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Mahe Jabeen

An Act of Caution

I am determined to continue this bond

no, not with fire as our witness

we slept under that tree
the sky our witness
the earth our witness
the seven seas our witness
the seasons our witness
the new moon our witness
the moon of the fifth day our witness

we walked all over the green forest

when we cancel all distance
a final presence remainsó
he and I

silence talks
looks touch

I am always alert before him
I assume a serious posture
of caution in my words

my face becomes a flat field of no feelings
my eyes ready to shoot at sight
but somewhere something goes wrong
a smile escapes from me

A Love Poem

Right then
as poetry happens
he comes and
kisses me
trying to find metre
in the sound of his feet
I casually close my eyes
engulfs me
vague thoughts
that were taking shape
lose their consciousness
my poetic images
get mercilessly plundered
an unmasked love
kisses my naked forehead
a touch immersed in my eyes
shines provocatively
on my cheek
a look perches on the curve of my neck
and moves like a breeze
poetry freed from words
entwines us
lips publish love poems
with the authorís consent

I Remember

I remember
your coming home
in the wee hours of the morning
after putting out
posters all over town

I remember
my opening the door
and wiping the sweat off your forehead
with the end of my sari

I remember my sari slipping off my shoulder
I remember your touch

I remember warming each other
in our breath
listening to the cock that crowed

I remember the knock on the door
breaking the silence of our eyelids in embrace

I remember their dragging you away
I remember not knowing whether they
locked you up
or killed you

I remember the bitter truth
that you will not return

I remember
walking out of my door
carrying your word

Physical Geography

The moment I am told
it will burn me,
I want to embrace the sun.
Just once.

Thatís how I am.
I always want to do
whatís prohibited

I erase boundaries
The sky is my limit.

I lifted the veils of waves
of blue seas
and studied the freedom of water

I swam against the current
and joined the battle
of the waves against the ocean.

Now I have to go get the essence
of the thundering clouds
and rub them into the vocal chords
of my people.

Sometime soon
I will occupy the ocean
and sow my dreams in it.

Live Walls

The night that orders everyone to sleep
stays awake for us
Our work sings the morning song

We donít remember the warmth of our youth
in the dark
We embrace walls
We touch them with messages for revolution
We decorate them red
Walls grow young

The red words from the white walls
provoke us

We walk looking for more white walls
yet touched
We lose ourselves in the colour of beauty
for a minute
Then we become aware
and stand before the walls fully awake
We capture every wall we can find
and we passionately embrace it
to kiss what we wrote on it
Police batons kiss us instead

With our blood as witness
every wall talks

our words

Ideal Wife

I am masjid
He is mandir

We called our son Jesus

Ayodhya was never a problem to us

That it was not a problem to us
was a problem to them

They talked
my heart was wounded
They looked
my body was wounded

I learned to protect myself from the wounds

I left my caste
forgot my religion
walked into the open
dreamed of a new life

But I didnít know
that religion follows you like a shadow
Tradition hounds you like a dog

I didnít wear my tali on my neck
I didnít wear a bottu on my forehead
They decided these were terrible crimes
I did not count my husband as one of my gods
but treated him as my friend.
That was included among the strange events of the world
We avoid the life they wish for us
a quarrelling, arguing, sleeping routine
They donít understand our life of
meeting occasionally
living separately
I do not want a Nobel prize
for being an ideal wife

Intimate Relationships

The earth continues to be round.
Time stays as it was
Civilization continues to be uncivil.
Thereís nothing other than women to talk about
in the street corners of life.
The world here goes around
women and sex.
How did you write that love story?
Whoís the man in that poem?
I leave their questions
their worries
in their care and walk away.
A number of hearts entangle my feet.
One man is an artist
the other, a singer.
One is a movement
the other, a line.
That one is a poet, this one is a sculptor.
One is all mind; the other has a great heart
I donít want to lose anyone.
I donít feel like walking away from
I find what I want
between person and person.
I keep walking
under the endless sky
carrying dreams.
Beauty ahead of me.


He always did that.

I asked him to come alone
and he brought an entire spring with him.

Trees were parading outside
in the silence of the leaves.
The sky froze in the stream.
I remember vaguely
stars melting as they fell down.

Take the moonlight
and the full moon.
Just give my sun back to me.

Let this dark night pass in waiting for him.

He always did that.
He brought the songs of birds with him.

In his presence
I regained my lost childhood.
My body turned into a school of senses.
I slept hiding myself in his heart.

He woke me
mercilessly in the middle of the night
and told me how guns chased the sounds of the river
I hid him in my heart
out of fear.

He is no more.

He fell somewhere
in the recent fall
that came out of season.

Translated by Ajit Barua


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