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Soubhagya Kumar Misra

Of Deferred Speech

The sun has quite a few things to say.
But it hops from a bend in the river
to a downstream bathing place
where there are no bathers,
from there to yellow Aswattha leaves,
and then to malignant tumours in ovaries.
It thus squanders its time,
and when evening comes
it sets, without having said a thing.

The river has quite a few things to say.
But it flows on and on,
trying to inscribe the sun's wasted life
on the restless paper of its waters.
Its time terminates
in the incompetence of an obese ocean.

It's always impossible
to say even an infinitesemal part
of what one intended to say.
The soil, for example,
swells with the intent to speak
and, ultimately, disintegrates.
The day's light
hovers around the stamen of flowers,
around the raised hoods of snakes,
but in the end settles on the wings of a kite
and disappears into the immeasurable void.

This, probably, is the destiny of the poet.
Before he can relieve the mule of grammar
of sacks filled with intended speech,
crows descend and sit in a circle
around the cleansed wound.

Translated by Ramakanta Rath


Afraid? Should I leave?
Heard from both sides, always—
and still no one comes near
from among those who ask and those who hear.

Do I stand in the interior dark
that I wouldn't feel fright or fear?
True, that on many disturbing mornings
I have noticed the alarm
in fresh tyre-marks on the wet earth;
just crushing the fruit in my fist
and admitting my hunger
have made me forgetful.

Such darkness that even the sky is invisible,
only innumerable stars
disclose how
they have slipped away
from that imperious cloud's hold,
the one who circles the leafless tree.

I don't wish to see anyone at all;
at a dangerous moment, certain words
are so full of arrogance
that they only strut insolently
in dark lanes.

Be seated wherever you are
by the window—
simply don't notice the sins I commit.

Translated by Jayanta Mahapatra


He didn't recognise me, he couldn't;
he asked my name and address helplessly.

My pride had been hardening.
When I insisted I wouldn't go back,
perhaps he thought me mad and laughed
aloud to the assembly of ministers.
Then perhaps good sense dawned on him;
he ordered them to see me off after lunch.

The thought of distances I had I forgot.
He looked at my hand like a doe.
The assembly hall looked like Father's hermitage.
Climbing down the steps I felt
those two doe-eyes were following me
like my friends, Anasuya and Priyambada.
I was an arrow in his quiver.
The bow having been drawn he couldn't
decide on the target --- the deer or the peacock.

So I stayed back there for long days.
The zenana was filled with the jingle of my anklets.
He would return from a hunt and wash
his face in the stream. I flowed.
like a stream in the dark of his oblivion.
I sang to his pleasure, and never dragged him
to see how a drop of my tear
dazzled secretly, lodged in the lap of sunlight.

It was early in the morning one day.
The bedroom was filled with the smell of burnt wick.
I stole away from the embrace of his deep sleep
and reached the banks of the familiar river.
I asked the fisherman to untie the boat
and unfold the net, and I asked the fish
to get ready, it was time to be caught.
And I said to the star in hiding
in the deep waters of my womb :
Come, let's play, call the lion and come.
Father's chant of glory came from a distance
like the echo of my hurt pride.

Right from the beginning I knew
he would come back and thus :
his face turned red in the hot sun,
sweat flowing down his brow and ears.
He would stop awed
at a truth known to us only partially;
he would remove his crown
and surrender himself with his bow and quiver.
And I would say I needed
only the ring and nothing else.

For A Long Lost Friend

I do not know where he is,
Whether he is in the country or abroad
If only I could hear that he is somewhere
The beginning of the evening would be less lonely
The cracked prehistoric bronze cup of the museum.

It is not important for him to be somewhere
or other
Only for my feeling of incomplete fullness
But why couldn’t he be one of the two
sitting at the dark distant corner of the bar?

After suffering many deserts, oceans, skies
The moon, stars, flowers, fruits and rains
Why do I keep on looking at his face
From various directions; the hands are restless.
I have built castles in sand, like children,
dug wells, built nests for birds
lest the Sea water would rush,
My dreams would collapse with a sudden
encounter with him.
Let it, let his noise ransack
the nest of sticks and straws.
Whatever becomes full, breaks
After the ceremony, the carpets, canopy, and arches
are taken out, people return.

He was perhaps there with them.
I would never know.
There is not even any reason for me
to know. Even then he is there
somewhere, certainly he is floating,
Sinking, and rising somewhere.

Putting my hand, coins through the
ticket counter
I see that the ticket seller
sporting a moustache like him, smiling like him
My carriage is hurtling towards
the station, like an arrow, whistling.

Translated by Aurobindo Behera

The Fisherman

Neither I, nor the Sun - who watches you -
Have got anything from anyone throughout
the day.
The sun is about to set
on the river bank, I am sitting alone
we are defeated. What about you?
How much fish have you caught,
or is the basket empty?

Your boat is floating in deep waters, halting
and floating again.
Whether or not I can grasp
the geometry of your mind,
you splash your net with a flourish.
I must admire the strength of your elbows.

After jostling through the crowd,
I found nothing.
The magician’s show was over.
Packing his boxes, straightening himself
he was about to leave.
So far I have been saying this -
whatever came on the way
I have compared with the real fish of your
imagination - neither bright nor glistening.

What I think, my gaze fixed on you,
You are perhaps able to know
But that knowing is not enough.

At least till we return, I to my home,
you to your market, then to the tavern,
Sun to the west
we will know
how it feels that we have been shortchanged;
we will suffer in pain.

We have caught each other in our nets
Therefore we are immortal.
Whether we hear the temple bell or not
Tomorrow we’ll come here again, gossip,
May be we will lose.
It would be indecent
to ask for more from the earth, water,
sky and the wind.

Translated by Aurobindo Behera


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