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Nilmoni Phookan

Poetry Is For Those Who Wouldn’t Read It

A poet had stated
poetry is for those who wouldn’t read it
for the wounds in their hearts
for their fingers where thorns are embedded
for the anguish and the joy
of the living and the dead
for the outcry that trundles
down the road day and night
for the desert sun
for the meaning of death
and the vacuity of living
for the dark stones cursed by ruins
for the red patch between the lusty lips of maidens
for the yellow butterflies with wings spread on barbed wires
for the insects, the snails and the moss
for the bird flying lonely down the afternoon sky
for the anxiety in fire and water
for the mothers of five hundred million sick and starving children
for the fear of the moon turning red as blood
for each stilled moment
for the world that keeps turning
for one kiss from you
that man of dust will become dust again,
for that old saying.

Translated by Pradip Acharya

The Earth in her Magnificent Dance

We were two families sharing a single house
Time passing through the leaky roofs
Night passing water coming down in torrents
Sometimes a wagtail
Used to perch there in a dream

When you smile I weep
I smile when you weep
This is the way we exchange each other
Exchange our days our nights our sleeps our sleeplessness
Childhood and youth

Old age cravings consuming fire
What nightmare or what dream
Or a dream of nightmare
Dream continuous

What home shelter my country foreign dungeon
Open expanse of the field
Jungle bamboo-grove past present
Only the children
Wipe their tears
And light up evening’s fire-flies

Only a blooming flower
In its fragrance
Seeks heart’s expanse

Where have I come where have you gone
None of us know

They say Arjun has come back
What news of the dead child
Which gallery is displaying
The painting of Nandalal
Shiva drinking poison

We do not know none of us know
Whose boat did sink during a storm at Kurua
The shrill neigh of a mad horse
Galloping on the road

And yet would you not plant
A sapling of fragrant banana
In your garden

Sitting on the porch of sunset blooms
Grandfather used to stir up his memory
What he got what he gave to whom

The chill of the stone bridge the fire in the flint
A handful of water and mud from the river Nairanjana
A splash of blood in the grass
Copper silver gold diamond bell-metal bronze
Glass nickel lead

A big fish caught in a river of his native village
A full-blooded fish
With life-lustrous gems sparkling in the eyes
Tore the net to shreds and escaped
And the night did not end.

Roaring prayers leap up from monastic huts around the square
O this world is a serpent full of venom
And what have we been searching for
What pleasure what truth to be given to whom
What vain possession
Free expressed secret unfading
What meaning and meaninglessness
Of what scriptural paraphrase
A blind tantric worshipper

Crows and dogs in the solitary hutment
Many a thing is growing and diminishing
Man’s age man in particular man without distinction
Torn divided individual universal concrete abstract
Brittle hard dialectical unmoved intelligent kind
Cruel wicked deceitful lonely sad

Many things are growing and diminishing
Mishap lethal weapons suicide ennui
Humanist abortion books
Cancer agitation yogi comrade
Uncertainty hustle-bustle
Contract to transform life

Where is the end is this the end or beginning of what
Where is the beginning
Who will take measurement of whom
Whom do I ask what do I ask whom
If ever I wait somewhere
In the pristine darkness of a cave
On a pyre with fire extinguished

If ever I sleep somewhere
In a surgical ward of a hospital
Inside a transport vehicle
Standing naked on a cultivated field

If ever I wait somewhere
At the junction of three roads
In a resonant spring
In the sacred city of the Cosmic Dancer

Whom do I ask, whom do I ask what
Why only in darkness does germinate rice
Why does it rain
Why man is blessed with sperm and
Woman with breast milk

Where have I come where have you gone
None of us know none of us know
What time it is which month or which year
Did I ever see
The whole sky
The whole of the earth
All the faces of men dead or alive

Once at dawn
Waking up
Did I discover myself
In a battered face
Did I ever know An orange
Rosewood tree

What must be done
Are truth love and reality
Each in a flux
Pomegranate flowers burned in the teardrops
Compassion in that sacred chalice of blood
Pre-harvest moon over the cremation ground

We were two families sharing a single house
Time passing through leaky roofs
Night passing water coming down in torrents
Never say that you would never
Would never arrive there
No water in the river
No fire in water

Screaming atop her voice low and then
For what anguish what anger what joy
In her perpetual motion

Is the Earth in her magnificent dance.

 A Poem

For days I have heard
only one sound
day and night.
The burning tyre is stinking.

I have shed tears
And wiped them away
with one hand
with both hands.

In my tears
the stones have soaked,
the grass drenched in blood over there
has soaked in my tears.

The overblown surujkanti flowers have not
wilted though they are about to,
the Dichoi and Dibong have not
changed into ice though they are about to.

For days the moon has not
risen over Diroi Rangali.

You, with the wet lock of hair,
might have lit the earthen lamp
shedding bitter tears.

The burning of tyre is smelling still
I have heard that same sound again.

Will the sun appear
red or black
at tomorrow’s dawn?
you too do not know.

Translated by Niren Thakuria

Do Not Ask Me How I Have Been

Do not ask me how I have been
I haven’t ask me either
down the Kolong flows
a young, female torso
What I was last night
king hermit farmer labour
lover rebel poet
a tiger looking for waterholes
after the kill
I forgot what I was

Do not ask me how I have been
After all I am not alone
for, even after the last supper
I have not bid adieu
nor could I take my leave
I have not laughed since Auschwitz
nor cried either

And where can I go
I forgot where I came from
the day clings on to life
vomiting blood
the bones and bits
trudge along the road
with wry laughter

Do not ask me how I have been
for dogs in coital ecstasy
in shop-front showcases
at the Bhutnath grounds
the blind Kaali fancies
a girdles of male genitals.

For everyone has the same fear
even the dead
to say or not to say
to do or not to do
to open the door or the window
for, this long wait since then
Fibs lies pretence deceit
Youth cruel kind

Do not ask me how I have been
because it’s darkness now
Now even it flickers
Now even it glimmers
adversity travail disaster
and in their wake
the banner of man’s blood

For in my trousers pockets I carry
two forbidden hands
a bullet reddens in flight
in my bosom
for, it is silence all around
the terrible din of peace

Do not ask me how I have been
down the Kolong flows
a young, female torso
because, for forty-two hours
my corps lay there
on the footpath of Guwahati.

For even now I have my eyes open
even my death stares open eyed
for, in pool and puddle
in creek and lake
fish in shoals glisten

O you, my ambling horseman.

Translated by Pradip Acharya


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