A Thousand Rivers
Came like the hills.
Black faces, white beards, burning eyes
Piercing the day and the night
Kicking off the sleep
With the annoyance at putting off the blanket.
The earth trembled with their wild jumps
The roars of the lions and the tigers
Lined up like ants.
Curse to inequality,
Curse always to the arrogance of the rich.
As if millions of snakes came out of their homes
And spread out in the village
Descending on the patal
Leaping towards the skies.
On the roads, in the lanes
By the side of the fencing plants
In the courtyard of the host
On the seat of the master
Everywhere my people
standing like water.
I Saw My Beloved
They caught the sun and Moon the night before killing
and locked them up in the money-box.
Rolled the Indian flag, stuffed in her mouth
and snatched away her speech.
Sword in hand tens of them rushed at her
and picked her up like a fruit.
She wished she could spit right on their face
but, faceless they were, the ones that came.
She was a prey held by the chains of their lust
which surged and devoured like the seven seas.
Watchful torches led her out of sight
as she fought the net the hunters had cast.
Though her tears flowed, just like a stream.
no one’s thirst was quenched.
Pieces of flesh strewn on the river-bank
and the clothes she wore were mere shreds.
Caught in a steel-grip her creeper-life
bled to death and hit the earth.
Demons of darkness played for stakes, played
with marbles that were her eyes.
They weighed her Tali, drunk, they tottered
and raved about the pawn broker’s price.
Trampling on the petals of her body
they carried her away somewhere.
That day I saw my beloved.
A red cobra on the anthill face,
its hood moved to and fro.
Silver daggers bloomed in lightless eyes
and grew to touch the sky.
Ganga and Yamuna flowed red through her dark body
and flames leaped from her mouth.
Snakes with venom on their breath within the town
and all over the body patches of white.
Tigers, lions and cheetahs everywhere –
which of the brutes tore her flesh?
Why are the trees, mist and rocks standing up?
Whose voice is it that fills the air?
Silver daggers set out on a march
and throng the streets of India.
A parade of rags, rags dredged
from the waters of a bloody pool.
Translated by Ramachandra Sharma
I Must Have A Word With You
I must have a word with you
O cactuses and thorny plants;
I must put a question to the moon who borrows his light :
I should free the beautiful rose from thorns.
Wells are waterless and ministers speechless
Constables move about like thorny bushes,
O world, I must have a word with you.
From the white clouds which crowd like political speeches
Streams are not swelled
And green is not nourished.
Who has stopped the timely rain ?
Who has slashed the stars with rainbow ?
Who is hiding the sun so that darkness may bloat and bulge ?
Mango and jackfruit have been robbed
By those who are delivering souls
Which are neither male nor female.
O world, I must get to know you
And so I must have a word with you.
Translated by Sumatheendra Nadig