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Haraprasad Das

The Dark Sanctum

Why is it so dark
here, why ?

The Meru
our axial mountain
in sleep,
as the face and its mirror
wake up to the
black ray and
its primal sweep
I can hear the refrain
of a call from afar,
I can see the faces of
stones marked with
the offerings of blood.

Yet why is it so dark
inside the sanctum here, why
should it be
when the gods are in stones and the stones
are in repose
on the room's altar ?

Translated by Ravi Nandan Sinha and Saswat S. Das

This Body

Touch it if you can
between the ash and the
yellow bridal sash
this golden hue, this uncertain flash
should be enough
for you could pare it
to shreds with your
woodcutter's axe
or if you wish
you could set it to a song
with that fire born of flint
or could let it go afloat,
a dumpling
of rice and sesame meal,
for the ancestors' feast
on a banana raft,
faraway into the moonless night ---
to find it again
bereft at the river's bend
or caught like the
feigned star in the half sleep
of cobweb and soot

Touch it if you can

Translated by Ravi Nandan Sinha and Saswat S. Das

Jesus Christ

You are so faraway,
and, yet,
I hear the footfalls of your breath
on the wind's corridor.

Remain faraway
so that my soul
that bought whole history with
a few drops of blood
may smile a little longer
on the crucifix.

In the end, of course,
I shall raise my body
on the podium of your unbelief.

And you, Jesus,
will be its keeper
when a new shroud is spread
on the indestructible coffin
of History.

Translated by Ramakanta Rath

Mask : My Face

What shall I do now?
Shall water the day and
watch it melting away or
sleep inside the
fruit of our shame its
seeds hardening with fear?

The first night followed by
a million other nights I
grow old the killer's amorphous
quest sans quest locked
in the barrel, motionless, waiting
for the hours to dry and
the roots to unlock
the door on the mask
into my plain face my
secret harvest

Translated by the poet

With Unni in Ernakulam

I gave Unni a ten-rupee note
and asked him to keep
his bloody mouth shut
that I was God
and he was my little wart
on the stone face,
that this town swelling
inside a coconut shell
was our secret harvest.

Between us we shared
the gangrene of the sea
on a festering shore
and let the barracudas pass
noiselessly into the
the Chinese nets hung like
massive houses for sometime
and then burst
releasing darts of sunlight
into some distant mirror.

It is love, said Unni
that keeps the secrets of
the sea-side town safe
and not greed,
for greed is a ten-rupee note.
God gives to his own little wart
and love is what the fish
keep for themselves from water
after giving to the earth.

(Remembering JP)

Total revolution
is a cosmic affair, Sir,
but what happened to our
little revolutions
waiting at the door?
No one opens the door
Any more master
You must be worried stiff
sitting on a charpoy
listening to
that impatient knock on
the heaven’s door.

That is the fugitive of your courage
Turned sleepwalker now
who strayed into
the heaven with
unused munitions in hand
waiting to be called in
and pampered, dying to be discovered.

That is the end of it, Sir,
Stay well, wherever you are.
They would remember you
but would not open their door.

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