
Ella quien se aleja
de manos importunas
en las ventanas del automóvil.
Ella quien sonríe cuando no lo desea.
Ella quien no votó en tres elecciones.

Pero lo que nadie adivina
es que es Ella quien después del ocaso
acecha los callejones oscuros,
con hambre de aniquilar a cualquiera
que intente domesticarla
con tentáculos húmedos, palúdicos
de culpa.

Y en noches de luna llena
aún se atreve
a mirar el mundo
en plena cara
y decir
no.

 

Translated by Berni Sangit into Spanish from English
Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces
Learning to Say Yes
The Way You Arrive
A Shoebox Reminisces
My Friends

Learning to Say Yes

Arundhathi Subramaniam

They matter,
the minor questions –

the smell of a new wardrobe,

the eternal bus ticket

in the bag’s second compartment, the leer

of the late shift security guard.


Yes, Draupadi’s sari is endless


and there’s no way to tame

life’s wild unstoppable

bureaucracy

but this:


Fill out the form. Do it in bloody triplicate. Enroll.

[Where I Live: New and Selected Poems; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2009]


APRENDIENDO A DECIR SÍ
Arundhathi Subramaniam

Ellas son importantes,
la cuestiones menores –
el olor de un nuevo vestuario,
el eterno ticket de autobús
en el segundo compartimiento del bolso,
la mirada de soslayo
del guardia de seguridad del turno tarde.

Sí, el sari de Draupadi es interminable

y no hay manera de domesticar
la burocracia
imparable, salvaje de la vida,
excepto esta:

Llenar el formulario. Hacerlo por sangriento triplicado. Inscribir.


Translated by Berni Sangit into Spanish from English
Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces
No
The Way You Arrive
A Shoebox Reminisces
My Friends

The Way You Arrive

Arundhathi Subramaniam

The way your words reach me,
phantom-walking

through all these tensile,

suspicious membranes of self.


The way you unclog

these streets and by-lanes

so I can surge

through starshine and aqueduct,

the luminous canals of a world

turned Venetian.


The way you enter

and the day’s events scatter

like islands in the sea.


The way you arrive.

[Where I Live: New and Selected Poems; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2009]

Translated by
Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces
No
Learning to Say Yes
A Shoebox Reminisces
My Friends

A Shoebox Reminisces

Arundhathi Subramaniam

I renounced shape
a long time ago,

chose
bagginess,

endless
recess-
ivity,

but there are days
when the longing
returns

and I cannot abide
the sterile cynicism
of the Anti Couples Club,
the smug peddlers
of Uni-sole Advaita.

I know it means
the saga of
two old shoes
all over again,

their grubby leather unions,
tales of childhood,
prejudice, toe jam, politics,

laces in a perpetual snarl
of knots,

footprints,

footprints.

But some days
I’m idolater enough
to want it again:
that old charade,

otherness.

Translated by
Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces
No
Learning to Say Yes
The Way You Arrive
My Friends

My Friends

Arundhathi Subramaniam

They’re sodden, the lot of them,
leafy, with more than a whiff
of damage,
mottled with history,
dark with grime.

God knows I’ve wanted them different --
less preoccupied, more jaunty,
less handle-with-care,

more airbrushed,
less prone
to impossible dreams, less perishable,

a little more willing
to soak in the sun.

They don’t measure up.
They’re unpunctual.
They turn suddenly tuberous.

But they matter
for their crooked smiles,
their endless distractions,
their sudden pauses --

signs that they know
how green stems twist
and thicken
as they vanish
into the dark,

making their way
through their own sticky vernacular tissues
of mud,

improvising,
blundering,
improvising

Translated by
Catnap & A Shoebox Reminisces
No
Learning to Say Yes
The Way You Arrive
A Shoebox Reminisces

Haiku 1

Arvinder Kaur

dandelions...

how i learnt

to let go


wishing well--

the hollow sound

my penny made


sandalwood tilak...

we wrap grandma

in her favourite brocade


milky way...

footprints of the night

within the night


honking geese--

a raven's silent glide

into nothingness


rickety bridge--

a langoor's leap

from fog to fog


drawing...

a pailful of darkness

village well

Translated by

Kitchen Poems 1

Dhiruben Patel

(2)

Once I went inside the kitchen

The maid was glaring at the fire

As though she’d never forgive Prometheus

For his misdeed

Her dark face glistened with sweat

And the place had an awful smell


I tiptoed out

And wondered why

People had to have a hole like this

In their mansions beautiful and bright?


(17)

I’ll give blue curtains

To my lonely kitchen

And paint white birds on them

Birds in flight

Fluttering in the breeze

Staying right there

Day in and day out

Keeping me company

Till the curtains decay

And fall apart.


From "Kitchen Poems"
Original English Poems

Translated by
Kitchen Poems 2
My granny's mother

Kitchen Poems 2

Dhiruben Patel

My heart leaps up

No – not when I behold a rainbow

But the first green mango in the market!

Vishnu* had but ten manifestations

My mangoes will have many more

When the green glory of the mango

Will light up my kitchen

Recipes collected from far and near

Will anxiously stand in a queue

Like monarchs awaiting the bride’s garland

Sweet and sour

Pungent as pungent can be

All by itself or with a few others

Submerged in oil or sugar or salt

The mango will fill up all my bottles

A few may be gifted away

But the rest will remain

Making me feel like a very rich woman

Who can defy a rainy day.


* According to the Hindu religion there are three principal Gods - Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. Vishnu appears in ten different forms from time to time.

From "Kitchen Poems"
Original English Poems

Translated by
Kitchen Poems 1
My granny's mother

My granny's mother

Dhiruben Patel

My granny's mother
Had a lovely sari
It was the colour of clay
Its golden edge
Caged in the flowers
Running here and there
Daily wash and daily wear
Just strengthened the sturdy silk
It was the priestess' robe,
Worn only when she entered
Her Holy kitchen
To prepare the daily meal.

મારાં દાદીનાં માની

એ સાડી કેવી સુંદર હતી!
માટીના રંગ જેવા વિપુલ વિસ્તારને છેડે
ચમકતી સોનેરી કિનાર!
એની અંદર પુરાયેલાં
રંગબેરંગી ફૂલો આમતેમ દોડાદોડ કરતાં હતાં.
એ સાડી દરરોજ વપરાતી
ને દરરોજ ધોવાતી.
એના મજબૂત રેશમી પોતમાં
પ્રતિદિન નવો પ્રાણ પુરાતો.
એ હતો પૂજારણનો પોષાક.
એના પવિત્ર રસોડામાં
હંમેશાં રસોઈ કરવા
પગ મૂકતી વેળાએ જ પહેરવાનો.

Translated by
Kitchen Poems 1
Kitchen Poems 2

A Breeze

Dileep Jhaveri

I am a wandering breeze
You are a widespread park
A park grows from rich soil
It covers stiff rocks and reveals scurrying brooks
It cares for humble short grass as much for tallest ever green redwoods
Infinite is its variety of leaves in shapes, sizes, sheen and texture
Every colour unfurls in its flowers
No tongue can tell the taste of its fruits
Seemingly anchored it keeps flying
on the wings of the bees butterflies and birds
It cavorts with crickets and cicadas and squirrels and raccoons and bears
It hums with floating fragrances
It rolls with seeds and scones and pebbles and pollens
It twists with climbing creepers and photophilic branches
It limits the sky in its lakes and hides the sun in its dew
How else can I describe you?
Stay, you are a park in league with mighty winds
I am just a passing breeze
that you may not recall
while I shall carry you forever

Translated by
THE WORD OF A POET

THE WORD OF A POET

Dileep Jhaveri

Once I write Woods on paper
every leaf, tree, beast, worm
mud, soil, hill, stream, river, pond
will remain where they are
till I dip the pen again in ink
and write another word
This means that if they are not on paper
they are not anywhere
and if they are they are forever in my command

Afterwards if I write Fire they all will burn away
and if I write Floods they will drown .
After writing Caterpillar so long as I do not write Pupa
a Butterfly cannot fly
After a Leaf if flapping is not written
wind cannot be felt
As long as I do not put Raven and Hawk on top of
Teak and Cedar the Sky will remain unseen
The Caveman busy with painting the walls
will not cross over1the fence of fire
Chewing the flesh of forest beast simmering in its fat
he would keep slurping juice of fermented fruits
Around him squirrels will prance merrily
Earthworms would tickle his soles
Lice will creep in his messy hair
and the pong from armpits of his kept females
will keep beckoning him

Till I write Helicopter
and put Binoculars in your hands
the Woods written by me on paper will remain Words only

Translated by
A Breeze

O Sky Of Blues

Dominic Alapat

O moon rolling like a ball
O buildings with windows staring
O million feet walking
O insane traffic
O gutters of Bombay
O gods in temples churches and mosques
O mad cellphones ringing
O screechy loudspeakers in slums
O pigeons on parapets cooing
O lovers in gardens
O grain of sand on the beach
O clothes fluttering in the wind
O flies at garbage dumps
O junkies on the street
O packed trains shuttling
O silent streetlights
O people buying groceries
O food that I eat
O water that I drink
O breath that I breathe
O words of this poem
tell me what I am looking for.

Translated by
In Search

In Search

Dominic Alapat

of rhythm
the old poems tumble out
of the mind.

Like the black cupboard
in the green wall
I would climb

to sample the darkness
through the shelves
I would crawl

opening boxes
entranced by the silence
and lulled
by the softness there

lie back and dream
I guess I may have wanted
to be one of them

know what it was like
that sweet little red tin box
with the blue bird on its lid
quiet sitting in some cosy tree

in the sun
and the rows of medicines
with their intoxicating smell
taking me half a world away

until I recognise
the bedsheets stacked till
the dark triangular roof

standing full of the softness
of welcome
telling me this is it
this is it
the real thing
the real universe
like a mother telling
her child
come
come home.

Translated by
O Sky Of Blues

Alzheimer’s Day

E V Ramakrishnan

I did not reply to my father’s question,
“Who’s that fat woman over there?”
It was mother. He had gone past her
past his children into a land
without birds or flags.

He often said, ”All right, let me go.”
Once he walked out early in the morning
and was tracked down by a group
of neighbours. He had a vague sense
of being held there against his wish.

In his occasional lucid moments
he wept for words he could not find
for common things
like a bed-sheet or a newspaper.

All his life, he had taught children language.

Translated by
Terms of Seeing

Terms of Seeing

E V Ramakrishnan

On our way home from school
We often spent hours in the abandoned
orchard of mango, cashew nut
and tamarind trees, where each season

had its fruit and each fruit tasted different .
There we raided the make-shift hidecouts
of bootleggers, and broke their buried mudpots.
The crematorium in the corner

revealed an occasional roasted vertebra.
Once we went further and discovered
a disused well, and peered into its vaporous depths;
the water smelt like freshly distilled alcohol.

Through clotted branches of close-knit
shadows floated white turtles with glazed, metallic
shells. Moving with monastic grace, they looked
knowledgeable, like much-travelled witch doctors.

If they cast a spell it was unintentional. As we
bent down, their shaven heads rose and met a shaft
of sudden sunlight at an angle, tilting the sun into
the sea. Still the light lingered over the hill.

like an intimate whisper of something forbidden.
By this time, the terms of seeing were reset:
the well was watching us now. Its riveted
gaze pierced us and even went beyond us.

In the dark cornea of the well, the white
turtles moved like exposed optic nerves.
And as if a word was spoken, we stepped
back into the world of gravity, in silence.

Translated by
Alzheimer’s Day

Old Man's Death

Gieve Patel

There may be a very small comfort
In knowing yourself finally
Useless – when even grandchildren
Have grown beyond your love,
And your would-be widow
Has outhobbled you and
Wont be around to break with
One or two of her last thick tears,
And you not caring much for
Your fellowmen, the doctors
Wont get your body –
To know how simply you
Will be bundled away, startling
A lifelong friend who finds
He cannot mourn
At the quick and easy changes:
A sprinkling of water,
The disappearance of an odour,
A turn of bed-sheets, leaving
A bed, a chair,
Perhaps a whole room,
With clarity in them.

Translated by
Squirrels In Washington
From Bombay Central

Squirrels In Washington

Gieve Patel

Squirrels in Washington come
Galloping at you in fours, then brake
To halt a few feet away
And beg on hindquarters.
No one stones them,
And their fear is diminished.
They do halt, even so,
Some feet away, those few feet
The object of my wonder. Do I
Emit currents
At closer quarters? Are those
The few feet I would keep
From a tame tiger? Is there
A hierarchy, then, of distances,
That must be observed,
And non-observance would at once
Agglutinate all of Nature
Into a messy, inextricable mass?
Ah Daphne! Passing
From woman to foliage did she for a moment
Sense all vegetable sap as current
Of her own bloodstream, the green
Flooding into the red? And when
She achieved her final arboreal being,
Shed dewy tears each dawn
For that lost fleeting moment,
That hint at freedom,
In transit, between cage and cage?

Translated by
Old Man's Death
From Bombay Central

From Bombay Central

Gieve Patel

The Saurashtra Express waits to start
Chained patiently to the platform,
Good pet, while I clamber in
To take my reserved window seat
And settle into the half-empty compartment’s
Cool; the odour of human manure
Vague and sharp drifts in
From adjoining platforms.
The station’s population of porters,
Stall-keepers, toughs and vagabonds relieve themselves
Ticketless, into the bowels of these waiting pets;
Gujarat Mail, Delhi Janata, Bulsar Express,
Quiet linear beasts,
Offering unguarded toilets to a wave
Of non-passengers, Bombay Central’s
In-residence population.

That odour does not offend.
The station’s high and cool vault
Sucks it up and sprays down instead,
Interspersed with miraculous, heraldic
Shafts of sunlight, an eternal
Station odour, amalgam
Of diesel oil, hot steel, cool rails,
Light and shadow, human sweat,
Metallic distillations, dung, urine,
Newspaper ink, Parle’s Gluco Biscuits,
And sharp noisy sprays of water from taps
With worn-out bushes, all
Hitting the nostril as one singular
Invariable atmospheric thing,
Seeping into your clothing
The way cigarette smoke and air-conditioning
Seep into you at cinema halls.
I sink back into my hard wooden
Third-class seat, buffered by
This odour, as by a divine cushion.
And do not suspect that this ride
Will be for me the beginning of a meditation
On the nature of truth and beauty.

Translated by
Old Man's Death
Squirrels In Washington

On Killing A Tree

Gieve Patel

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

No,
The root is to be pulled out -
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out - snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

Translated by
Post Mortem

Post Mortem

Gieve Patel

It is startling to see how swiftly
A man may be sliced
From chin to prick,
How easily the bones
He has felt whole
Under his chest
For a sixty, seventy years
May be snapped,
With what calm
Liver, lung and heart
Be examined, the bowels
Noted for defect, the brain
For haemorrhage,
And all these insides
That have for a lifetime
Raged and strained to understand
Be dumped back into the body,
Now stitched to perfection,
Before announcing death
Due to an obscure reason.

Translated by
On Killing A Tree

VIRUS

Haraprasad Das

She rises to go. Her body opens
up like a hurricane held by velcro
all breasty and unaware, her synthetic charm

the basement where the dark gods defacate
at night, and hold conclaves by day
waits to received here footsteps, the clatter
and the hooves. Pure animal satiated by scent, the virus

of all nonbeings on the astral computer.

Translated by

Hunger

Jayanta Mahapatra

It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.
The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.

I followed him across the sprawling sands,
my mind thumping in the flesh's sling.
Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.
Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the froth
his old nets had only dragged up from the seas.

In the flickering dark his hut opened like a wound.
The wind was I, and the days and nights before.
Palm fronds scratched my skin. Inside the shack
an oil lamp splayed the hours bunched to those walls.
Over and over the sticky soot crossed the space of my mind.

I heard him say: My daughter, she's just turned fifteen…
Feel her. I'll be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.
The sky fell on me, and a father's exhausted wile.
Long and lean, her years were cold as rubber.
She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the hunger there,
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside.

Translated by
Her Hand

Her Hand

Jayanta Mahapatra

The little girl's hand is made of darkness
How will I hold it?

The streetlamps hang like decapitated heads
Blood opens that terrible door between us

The wide mouth of the country is clamped in pain
while its body writhes on its bed of nails

This little girl has just her raped body
for me to reach her

The weight of my guilt is unable

Translated by
Hunger

Haiku 2

Kala Ramesh

Devi temple . . .
along with the ants
I enter barefoot

>>

the year passes . . .
longing for cranes
to colour the sky

>>

mild breeze . . .
the breadth of the wheat field’s whisper

>>

spring rain . . .
halfway through my meal
a scoop of loneliness

>>

my fear -
the darkness
between stars

>>

crashing sea waves rockcradled into silence

>>

my thoughts
nudge each other . . .
bumping bees

>>

thunderclap
the darkening sky splits
into liquid night

>>

temple bells
the isolated raindrops
on my umbrella

>>

horror movie
my sister screams between
her fingers

>>

birthday —
as usual he remembers it
after I begin to sulk

>>


Courtesy : Acorn, Frogpond, Haiku Presence, Modern Haiku, Simply Haiku, 3 Lights Gallery, Sketchbook, Kokako and Wednesday Haiku

Translated by

Haiku 3

Kashinath Karmakar - kash poet


what is left
and what was there-
crescent moon
******************

Christmas night-
this sudden desire to
look at the sky

*******************
first winter days-
again in mom's frail hands
my unfinished sweater

*******************
tipsy night-
chasing the moon
puddle after puddle

*********************
cold wave-
the news reader's sneeze
goes uncut

*********************
Milky Way-
even the dead stars
light up my path

*********************
deafening rain-
to think it has no sound
of its own
*********************
Father's Day-
in her sleep my wife
calls me dad

*********************

the silence
of the harvested field-
moonless night

*********************

as if
they know all the answers-
nodding sunflowers

*********************

Courtesy : The Heron's Nest, European Kukai , Shiki Kukai, Creatrix Haiku Journal(Australia), UkiaHaiku Contest, Kusumakura International Haiku contest(Japan), Mainichi Haiku Contest (Japan).



Translated by

Survivor

Manohar Shetty

For Riya
My daughter brings a crocodile
Home, its snout bound tight
With rope, its buckteeth clenched.
Untangled from a fisherman’s net,
It lies still on our strip of lawn,
Its tail serrated as a saw, its hide
Like chainmail. We stare
Back at its staring eye
From our safe balconies
As my daughter and her team
Haul it like a palanquin
Into a purring pick-up. Accustomed
Only to lost kittens and pups,
We watch in suburban awe as they
Set off in a swirl of dust
For that remote river, green
With slime, but home
To their captive and its kind,
Their ridged heads floating like islets;
Or sunning themselves on the banks
Where birds peck clean their
Yawning cavities, busy as dentists,
And where they’re out of reach
From the stench of the tannery
And those spotlit arcades
Of shoes, belts, wallets,
And other accessories.

Translated by
Morning Light
Carried Forward
Gifts
Wounds

Morning Light

Manohar Shetty

At midnight the hands
Point heavenward.
My body clock ticks
To a false tune.

I’m up before dawn
As the crickets fall
Silent, the moon
A thumbnail sketch;

My memory a half-filled
Library where borrowers
Have left bookmarks
After the first few pages.

Even the sunflowers
Lovingly tended in
The garden refuse to turn
East as I shine my shoes,

Iron my dark coat
Between burnt toast
And cups of cold tea for my
Neighbour’s funeral.

Translated by
Survivor
Carried Forward
Gifts
Wounds

Carried Forward

Manohar Shetty

Beyond Furniture & Fixtures,
Fixed Assets incl of Plant
& Machinery, Goodwill incl
Of Green Donation & Tree
Trimming Vehicle, Gross
Profits, R&D on WMD
Incl of Hospitality,
Sundries (in million)
As Incentives to sundry
Inspectors (of Boilers)
& Miscellaneous Agents
Incl of Undercover,
And an unnumbered account
In the Caymans, here is an
Asterisked footnote
In the fine print—words
Carried Forward for their
Own sake, but clear as a trickle
Of water dripping
In rhythm deep in a skeletal
Megalopolis
Buried one metric
Mile below the burning
White landscape.

Translated by
Survivor
Morning Light
Gifts
Wounds

Gifts

Manohar Shetty

You unfold like starfish
On a beach, your touch
Stills the rumpled sea,
Hair plastered seaweed.

I come from the labyrinths:
Traffic lights park in my eyes
Before I cross, highways fork
And stream like veins in my hand.

You hunger for a blade of grass
In the welter of concrete,
I step on softening sand
Suspiciously. Together

We trace a bridge: you pick
A shell translucent as neon,
And I a tribal earring
Reflected in plate glass.

Translated by
Survivor
Morning Light
Carried Forward
Wounds

Wounds

Manohar Shetty

For a year it was its home,
The sill and window behind
My bed, and each night I saw
The scattered grain had gone.
The guarded eyes, the torn wing
Like a neglected hedge,
Fluttered in greeting; then it
Flapped up to sleep, rocking
Precariously, as on a trapeze.

It became something of a friend
With its rhythmic murmuring.
Sometimes, tilting off
The window’s edge, it’s dribbling
Descents intruded on my
Avian dreams: birds perched
On my shoulders, birds
Feeding out of my hand, and
Skirring about in a cloud.

But that one night a livid
Flash broke through my head;
Five times it reeled over
As from a cliff, its wounded wing
Thrashing down the window,
Spilling squalls of feathers
On my pillow, uprooting me
From the tense moorings of sleep.

I remember the startled eye,
The pulsing, iridescent breast
As it flinched from the sharp slap,
And fell off the sill.
I remember it swerving, rising
Clumsily on its one good wing
To teeter on a roof’s rim,
Then drop like a stone.

I dreamt, then, of lame dogs,
Abattoirs, and pulped frogs.
Now several nights have passed,
And I have no dreams at all.

Translated by
Survivor
Morning Light
Carried Forward
Gifts

It's Okay

Mihir Chitre

It's okay
To wake up
In the middle of the night
And start brushing
Your memory or picking
Your brains on where you lost
Your favourite keychain

Seven years ago
In that cold overflowing lane
Or what the symbol carved
On your college bench stood for
Or on which floor was the balcony
Where a woman puffed her age away
Every time you rode up the flyover
In residual winters
It's okay
To find out that life
Like space-time isn't flat
And gravity here is created
Not by objects but by their absences
Which compel you to orbit them
As long as you live
It's okay
To think you'll turn lonelier than yesterday
To go to hell with optimism
And drape in the season's dark

It's okay
To deduce once in a while
That god is the biggest tragedy
The world has never seen

Translated by
If nothing is
Random-access

If nothing is

Mihir Chitre

You
Your house
A collapsing dream
Whose octagon
Unfastens
Your palm lines
Your turmeric eyes
Dead-drunk
Dipped
In a forgotten sunset
The broken mirror
The lack of clarity
My fears
My singularity
Stranded
On disappearing beaches
Cancelled lunches
And I, wriggling
In a dimension-less
Pond upon
The past’s tablet
Flicked away
With the itchy fingers
Of what-never-was

You
Your house
A collapsing dream
And all that again
Over and over again
If nothing is

Translated by
It's Okay
Random-access

Random-access

Mihir Chitre

You,
The miniature smuggled through thin alleys
of crippling lifetimes; the forever-fluttering
petal of a non-existent flower. Transition. Transact
with April’s gaping corridors, the bottled March.
Each time you arrive, a bite-long road disappears
from a geography of zigzagging self-promises.

Translated by
It's Okay
If nothing is

the Ladies Only

Mustansir Dalvi

The wooden bench is wide,
time enough to do God's work.
In the compartment, beyond
the grill from the Ladies Only,
sleepwalkers hum buzzsaw refrains.
Ten minutes to midnight. Borivali,
seven minutes away.

Adjusting for his comfort, not hers.
one open hand brings face to knee.
with the other he rips
rags that resist more than the girl.
Clothing struggles for honour
but the ardour of engagement, constraint
of time and freedom of space, overrule.
His real purpose is clear and tumescent.

Too shy to comprehend
what should have been
for a better time, a wiser time,
she gets an understanding of endurance.
Her mind-sieve senses an oozing away,
the changing of yugas.

Roused by the bumping backbeat,
unlike the train's familiar cadence.
childhood's end disrupts.

Guilt seeps through thickets of irony.
Slapping their side of the partition,

they stare, captivated by the mechanics
of dogs fucking in a busy street.

One minute to Borivali, the cleaven girl
retracts into the stillness of the catatonic,
while the one with the sense of urgency, reasons:
Come on, come on, before I lose my erection

Translated by
lines for an infant who fell off a train

lines for an infant who fell off a train

Mustansir Dalvi

If you could have asked your mother
for the moon, she would have plucked
it out of the night, and like Kaushalya,
trapped it for you in a than filled
with Chelpark Royal-Blue Ink.

Did the upside-down handles chitter
from the drop rails overhead,
play a metronomic rag
that brought you into the empty aisle
away from Baba's lap? Was it
the open doorway, the views
of the Parsik Hills beyond that made you
choose this moment to go walkie?

The instant that your father,
apropos of nothing, extended
a tentative hand to find lushness
swell under your mother's saree.
Like a recovered toy,

Baba became aware of Aai
as more than a partner
in the mandatory push-ups
of baby-making. She too,
looked up sharply, afraid
of the assurance of touch,

but the curling lips on the verge,
took her back a year and half.
before you stretched both her nipples
out of shape with milk teeth, before
your last few months of litany
‘Aaye! Aaye!' tugging at her pallu
to keep her attention.

Aai encountered a husband afresh,
when the train lurched
to halt at Khandeshwar.

You should have seen them then,
rubbernecking for you
in an empty compartment,
in the mindful moonlight
after you had made your giant leap.

Translated by
the Ladies Only

Vadodara-Visarjan *

Neeti Singh

i)
My dress is made of rain
my heart a hooting pair of owlets
perched atop a banyan’s hat
.
Dusk has dropped a curtain,
a mask has slipped.
Come morning you don dappled joy
in polka dots and sunshine print.
A faded pair of Levi jeans, stilts for legs,
or a climbing pair of eucalyptuses -

slender marbled limbs,
stone washed…
You strut besides the lion’s enclave
in KamatiBaug*
.
It rains.
The garden hangs its monsoon frocks –
trees, climbers, flowers, frog -
a score of puddles and sky-falls raise,
with ordinary worm and amoeba,
a stage!
ii)
With mongrels you cross the road
and enter the Arts campus at four.
It raises its dome and wags a tail.
Floral grill gates patterned to protect -
Systems ancient – keep the Faculty intact.

Free as rows of seasonal rice –
tulips and a tank of water lilies design
garlands of restless choice.
Fluttering indecisions -
pigeons pendulum from bajra to tub.
Their friends in green frocks
are content however,
to peck the soil at Shiva’s shrine.

Praised be the elephant headed God,
its Visarjan-time!

Ganesha gambols through Vadodara’s veins,
flaunting with fetish, his feet to Bolly beats,
On truck backs and tempos he rides
off for an annual dive -
his ritual fun with frogs and fish and more.

The city arteries are agog,
Throb! throb!
O elephant-headed god O!
Through narrow streets, rain-washed,
moves His cake-and-carnival walk.
Brown men in wet skin and girls in skirts that cling and cling,
they frisk and flounder, they jump they joust.
The river of joy’s a-brim!
And burst the hunger of hope.

O Vighana-harataa*, O G’pati!
Sweeper of pain and paucity!
Off with the dregs and dogs of streets,
off with beggars, the teachers,
off with paper and plastic…
and all that titters with the litter, let sink.


Learn well your lessons,
fashion yourself in buffalo-hide,
gulp down with pepsi or diet coke,
coins of complaint and ego.


Your soiled Ganapati-soul,
you hold in a bowl at city crossings.
Sometimes you curl up at railway stations,
or eat bananas on uneven sidewalks.
There are days when you even become a girl
selling lemons and gulab* and marigold.

Immersed at last
in his liquid tomb, the Ganapati
meets sunset
and a host of aquatic kin.


In the shadows of the king that rides a dark horse,
the drenched city laughs,
it burps and releases a foul smelling fart.
Drums roll back upon tide-tongues,

we dunk him so we may live.
Visarjan is our insurance to wellbeing.
***
Notes:
*Visarjan – ceremonial immersion of the idol of Lord Ganesha / Ganapati.
*Vighana-harata – slayer of vighana i.e. slayer of hurdles and difficulties.
*Gulab – a rose.
.

Translated by

Haiku 4

Paresh Tiwari

stillness ..

the sound of dusk

washing ashore


toddler's hideout ...

the azaleas fragrant

with giggles


war news ...

the dark underbelly

of autumn clouds


crayon rainbow...

a kindergarten wall

survives the blast


cloudless day . . .

a field of dried grass

in italics


sumi-e ...

a sparrow returns

to its shadow


divorce papers . . .

we end up deleting

the ampersand


fading daylight –

an oarsman's ballad

drifts ashore


thunderclap –

the infant's fist tightens

around a dream


sunset beach –

a parasol leans into

its own shadow



Courtesy : The Heron’s Nest, Bottle Rockets, Cattails, Haiku Presence, Under the Basho, Frogpond, Prune Juice, Modern Haiku, Snapshot Haiku, Daily Haiku

Translated by

Retirement

Pradip Khandwalla

For years I stood
waiting
for the moment of rest.
   
My eyelids drooping
I fumbled for a decade
for the steps to bed.

How many months
I sought
the hollow of the pillow!

For weeks I bent
to vanish
under the bed-sheets.

And now when all my aches
are in place
why is white sleep so late?

Translated by
Turning Sixty

Turning Sixty

Pradip Khandwalla

I was out
on a chirpy morning.
There was this breeze
that greets all dawns.
An over-age rose
was losing petals.
Like an old man
shedding teeth and wits.

I smelt something acrid
and looked around.
I saw in alarm
a circle of fire around my feet.
I jumped back.
Peering closer I saw
that my creeds were on fire!

One flame was consuming
‘Intellect Is Supreme’
and adjacent fires were burning
‘Achievement Is All’
and ‘Yielding Is Cowardice’.

But in that grimy circle
around my feet
were also little, green shoots
raising shyly their tiny heads
above the sod
and waving fair banners
‘Being Is Feeling’
‘Peep Inside Every Cell’
‘Peace is the Way’
and others still
of obscure intimations.

I stepped back
into that dying circle of soot
amid that surfacing band
of lively chlorophyll.

Translated by
Retirement

Haiku 5

Pravat Kumar Padhy

cherry blossoms—
the scent bridging
the long river

*******

old lake—
I feel closeness
to full moon

*******

Neil Armstrong--
baby’s maiden walk
on bright moon day

*******

early moon rise
cranes shift whiteness
to an old banyan tree

*****

flow of river--
I gather wisdom
at every turn

*****

flight of cranes—
bridging the sea
with the sky

*******

crescent moon--
the old man returns
from no where

*****

green vegetables
my mother smiles with
morning freshness


*****

disputed land--
the trees share their
tender shadows


*****

counting stars
I move round
the galaxy

*****

Morning dream--
an owl stares at me from
the hanging cloud

*****

fallen kites--
the slum boy gathers
the colours

*****

flowing river--
the bereaved girl holds
a palm-full of water

*****

wall painting--
the spider climbs up
Mt. Fuji


Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitation, Iris Haiku Magazine, The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Competition, Haiku Reality / Haiku Stvarnost, World Haiku Review Sketchbook, The Mainichi Daily News, Best of Haiku in English, Spring Haiku Contest 2014, Diogen, Haiku Asahi Shimbun, Acorn,

Translated by

Aubade

R Parthasarathy

You wake up and slip quietly out of the room,
shutting the door behind you. Eyes closed,
I clasp your pillow in hopes of smelling out
the faintest trace of your body’s secret perfume.
Never before have I held you more closely
than I hold you now in your absence,
but you hug the morning paper to your chest
in the kitchen and wash it down with a cup of tea.


Aubade

Dúisíonn tú is sleamhnaíonn tú go ciúin as an seomra,
an doras á dhúnadh agat i do dhiaidh. Mo shúile druidte,
beirim ar do philiúrsa is mé ag súil
le boladh éigin a fháil ó chumracht rúnda do cholainne.

Ní raibh greim chomh docht riamh agam ort
is atá anois is tú as láthair,
ach cuachann tú nuachtán na maidine le d'ucht
sa chistin is tae agat á shlogadh siar.

Translated by Gabriel Rosenstock into Irish from English

Haiku 8

Ramesh Anand

spring dream
a rooster stirs the stillness
into dawn

peak hour ...
a flock of sparrows pass
the evening moon

autumn sky -
patches of twilight
in the falling leaf

holding on
with what she left behind
winter moon

distant hill
a river carrying
the spring

paddy field
the stream carrying
clouds

on the lake wrinkled face of wind

uphill walking
she takes me into
winter clouds

night blossoms
the elders swing dance
in the neighborhood

twilight
my child stretches
the end of play

Courtesy : Acorn, A Hundred Gourds, LPPE-zine, Simply Haiku, Moon Garlic, Magnapoets, Modern Haiku, and Frogpond.

Translated by Pradip N. Khandwalla

Transmogrified

Rochelle Potkar

He was first a snake and was in love with her - a she-snake. And then he molted and after he molted he was a turtle and he met another she-turtle and fell in love with her. When he de-shelled after years, he became a four-legged animal, black spots sprouting over his fur, and he fell for a leopard. He moved this way through the jungles, the savannas, the deserts, the skies, through the oceans, the air, the land and beneath it, changing and changing and meeting and falling in love with new she-species.

The lovers he left behind did not change. They were who they were. The same.

They were individualistic so to speak, but now they were also heart-broken and full of hate for him – the one who had left in the middle of, sometimes, passionate love-making.

They had no idea how it was to live so many lives in one life like him.

To take no breaks with rebirths from being mosquito to man.

Sometimes evolution and progress is so fast, blessings and curses are all mixed up, and One.

Translated by
Birth
Seed
The quivering of purple petals
Native place

Birth

Rochelle Potkar

Fetus under skin, under fluid,
a knife edges birth in sharp violence.
A butterfly stroke
namaste to the world,
parting waves,
sucking breath,
the rhythmic hurl of a dance
from an engorged womb,
knell of a mother-heart.
Pushing body,
splaying limbs,
clogging senses…
Outside they say,
‘Not all is out.’
The hands of the clock become forceps,
clasping slithery legs
that have not found ground
but know their destiny.
Bubbles nibble at the center
of a closed eye,
the new brain registers
roadmaps in the seed of an un-grown empire.
Down in the dark
fear is the plasma membrane
with no name.
Birth, they say, is red and joyous.
I say, it is black
and never anticipated.

Translated by
Transmogrified
Seed
The quivering of purple petals
Native place

Seed

Rochelle Potkar

My thirteen-year-old breasts are a growing, budding nuisance that feel weighty and uncomfortable under my petticoat and school pinafore. It is too early for a bra so my mother buys snug cotton vests meant for very young boys.

I wear them for a year before graduating to a bra.

It takes me time getting used to a strap of a bandage around the ribs and back, that would always always have to be worn from now on, like a norm.

One afternoon while walking home from school, a group of boys cross me.
A tall boy juts his hand, grabs, and squeezes my breast. The shanties around are deserted. Somewhere a TV set blares.

I watch them go.

For days after that, I search the faces of passersby, wherever I go. Did they see it? Do they know what happened to me?

But not until my buttocks are pinched and breasts elbowed, not until lewd remarks change to lucid pick-up lines in the swelling years of my womanhood, do I realize there is an archive of ‘these very common things’, these unwritten norms.
phosphorus sky --
the Gulmohar bursts
into flames

Translated by
Transmogrified
Birth
The quivering of purple petals
Native place

The quivering of purple petals

Rochelle Potkar

My grandfather was the biggest drunk. In the village of bougainvillea, Assagao.
He created lore through his breath and burp, laced with alcohol.

Now the roads are bare and barren, tumultuous in their climb.
There is one dusty Kadamba state bus that we get off from.

We walk toward Mr. Dias’ home. Good man of the village,
father of three with a story of his avant-garde love marriage that is now passé.
His garden is the largest, with sprawling tropical flowers.

He invites us to tea or wine, but not to stay in his large empty house of unused rooms.
‘There is no hotel in Assagao, not even a homestay. No tourists come here,’ he says.
There is nothing, but history amidst its living, listening ears.
… the pain of memory against last names, ancestral houses.

My mother tells me my grandfather’s house fell to ruins, and had to be sold for a pittance.
I hear tales from Uncle Dias that my grandfather wrote long pages of poetry,
he wrote plays for the church,
he went to Portugal and returned with shining beads for all the women.

summer gloam –
turning coats
into tales

From my mother, I hear of how he drank night and day and beat up everyone.
How she and her brother ran around on the bunds, loafing in lanes, floundering in their Portuguese,
and how she swam with the buffaloes in the stream, or climbed trees and fell like an orphan.

We hear stories, contradictory sometimes, time-lapsed, un-chronicled,
and not of my grandfather after a while as much as of memories refined and redefined,
salted, marinated, left to dry in the hot Goan sun.
Plucked like flesh of salt fish and eaten with boiled curry and rice.

I don’t recall my grandfather. He died a year before I was born.
I don’t visualize what it would have been to know him.
Drunk? A poet? Or was he someone else? Did poetry and liquor fill up his glass? Differently?
Stories, sometimes, are better. It fills us up like water.
Distance, the best carrier, time, the best editor.

creation theories . . .
rumours of how
we were born


Crith na bPeiteal Corcra
Rochelle Potkar

B’é mo sheanathair an pótaire ba mhó i sráidbhaile an bougainvillea, Assagao.

Chruthaigh sé seanchas le gach anáil is brúcht, alcól tríothu.
Lom sceirdiúil anois iad na bóithre, a ndreapadh is achrannach.
Tá bus deannachúil amháin, bus stáit Kadamba, óna dtuirlingímid.

Siúlaimid i dtreo thigh Mr Dias. Fear ceart na háite,
Triúr páistí aige agus scéal aige faoina phósadh grá atá passé anois.
Is aige atá an gairdín is mo, bláthanna trópaiceacha ar fud na bhfud.

Cuireadh chun tae nó chun fíona uaidh, ach ní chun fanacht san áras folamh is na seomraí ann nach n-úsáidtear riamh.
‘Níl aon óstán in Assagao, ná cónaí le teaghlach ann. Ní thagann turasóirí anseo,’ ar sé.
Níl faic ann ach stair i measc na gcluas beo is iad ag éisteacht
. . . pian na cuimhne, sloinnte, tithe sinseartha.

Insíonn mo mháthair dom gur thit tigh mo dhaideo as a chéile agus bhí orthu é a dhíol ar phinginí.
Cloisim scéalta ó Uncail Dias go scríobhadh mo dhaideo leathanaigh fhada filíochta,
Chumadh sé drámaí le haghaidh na heaglaise,
Chuaigh chun na Portaingéile agus d’fhill le coirníní lonracha do na mná go léir.
clapsholas samhraidh –
cótaí á n-iompú
ina scéalta

Cloisim óm’ mháthair go n-óladh sé ó dhubh go dubh agus gach éinne á bhatráil aige.
I féin agus a deartháir ag rith thart ar na bunds, ag máinneáil thart ar na lánaí, ag streachailt lena gcuid Portaingéilise,
Is mar a shnámhadh sí leis na buabhaill sa sruthán, nó crainn a dhreapadh agus titim mar dhílleachta.

Cloisim scéalta, frithráiteach ar uairibh, aga-dheighilte, neamhchroinicithe,
Agus ar ball ní faoim’ dhaideo iad níos mó ach cuimhní scagtha agus ath-shainmhínithe,
Saillte, maranáidithe, á dtriomú faoi ghrian gheal Goa.
Pioctha mar a phiocfá iasc saillte agus ite le curaí beirithe is rís.

Níl aon chuimhne agam ar dhaideo. Cailleadh é bliain sular rugadh mé
Ní shamhlaím conas a bheadh sé aithne a chur air.
Ar meisce? Ina fhile? Nó an duine eile a bhí ann? Ar líonadh a ghloine le deoch is filíocht? Ar bhealaí difriúla?

Is fearr, uaireanta, na scéalta. Líontar sinn ar nós le huisce.
An t-achar an t-iompróir is fearr, an t-am an t-eagarthóir is fearr.

teoiricí an chruthaithe . . .
ráflaí faoi conas
a saolaíodh sinn

Translated by Gabriel Rosenstock into Irish from English
Transmogrified
Birth
Seed
Native place

Native place

Rochelle Potkar

Goa is a leitmotif of childhood May holidays.
A quartet of perspiring aunts cirlicuing their liquid syllables.

Small washed rooms opening to orchestras of husk and coir from attics and lofts
A sonnet of rain over maroon steps, stone sofas, and green weeping windows,
sandy-grained backyard ghazals of jackfruit, guava, and mango trees.

Catholic castes and Majorda beach-returnees behind gossiping grandmothers and aunts
(my mother was called scientist, an elder cousin-tourist, a single uncle-bebdo, a widowed aunt, ankwaar kodi)

A free verse of carved wedding fish of an aunt’s yesteryear wedding near a muddy déjà vu-ed water well.
An unripe mango, oozing blatant growing up languages in ballads of arresting tongues.

Owria, Mario, Maria - the neighbor’s children
who could walk fast and long through paddy fields, uneven roads without a muscle tear.

Goa was dragonfly caught in thick forest bush, painstakingly brisk, pinched at its tail,
biting at the bend of body – a Chant Royal, announcing the end of the holiday season
in raining June.

The same empty feeling of a house not being there
off Mae Dos Pobres church road, Nuvem.

A haiku of courtyard leaf lost over time,
a gleaming pebble etched wet on a wave receding.
A roof caved in of an old Portuguese bungalow,
where an Uncle saw it for a rehash of modernity:
stacks of cubby houses atop rows of reeking staircase
- an apartment building! (‘Like they have it in Bombay.’)
A tragedy of childhood memories always sold cheap,
and unquestioned.

Eulogy

Ode, ironical.

A blank verse, final resting place.

No matter what the disillusions be,
return to a promised land.

Elegy.

Notes:

(In Konkani)
*bebdo – drunkard
Ankwaar kodi – bland curry, in this instance, with no fish or prawn

Translated by
Transmogrified
Birth
Seed
The quivering of purple petals

SOORPANAKHA

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

Are you his four-syllabic twin?
The girl no one will claim except those who retell that epic
in ferocious new-found freedom
Claiming your beauty your feral love your wild unmet desire
your rage as their feministic own.
For the ordinary, the meek expectant mothers, the arranged brides, the milkwhite maids
you are the she-demon no one dreams of.
He who mutilated you (one sharp slice of his blade ripping open your face
your nose gone, no metaphor here) is not the villain of the piece
to the legions of good girls, he is the Man, the God, Mr Right, Mr Righteousness,
his ugliness escapes them, so that all they see is you
bleeding all over yourself, weeping for revenge and getting it
             you horror you disgrace you she-demon you!
No one in their right mind would name their baby girls after you,
Soorpanakha,
and so you are Abhimanyu’s twin in my book,
only sadder, unsung, unmourned,
except by me.
In one corner of my forest of words,
you gleam, intact and gorgeous and loved.

Translated by
ABHIMANYU
FIRST QUARTER
LOVE SONG
SLIPSTREAMS
BRAHMA’S EYES
THIRD EYE

ABHIMANYU

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI


Speak to the shield

Which warrior doesn’t yearn to breach the impregnable
This is womb talk dream talk
This is not what a baby should have heard
But which warrior was ever a baby
He was already a giant little foetus in amniotic trance
He needed whale song love song
Instead he heard it halfway through
His father’s triumphal entry through shield upon shield upon shield
Such fiendish construction
Unbreachable

Little baby warrior
Generations of mothers weep for you
For breaking through with the lusty cry that announced you to the world
War cry death cry
Eavesdropper interloper
We are afraid
To name our sons after you
Abhimanyu
Four syllabic beautiful boy
You breached the unbreachable
Barrier
Hymen
Hymnal
No one wrote songs for you
For you were
You are
The boy who paid the price for knowing
What was not yours to know
And your mother’s sleep your father’s words
Bear that unbearable guilt
But I
I love your name Abhimanyu
I give it to my fictional son
I write his death the way it deserves
With blood with gilt with gore

અભિમન્યુ

કોઠાસૂઝ

છે કોઈ એવો યોદ્ધો જે ઝંખતો ન હોય અભેદ્યને ભેદવા?
આ છે કૂખની વાત સપનાની વાત
કોઈ શિશુએ આવું સાંભળવું નહોતું જોઈતું
પણ કયો યોદ્ધો કદી શિશુ રહ્યો છે?
એ તો હતો જ વિરાટકદ નાનકડો ગર્ભ અંતસ્ત્વચાની સમાધિમાં
એને જોઈએ વ્હેલગીત પ્રેમગીત
એને બદલે એણે સાંભળ્યું અરધું પરધું
એના પિતાનું વિજયભેર પ્રવેશવું એક પછી એક પછી એક રક્ષાકવચની આરપાર કેવી કપટી રચના અભેદ્ય

નાનકડા શિશુયોદ્ધા
તારા માટે માતાઓ રુદન કરે છે સદીઓથી
એક જોમભરી આરપાર ચીસથી તેં જગને જાણ કરી તારા આગમનની
યુદ્ધની ચીસ મોતની ચીસ
છૂપારુસ્તમ ઘૂસણખોર
અમે ડરીએ છીએ
અમારા બાળકને તારું નામ આપતાં
અભિમન્યુ
ચતુરાક્ષરી સુંદર બાળ
તેં ભેદ્યું અભેદ્ય
કૌમાર્યનું આવરણ
કોઈએ તારા માટે ગીતો ન રચ્યાં
કારણ તું હતો
તું છે
એ કિશોર જેણે કિંમત ચૂકવી જાણવાની
જે એણે નહોતું જાણવાનું
અને તારી માતાની ઊંઘ તારા પિતાના શબ્દો
સહે છે અસહ્ય અપરાધનો ભાવ
પણ હું
હું ચાહું છું તારા નામને અભિમન્યુ
હું આપું છું તારું નામ મારા કાલ્પનિક પુત્રને હું લખું છું એનું મૃત્યુ એને શોભે તે રીતે
રક્તથી સુવર્ણથી સંહારથી

સંપૂર્ણા ચેટરજી અંગ્રેજીમાંથી અનુ. પ્રતિષ્ઠા પંડ્યા

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
FIRST QUARTER
LOVE SONG
SLIPSTREAMS
BRAHMA’S EYES
THIRD EYE

FIRST QUARTER

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

January

January in a striped tee
delivering veggies from
door to door, ripe tomatoes,
raw peas, frowsing up
the afternoon with his
growly old motor. When
January drives away, the
carpark drowses, crows
chorus vehemently their
ownership of empty air.
January misses the two
cat-sisters napping in the
grass, and is not consoled
by the two white butter-
flies who danced for him
instead.


February

The announcing of intention
the damning of act.
Why proclaim what is…
and will not improve on
proclamation, however
joyful. This river was in
spate. In spatial terms the
flow filled all the crannies
in between. In terms of
time, there was never a
gap between now and then
and never. It was the bouy-
ant inflammation, no place
for slouch. Now the gaps
are many and marked and
slow.


March

The clink of the universe
in my outstretched tin cup.
On the pavement, where
the homeless man is eating
his breakfast, there is no
room for eye contact.
Leaping over the four loose
tiles, I resume my beggary
on the other side of the
unbroken wall.

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
ABHIMANYU
LOVE SONG
SLIPSTREAMS
BRAHMA’S EYES
THIRD EYE

LOVE SONG

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

It is a sweet tooth
for revelry
that drives him
into the arms
of excess.
And she follows,
scenting crushed clove
and dried fig,
the forgotten trail
of desire.

It could cloy.

Instead,
anointed, aromatic,
they emerge,
a fatted quail
at their breast,
he: smile
she: cinnamon-song.

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
ABHIMANYU
FIRST QUARTER
SLIPSTREAMS
BRAHMA’S EYES
THIRD EYE

SLIPSTREAMS

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

Brine preserves her fingers.
For now her fingers are fish—
surmai, sardine, swimming
beyond the reach of weed.

Escaping net, bait and hook,
quick, silver, they swallow
rings of gold, they speak.
Old women, young kings

heed their words, the bubble
speech of prophecy, the slit
belly of recall. Sliced from
maw to tail, the wink of

a previous life, involving
a woman and a vow. On a
beach, a house, turning back
into sand, and hair, turning

back into reed. Weighed
down by human legs, each
step cutting like a sword,
the river girl, smelling of fish.

Consenting to the embrace
of mist on an island, the
wetness of hands and mouth,
the sagacity of a man of lust.

She reeks of fish no longer.
She smells now of musk,
verdigris, of scrubstone
and foam, she wears her

new skin like perfume, un-
stoppered from a chalice
of blood. Her human legs
flipper their way through mud.

She is dreaming of being
a fish again, scale and shine
in a sea of brine. Or a
gilded fin in a salinated

tank, a thing of light and feed.
Fitting end to end, all longing
slowed to this drift from end
to end. Dreams could visit her

there, maul her sleep with fingers
floating fresh within the snap
of open jaw. All sweetness gone,
a predator of glass. Come, turn

piranha, find other flesh to eat.
Swim elsewhere. Awake out of the
deep. For now, let this suffice—
this suck of tongue, and teeth.

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
ABHIMANYU
FIRST QUARTER
LOVE SONG
BRAHMA’S EYES
THIRD EYE

BRAHMA’S EYES

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

Fragile Marici, just-born,
full-formed from Brahma’s eyes.
Onion-skinned he sits, and sighs.

The first of the Seers
and all he can see
is a shell of broken gold.

But then, as he watches,
the nine appear, till they are ten.
Ten mind-born sons blazing in the dark.

In his newborn ears the sound
of wakening, many-shaped and tongued,
a slithering of thought and shade.

And then, the body-born.
From throat and mouth and head,
filled with blood and flesh.

Marici waits, spectral, for his twin.
Death springs from Brahma’s eyes.

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
ABHIMANYU
FIRST QUARTER
LOVE SONG
SLIPSTREAMS
THIRD EYE

THIRD EYE

SAMPURNA CHATTARJI

The edge of objects eludes me.
Stable in half-light, drifting in full.
Lo-res faces, victims of my pixeldust gaze.
All seeing reduced to this ocular noise,
this slight malfunction, this haze.

I shroud myself from the
glitterwince of the noonday sun.
I turn Bedouin, long shadow on the sands,
a Rajasthani bride, dark behind her veil.
I have begun seeing things.

I have seen Soordas singing,
blind seer of the humming hands.
And Borges in a café, face illumined, wise.
He is all reflection, the glass window
in his cloudmazed eyes.

I console myself with visions.
How else to delay this rodentblur
of darkness, this gnawing away of sight.
Left and right are dimming. If only I had
a third eye to see me through.

Translated by
SOORPANAKHA
ABHIMANYU
FIRST QUARTER
LOVE SONG
SLIPSTREAMS
BRAHMA’S EYES

Haiku 6

Sanjuktaa Asopa

mountain pass

in and out

of a hawk's cry


rocking chair

back and forth between

now and then


the slow drift

of an owl's feather

...stretching moonlight


roadside inn

the scent of sunlight

in a leaf cup


peep-toes

those three petals

of iris


scars

that have begun to heal--

purple asters


bee-buzz...

the secret lives

of queens


what remains

of this twilight--

orange blossoms


low battery...

I hold on to her fading voice

awhile longer


clouds in a broken egg the imperfect sky

Translated by

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
Home sickness

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
Blood-soaked

Where I Come From

Vinita Agrawal

I come from the sands
where words sprout like cacti
when girls are born.

I come from ochre, autumn-hued earth
baked dry under a fierce sun.
Where grit and wind needle the eyes
Where storms compel women
to live inside tombs of veils.

I come from a place
where dusk turns into a seductress by night
lying velvety warm on bohemian, linen charpoys.
I come from the land famous for making puppets
both from wood and flesh.
The wooden ones entertain children.
Flesh puppets entertain men - for life.

I come from a geography
where girls embroider silence,
unfurl quilts of wordlessness,
vast, like star studded desert skies.

Their quietude as deep as the space
where tears are born
high as the walls that keeps history in
subtle like the rivers that roamed these plains once.

Gurgling, buoyant ghaghra-clad girls
now untraceable, lost forever.
That's where I come from.

*********

Translated by
Gift
Eco Friendly Ganeshas
Woman

Gift

Vinita Agrawal

It is a gentle shape
this white moon
my father gave me
the night he passed away.
It hangs below the window every night.
A farewell gift.
Leaves the skies quietly at dawn
to slide into my throat all day.
Some nights it returns;
chipped, halved, sliced,
imitating life.
Scarred, like the face of pain
but always there... like a presence that's never left.

Translated by
Where I Come From
Eco Friendly Ganeshas
Woman

Eco Friendly Ganeshas

Vinita Agrawal

He will come to you like a playful child covered in mud.
For ten days you will worship him
offer marigolds and jasmines, incense and butter lamps
steamed coconut modaks and sweet boondi laddoos.
Merriment shall fill your house, lights shall twinkle.
Elephant-head symbols shall guard your doors
so no evil finds its way in.

On the tenth day, when the sky grows dark with rain
a moving landscape of parting shall clutch at your heart
for the precious guest shall depart
his eyes smiling gently as you cry
his stomach bulging with your wishes
taking with him all that was cruel
whispering in your ears - what comes, must go.
Such is the way of life.

But this time he will not float on a distant sea or a lake or a pond
bobbing for days on a watery bed amidst the din of drums and cymbals
amidst the frenzied cries of Ganpati Bappa Morya!
No, this time he will be lovingly immersed in a bucket of water
dissolve slowly, become earth again.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, mud to earth, earth to mud.

You will water your plants with water from that bucket
and when the plants flower
a strange oneness shall fill your heart
as though he didn't really leave
as though the way of life was such
that what you let go, returned.
Taking the form of a glorious periwinkle or cosmos or rose
enclosing in its petals
the soil of your prayers
the moisture of your worship
and all the mothering you bestowed on this mud-clad God.
*********

Translated by
Where I Come From
Gift
Woman

Woman

Vinita Agrawal

like a plastic palmyra showcased at the front door
a rag doll - gloved, thumb-printed, buttressed
bruised, soughed, oboe-d
and at the end of it all - grey like the ash of a rose.

Rabbit-like. Fearful, frightened.
Babbling, burbling, dripping
scurrying, stumbling, succumbing
until reduced to a sobbing choir of broken hummingbirds.

She is his color-card for abuse
one shade for every kind;
to rape, demean, curb, thrash, burn, mutilate, violate, intimidate,
a fertile ground for the plough of his madness.

She is no one. She is nothing.
She is dry yellow grass, an invasive weed
sawdust, thorn, nettle.
an abandoned trellis on which he pegs his evils.

But really, she is none of these.
Like Draupadi, she is a cause to be fought for in her own voice.
Though sandpapered by scars of a thousand hard years
her resilience is still intact.

Like Sita - she shines in a light of her own - ever evolving.
Weaving a special bond in sisterhood
no veil, no hijab, no purdah can conceal her strength
nothing can keep her down.

She is Ma Durga, Ma Kali, Ling Bhairavi
Jwala, Amba, Bhavani,
the fierce rider of tigers, spewer of fire
killer of demons, drinker of blood.

She is the twin of every aspect of the universe
the yin to the yang, the half of the whole called man.
Because of her, he exists
for she is Shakti - the bearer of souls.

Translated by
Where I Come From
Gift
Eco Friendly Ganeshas

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