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Rajendra Kishore Panda

Living Is Also An Act Of Violence

Living itself is also an act of violence—
the tender air
has to move along
when one breathes in and breathes out.

A germ becomes a martyr
inside scented soap suds,
the earth bears some weight,
a few crops are lost from the fields,
the famous fresh fruit bears the marks of teeth.

A palmful of water
is stolen from the river's flow
to the burning throat,
Some cotton, some silk
is worn from the earth.
For a time
both the beautiful empress
and the ugly ogress
become absentminded.

It comes to such a pass
that even the earth complains,
so unbearable is the burden.

Living is also an act of violence
in some form or other.

If it isn't, what else ?
The blood is eager to flow out
even from a crack somewhere,
thunder and calcium wish
to erupt from the bones,
genealogy emerges from the genitals,
and the soul-mynah wants to fly away
from the body's limits.

something like a centipede or a spiky fruit
slithers to life in both the palms
during a handshake.

One feels like a porcupine
when one stretches one's limbs
for a hug,
so much so
that at the meeting of friends
even one another's body-presence repels.

Like birth or death,
living is also
an act of violence
in this warring world.

Translated by Jayanta Mahapatra

At Any Point Of Time I Could Be Arrested

At any point of time
I could be arrested
on charges of treason.
Democracy can turn
an assembly of kirtan singers
into an army.

At any point of time
I could be dismissed from my job
to have dishonoured the chair,
because these eyes are not coloured blue.

The eternal demon within me
does not take the seductress's hint
in the court of Sudharma.
Just because I said —
I have an equal claim on nectar
I could be beheaded for heresy
at any point of time.

Democracy can turn a kiss into an electric shock.
Even this time Dhritarashtra's bones
can shatter and break
when he embraces the iron-Bhima.

To suffer silence is rather preferable
when one converses with poetry.
No, thank you,
I don't need an interpreter,
please do not compel me.

Once I have accepted the sky
as the banner
why should I owe allegiance
to any other ?

With open courage
I have misappropriated every possible silence
to build a word at this moment,
which I will return with compound interest.

Whereas the entire creation
could be broken, ground, melted
and welded back to make a pair of handcuffs
at the ironsmith's,
especially for me.

At any point of time I could be arrested,
I could be exiled from this country-of-exile,
I could be identified from the crossed-boned-skull.
At any point of time I could be punished
for the heinous crime
for revealing my identity as a 'man', not a 'citizen'.

At any point of time I could be suddenly arrested
for having committed the crime of uttering the very words,
"At any point of time I could be arrested."

Democracy can turn an apprehension into an event.

Translated by Jayanta Mahapatra


Where, indeed, is that statelessness ?

Someone who read you at Prayag
nearly twenty years ago
has died one of these days.

what was the title
of the detective novel you wrote ?

The strict, disciplinarian teacher
who used to correct my essays
in red ink during my childhood
was offering me a bribe today
for a job for his unemployed son.

When I look at the world of struggle and exploitation
I feel—
each poem is a treachery.

Karl !
My pen is as useless as a torn genital.

The colour of rice is a cruel white,
white as a skeleton
and darkness
still appears black.

Whereas the blow of a hammer
breaks a sickle—
the seeds of the high-yielding red paddy
you found out once
yield more of gray weed everywhere.

At the climax
there will certainly be
some solution
along with the clues—
What was the theme of your detective novel,
Karl ?

The one who read you at Prayag
has to write a speech today
for the minister's use,
in an expensive seminar on your ideas,
where intellectuals will gather
in the air-conditioned, joy-sorrow-controlled huge hall.

If I stand now as your antithesis
would the marchers come,
would I be stabbed by a weapon at this moment ?
Who would be betrayed to death
by his own betrayal---
the man in the poet,
or the poet in the man ?
Would no one's feet ever wobble
if one kept always to the left ?

"Have you read Karl, Sir," I asked
the teacher who taught me when I was a child.
He fumbled for sometime,
this ancient guru of mine.
His unemployed son said :
"Karl has got a job, Sir,
in a branch office of the chamber of commerce."

Which Karl ?
Which race do you belong to, Karl—
what's your surname ?

The one who read you
twenty years ago at Prayag
now remembers you.

There is faith, Karl !
Despite everything, there is faith,
even if there is no red ink
the word 'revolution' can be written
in a new essay, without errors.

Once again you have to be Marx,
Karl !

Translated by Jayanta Mahapatra

The Seedbody

Suddenly one morning
light gets dimmer and dimmer.
In a moment
there spreads a dense dark forest
shuddering in cold,
and then it tries to shrink its expanse
gathering everything—
the tigress, the she-deer, the river
the nude dryad, the she-bird, the female serpent
foliage, flowers and fruits.
The forest tries to hide somewhere :
in a cave
in a palm inside a magic-box.
And it grieves in silent wails.

Senses of sight, colour and water,
of touch, smell and sound
and the craze to ascend and expand
have driven all warmongers.
A giant demon
has started raving wildly
in water, earth and sky
in mind, ego and conscience,
to sack and plunder
whatever comes his way.

Someone has to stand up
face to face.

Look, here I take your cause,
dear forest,
do not cry.
Come, enter me
and, with all your force,
press me into the soil
like a seed.
Allow me to grow roots there
and let the tender root-tip of mine
approach, explore and pierce
the layers of sand, mud and stones.

Take me deeper and deeper
to such a point where,
through me,
Man would touch, tease and provoke
the womb-core fire
of the violent volcano
throbbing underground.
Let my seedbody get tickled and aroused
let it laugh and cry
let it crack and burst open...

And then
without any shoot
without any stems or branches anywhere
let the entire sky
all on a sudden
abound in fire-leaves, fire-flowers
fire-thorns and fire-fruits...

Let that sky remain
always at hand's reach—
of one and all.

Translated by Rabindra K Swain

On Return To The Beloved City

'A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid'.

You are not 'defeat',
it is only a disguise
(which is worse than defeat !).

Look, I have come back to you,
denying the lure of a larger world,
wounds of my heart assuaged,
I have returned,
receive me with a smile,
tell me, please,
where have you hidden so long
the fluttering flag of victory and friendship.

I can't believe it,
you are lying like a junkhill
of dead iron,
rust oozing in reddish trickles
with last night's dews.
"Blood ! Blood !"--- cries the emotional young poet
and city innocent starts scanning
to trace the source of bleeding
to discover the naked wound.

I had built you, brick by brick,
in austere devotion;
you are not dead,
not even seriously wounded,
I know.
Brushed a little, you will glitter
sharpened a little, your edges will quiver.
Surely you are not 'defeat'
you are not your ruins,
it is only a pretence.

I know,
you can strip the sky of moon, of stars
simply by flinging a dark veil,
you can bring about at will
unending lightlessness.
But this lightlessness
is surely not the same thing
as darkness, my beloved city !
returned am I, healed of the wounds,
I am the lover, second to none,
receive me with a smile
put off that guise
always remain worth my dream
glitter for ever.

You cannot hide yourself
at the summit,
where I have set you,
it is the acme of being :
the ultimate abode.
There is no such thing as decay
no ruins, no defeat
at this summit.
Lay even a corpse here
and it would throb with life.

My beloved city,
offer, like a flower-vase,
the visage of pure and fresh flowers
of pleasant hues and smells
to one and all.
And if countless spears of blazing thunders
are hurled all around,
become a thunder-vase
to receive serenely the array of thunders
like trophies.

Woman of charged iron, City-goddess,
take to your arms the defeated Purandar,
reveal your red-hot image
and make the sky burst
into new star-sparks---
seven crore seventeen lakh seven thousand seventyseven
in number !

Translated by Rabindra K Swain

The Corpse

When you face a corpse
you cannot but forgive Man.

Flies will swarm first,
maggots next.
Do as you wish, but soon.

You may spit
you may kick and kick
you may scoop chunks of its limbs
and hurl them before
long-fasting vultures.

You may plant a tender kiss
on its foot or forehead.
You may even keep him seated
for some time
on the peacock-throne.

Nose upraised,
here you stand
a five-cubit-tall male.
a corpse lies supine on the ground.
And yet
all have died except that corpse,
does it seem so ?

Hurry up, then,
carrying the dagger within a bouquet
move fast, kneel,
pierce and pierce its heart.

Once you're sure  a corpse is a corpse,
you cannot but love it.

It is rumoured now
that a blessed gandharva
is coming down
to enter its body,

Do as you wish, but soon.

You cannot but pity Man
once you see a man
standing beside a corpse.

Translated by Rabindra K Swain

To My Body

Coming out of you
I look at you.

You keep dancing.

Even while bending to pick up a feather
from the ground,
you keep dancing.

Twisted into eight haunches,
even while embracing
the earth or a lissome woman
you keep dancing.

Each cloud different
for each of the peacocks within you.

The earthquakes,
the imminent eruptions of volcanoes
get postponed
at the love-lashes of your dancing feet.

If now you are moved by some Kandarpa
then by some Daksha;
each of your mudras is unique.

You are made of the best :
you are made of the worst.

While innocently touching the thorns
you draw them inside,
draw the ache deep into yourself
and caress the purulent wounds
with your fingers.
One feels so moved,
my dear body,
it seems, milk of happiness
fills in the points of pus.

Once in love with you
it hardly matters
if you are leprous or syphilitic;
lotus-smell or fish-smell,
everything is inhalable;
even the body within the body
becomes all touch
and then it hardly matters
if it conceives
or turns into a stone for eternity.

Coming out of you
I keep looking at you.
You lie in state
in an apparently still dance
on a pyre;
around it some mournful shadows.

 I feel lost.
Wait, I'm coming back, I'm coming back.

Declare it to the world—
the dance is not yet over.

Translated by Rabindra K Swain


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