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Gagan Gill

Nearing The Hangman's Noose

Nearing the hangman's noose
What is the first man thinking ?
He's thinking— couldn't he
have been the last man ?

Walking towards the rope
suddenly, he realized freedom
from the terror of death.

Suddenly, free of attachment and illusion
Just one thing stays with him—
his envy—
of the last man.
Infinite envy.
Reaching the end
he turns for the first time
and looks
at the last man
as though assuring with his own end
this last man's end as well.

In this helpless dark instant
what else could he have done ?

Translated by Arlene Zide and Madhu B. Joshi

The Fish - 1

Death flashed in her eyes
As if it were a flickering star
As if it were a sky full of birds
As if it were the wind
Before it rains.
The fish lunged out of the water
As if
It were not death out there
But a longing to return
To the primal dream.
She caught the water
In her fine teeth
As if
It were the very last time
She knows, this river-fish
She'd die, going to the sea.
She wanted
Before this death of hers by drowning
One last time
To return
To the waters of the river.
Then, in her own waters
This river-fish
She drowned.

Translated by J. P. Das, Madhu B. Joshi, and Arlene Zide

The Fish - 2

It's not water
But the sky
Which has filled the brain of this fish.
Not water,
But a longing to fly,
Has filled the body of this fish.
She has been emptying herself
Into the sea
For centuries, endlessly.
Swimming past fish, large and small
Rapt in thought
This fish asks herself
Say, your sea, where has it gone?
Swimming, this fish
Repeats the question,
As if it were a prayer or mantra.
She doesn't know, this fish
That the sky has filled her brain
That the skull-breaking rites*
Have already begun
Within herself.

Translated by J. P. Das, Madhu B. Joshi, and Arlene Zide

Note : The skull of a dead person on the funeral pyre is cracked in order to allow the soul to escape.


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