Kavitayan
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G. S. Shivarudrappa


A Question And An Answer

“Father, why don’t you have a thumb
on your right hand?” Out of curiosity
the little child asked one day.

“It was offered to my God, son. That’s why
I miss that finger, that’s all.”

“Offered to God?
What kind of God was he to ask for your thumb?
Surely, He must be a very cruel one. Didn’t you feel
anything as you gave it away, Father?”

“You shouldn’t speak like that, son. God, after all, is God.”

“True, father, true. God didn’t ask for your life
instead of your finger. I must thank Him.
Maybe, your God is rather a good God.”

How shall I tell this child that
I didn’t give just my thumb but the whole of me?
Even to this day I haven’t understood
how much I gave or how much I retained.

Translated from by O.L. Nagabhushana Swamy
 

Under the Clock

Who knows since when it is working---
This clock;
Seconds, minutes, hours--- the hands mark
Night and day.
Hourly, half-hourly, rings its moan
While the snow rolls in the veins;
Snow or sunshine ( does it matter ? )
The stars roll in the blue vault
Undisturbed.

Ceaselessly the river flows to the ocean.
But the dark thirst of the salt waves
Is never slaked
For all the sweetness in the river flows.
The cremation ground is thick with the ashes of burnt lives;
Over a hundred graves the green grass grows !
In the forts and battlements half-ruined
Echoes
The bat's leathery wing;
While underneath,
Excavating the remnants of lost cities,
The archaeologist's spades
Ring.
In the dead mid-dark he sat bolt upright;
In the darkness' roar;
And heard
The gnashing of white teeth in the Dark Waters---
Tick, tick, tick,
The wristwatch near the pillow
Shattering his bones.

The dawn-wind and the cock-crow called for a morning walk.
But now the path of bloom and bud is over;
The stark, bare avenue awaits him
With a guard of honour by the skeleton-trees.
He has walked over the dead leaves,
The dry leaves,
And now the shadow falls
Of the sixtieth milestone.

Leaving his walking-stick in the corner
He stood before the mirror :
Head stamped with winter, cheeks sunk, eyes dull---
His own portrait !
On the wall is hung his photo
Taken in the gold light of youth.
It is on that the clock is ticking,
The huge clock, tick, tick, tick.

It is a great temptation to stand before the mirror
Plucking out the grey hair one by one;
Or better, to dye it black,
And well combed,
Walk the streets in the old suit new pressed.
But the radio blares :
      "Think of the Lord, O fool, think of the Lord."

He slumped into the chair engrossed
Shutting out the tick of the clock
But his little grandchild came lisping
'Grandpa!'
At that sweet sound
The golden dawn light flashed
Brightening the evening skies.


Translated by K.S. Yadurajan

 







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