The Poet's Lies | Here and Now A Summit-Meet
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Here and Now
 


Bharat Naik 

ASHADH 

Once more the rains 

The soft mellow expanse 
of the sky renders 
the borderland of the dusty earth 
aqueous, indiscrete 
lightning flashes, once more 
the rain-clouds rumble 
once more swans and elephants on move 
waters of springs, of falls, 
of rivers, of oceans on move 

Infantry parades 
somewhere on borderland 

At home, in the courtyard 
not a single beetle-shoot 
nor a squirrel in sight 
Oh where are the frogs, 
the peacocks, the chatakas? 
Oh where is the bridal bed, 
the castle, the manor-house? 
True, this much is there: 
a torso, like a potter's wheel 
placed above is an urn 
a river flows inside 
nebulaes swirl within 

On the borderland warplanes hover 

Moist eagles soar 
Moist laden clouds heavy and dark 
snow peaks effulgent 
Deer leap in the greenwoods 
A banana trunk snaps somewhere 
jasmine and coral blossoms shower 

Placid lakes once more pulsate 
Subterranean lands ricochet 
somewhere glow-worms gleam zigzag 
intermittently glisten 
A lion-roar rises from a cave 
Foodgrains begotten once more 
Burrows hollow somewhere, 
refugee ants fall in a file 

On the borderland 
pitch black of the night resonant 

In the middle of the sleep 
sounds heard: 
trumpet-blares conch-blows 
drum-beats 
A lighthouse wobbles 
Sail-lanterns adrift, 
Dynamite-sparks 
Penetrate into arteries 

In the womb a sky revealed 
Pleiades, Orion, Sirius appear 
Cosmos in slow gyration, 
Spheroid space reverberates in whir 

On the borderland 
sounds of canons explode 

Tear-filled eyes, 
clouds plentitude glide within. 
Mysterious lightning 
whips intermittently. 
Wings weak but beaks sinuous, 
vultures swim in the air 
One swoops below on pyrebed 
ignites the pink toe 
Breath whines at the palate, 
gasping eyes watch: 
the world quakes oceans sink 
bubbles rock-high spew 
Roof-beams cave in, columns crumble 
tatters, peeling walls 
and shubh-labh take wing 
Homeward herds run amok 
fields turn turtle 
Rice-grains pop, stomachs sizzle 
penises droop 
Bellies bulge 
carrying foetuses 
blood throb infused 
carrying a thousand spore-sun-virile 
carrying on earth 
carrying rupture 
Rodents, roaches, worms 
writhe within 
Visceras entangled 
Giant-wheels hurtled skyward 
cradles crackle high above 
screaming tots flung below 
the rupture reveals an inside 
An enormous desert deep below 
Tanks, thorny bushes, gun barrels 
Blood-wet uniforms 
hung from bushes trickle 
A rupture reveals a fissure 
Arsenals explode from depths. 
A roar. 
Mortars bloom, fires speed up 
a fierce roar: 
children, females 
and men masculine set ablaze 
Towers, river banks 
chimneys, roofs afire 

Fire rains 

Serpents and jackals 
and parrots and forests roast 
Fire below at roots 
fire atop the grass 
Veins of marine beasts ablaze 

Lava rains 

And trenches overflow with corpses 
in black-yellow apparels 
visages terrorised, arms broken 
legs-contorted corpses 
Corpses soak and melt 
rot and break with a thud 
Corpses hung down from treetops, 
transmission lines and doors 
angling they rock and stop. 
Corpses, corpses 
Helmets dangle, fingers dangle 
locks of hair dangle 
sway and fall one by one 

Corpses erase the borderland 

A rupture reveals a fissure inside 
A fissure 
instantly turns into a cleft 
A cleft 
instantly turns into a gorge 
A gorge rips open swiftly 
And a quake 
The earth splits into hemispheres 
tosses along 
voluminous water dazzle 
and the vegetation in slime 
Fire flame of dust 
caught in a whirlpool 
tiers upon tiers of silence 

O where is the bedroom? 
O where is the bed? 
And the borderlands? 

Torrential showers of silence 

What is it that still pants? 
A breast or sky? 
What is it that flutters inside? 
An apple or a sun? 
No. A bomb. 
No. A bubble. 
No. A sperm. 
Yes. The sperm. 
 

Translated from the Gujurati by Karamshi Pir 
 
 

Bibhu Padhi 

THIS GREEN LIGHT 

This green light seems to be 
everywhere, even at those places 
where we had secretly buried 
our pale miseries. 

The books, the white and blue tables 
on which our children complete 
their weekend homework, 
the bed on which 
we bundle into sleep, 
the very blocks of moulded plastic 
with which our younger six-year-old son 
builds his frail, formless worlds-- 
every little thing 
seems to have been transformed 
by this light into 
the lucidity of April joy and dreams. 

This light, which has been 
so near our over-protected 
shadows and miseries. 
 

Harbhajan Singh 

PADMA 

Padma lower yourself a little 
We've to reach the other end 

There someone has kept a dagger 
At the prime vein of the city 
The pathways are asleep 
And masters have lodged 
Wormlike offsprings 
in the naked wombs 

There the despairing kids 
are spread out on the roads 
refusing to move 
they would not even turn their side 
till their mothers--gone with soldiers-- 
are not back 
and themselves wake them up 
There the women 
don't stir out of the blazing house 
saying that 
their fiery covering within is better 
outside stands the naked eye 

Padma lower yourself a little 
lest the prime vein will be ripped apart 
If naked wombs bore worms 
the human race would turn into worms 
The despairing kids would remain 
eternally asleep 
mothers would never turn back 
if the naked eye got affixed at the door 
women would never step out 

Padma lower yourself a little 
we've to reach the other end 
 
Translated from the Punjabi 
by Gurbachan 
 

Jayanta Mahapatra 

HUNGER 

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 dragged up from the seas. 

In the flickering dark his lean-to 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. 
 

 
Nilmani Phookan 

A POEM 

This may happen tonight 
any moment 
anywhere 

The futility 
of all my labours of love 
is proved again and again 
I learnt nothing 
Once again I go on giving 
all that I have 
and get in return 
one more tense day 
its demand 
ever on increase 

Yet I know, for me 
there is no lonesome living 
no luxury of solitude 
nor the hesitant flight 
of love-birds 
in the vast expanse 
of the blues 

This may happen tonight 
and if it does happen 
I do not know what to do 
I do not even know 
what I told you 
a moment ago 

This weird fire-tub 
of the frightening night 
may flame your silence 

And my tears? 

 
Rabindra K Swain 

FRIENDSHIP 

Oh, them! dreadful in calmness : 
not enemies but friends, 
inimical than brothers. 

Those faces pretending naivete 
difficult to discard no less to trust 
like the old dresses 
to which one gets accustomed. 

Within you their bull's eye 
while wide of the mark 
strays your smile. 
You never learnt to be circumspect; 
a scarecrow 
is all what you have made of yourself 
in the coterminous fields 
of desolation and despair. 

Behind you their frenzied stabs 
and the feet, horrified, don't budge 
as in dreams 
chased by spirits. 

Only in abstinence do you 
seek pleasure--mildly rocking 
that massive dredger, alone, 
in the harbour; 

only one friend is enough, 
even though dead. 
 
 

Sochi Rautroy 

THE ONLOOKER 

The gallery is crowdless now; my play and I 
are sitting here, face to face. 
And I, the silent spectator, 
am gazing at myself. 
Between us there is our acting alone. 
So many actors and actresses, so many, who 
make me live once again in their gestured voices, 
execute the shape of my play. 
And, so many landscapes, high streets, gardens, 
decorated platforms, battlefields, scenes of blood, 
beheaded bodies of men, and at last, the pleasure-place 
where the dance is absorbed into the dance 
and, moments later, separated themselves. 
I and my play are one, and again are divided, 
separate. 
I wait for what might take place at some future time, 
or what could possibly have taken place. 

Here, I am the creator, and also 
the helpless instrument, the onlooker 
I have my rights over actions, 
and yet I exist apart from these. 
The gallery is without its crowd, and I and my play 
are sitting here, face to face; 
I am the spectator, I the protagonist. 
 

Translated from the Oriya by Bibhu Padhi 
 
 
POSTSCRIPT 

All eloquence 
remains inadequate, 
there is always room 
for a postscript. 

Learn 
to count steps, 
seeking yourself 
bit by bit 
in your own image. 
Finish the roll call 
and the end once again 
becomes the beginning; 
even a wrong call 
a wrong cloud 
strikes me like a deluge. 
All quest is futile 
(the quest for self) 
all knowledge fruitless 
(the primal knowledge) 
all things are 
a mere translation 
of something else; 
knowledge is illusion 
only an image 
carried down memory lane 
for aeons of time. 
All things get 
sucked away by Time. 
Ah! for the Timelessness, 
to be forever! 
Gone is my youth, 
lost in paleness 
leaving nothing 
for the Last Day, 
and my future 
lies broken 
in the glorious ruins 
of an empire. 
Fools make history, 
says the court jester. 
I wing the dead butterfly 
from blood's garden 
with a misplaced mirth. 
The 'I' born of desires 
and time, a remainder 
of Timelessness-- 
yet all quest, all dreams 
revolve round this? 
'I' an image of an image! 
Lying face down 
in my bed 
I hear my own heartbeats 
like the call at an auction: 
hundred and one, hundred and two... 
Alas, my lost youth! 
 

Translated from the Oriya by Jayashree Mohanraj 
 

PEDIGREE 

Many lives 
become extinct 
finally merging 
into the five elements, 
says the law of life; 
dinosaur, neelgai and unicorn 
are wiped out one by one, 
they need protection, 
a sanctuary. 

Good hearts too 
are numbered now, 
dropping out one by one-- 
those reluctant parents 
who never ask for more 
while simple schoolmasters 
unwilling to earn 
by unfair means 
prefer to live 
on honest bread 
only to become thin, 
endangered, and finally 
be wiped out completely. 
Only deceitful tricksters 
with a long pedigree survive, 
juggling black into white 
to rule this world forever. 

Translated from the Oriya by Jayashree Mohanraj 
 

Subhash Mukhopadhyay 

BEYOND THE VOID 

Labanya, you have only to lift your eyes to see 
the rich firmament overhead, 
the radiance of the sun, the moon, 
the stars, and the planets 
nesting in the heart of darkness, 
the disciplined river following 
its route to the boundless sea. 
We are all fated to the closed circle of life. 
Born we think of death, loving we fear its end, 
faltering at every step; yet life surpasses all, 
all too easily; the mornign dew trembles on the grass 
invoking peace, the gay leaves flutter in the wind to 
encourage the dream of a nest; 
Labanya, 
lift your eyes and see the sky. 
 
 

Surjit Patar 

RETURNING HOME 

It is difficult to return home now, 
who will recognise us? 

Death has left signature 
on our foreheads 
Friends have trodden our faces 
Someone else 
glances back in the mirror 
in the eyes there is a dim light 
of a house in ruins-- 
My mother will get scared: 
her son older than her 
who has cursed him? 
What black magic is this? 
My mother will get scared, 
it is better 
not to return home now... 

So many suns have set 
so many gods are dead 
Seeing my mother alive 
I will wonder 
if she is a ghost or I am one... 

When I will meet some old friend 
I will miss the love 
that died inside me long ago 
I will feel like crying but then 
I will remember that 
I left my tears 
in the pocket of my other coat 
When aunt Isri caresses my hair 
how will I tell of the thoughts 
which are hidden in my head? 

Man who carried his own corpse... 
A woman roasting flesh 
on her husband's fresh pyre 
God who warms himself 
from pyre flames in winters... 

With eyes 
which have seen such tragedies 
how will I meet 
the eyes of my childhood picture 
or those of my younger brother... 
In the evening 
when a lamp is lit on a grave 
and the sound of conch 
rises from the gurdwara 
I will remember him a lot: 
he who is now no more 
of whose death in this crowded city 
only I know... 

If someone searches my mind now 
I will be left very alone 
like a spy from a hostile land... 
It is not easy 
to live in our homes now 
Death has left the signature 
on our foreheads 
Friends have trodden our faces 
Someone else glances back 
in the mirror. 

Translated from the Punjabi by Nirupama Dutt


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