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Udaya Narayana Singh

An Old Love

A very old love of mine
appeared today and stood before me
asking for the price of each of my songs
which I had, long ago, without her asking
handed over to her up to the last line ---
gifted away to her name.

From behind a few year old road
appears my old love
and engages me in a question-answer streak;
but when did I learn at all
how to ask queries or to find a quip
in the school of nature ?

Yet she won't listen to me,
my old love ---
ever ready
to punish me for each passing day.

She knows now, my old love,
I have power no more in my arms
to sing what I could've said in words;
knows that my tale of love is now
contained between textbooks and pages of history.

Having shrunk, my old love,
is asking me the hardest of queries ---
It tells me --- Use all the old words in sentences !
Warns --- Your syntax is at fault.
Add it, repair it, reprove my dear!
Says --- Check if all what you say is true or false !
Asks me to explain, elaborate
on the point she is making !

But I too have become a lot cleverer,
eye-sight no more unclear as before;
steps do not trip any more
forcing my hand to look for her support;
eyes can now read
the pain of the meter octave;
ears can measure now
the celibacy of a pure symphony
my blood has now known
the planned barbarity of algebra.
A lot cleverer have I become;
my writ now runs large and far.
I speak with discretion now !
Even when I do, never in the past tense
My steps move up to the future of the doom ---
as yet unknown unheard nor seen!
I think very little now;
even when I do
I think about facts, ficts, figures of speech !
My philosophy moves towards a feeling
neither stated nor translated as yet;

All other things
fade out
in a haze, every thing ---
the river-bank the hide-out across the cane-field
the hired labour in the wilderness
and the old love !


From under her yellowish grubby clobber
to Jhauli, five words gives Hiriya
early morning
when he goes seed-sowing.

One he spends
sprinkling upon a burnt insipid potato
while eating
flamed by a searing sun
sitting under a long-pepper tree.

A half he spends
in the afternoon,
when Bhusahu Malik,
having spotted Jhauli saving himself
standing under the long-pepper tree
from the tremulous skeins of rain,
kicks him thrice under the belly.

One and half he expends as a routine,
at Chamartoli
in Chuhara's liquor shop,
while fuddling up a guzzle on credit.

And the remaining
seven into two fourteen words
he saves to buy

At night
he does not have a single word left
with him
to place on Hiriya's heart.
And without words,
Hiriya doesn't open her heart.

The whole night ---
Jhauli remains frozen on the courtyard
under the fog-drip.


Once you decide to call the `moon' `luna',
and begin to address `stars' as `night-queens',
the meaning of night changes for me!
One only had to call `lustre' `dawn'
and rename `sun' as `sol',
and the blistering lights would blind your eyes!
When you learn to describe a `jungle' as a `parkland',
and take `grasses' as 'sacred leaves',
pronunciation of all mantras would come easy to you.
Someone called `hard labour' as relentless attempt
and named the cobbling of odd words as `samaasa',
and the broken heart got repaired !

Now I have decided to dump all known words
in the garbage behind the courtyard, and
will change your name, too, as `Seasonna' ---
so that my lady luck changes, too.

Life is only for those who live it ---
For one who lives and changes ordinaire, attire n' prices
For one who'd live n' change views, mood n' indices !
This life will now be of yours and mine ---
We who pretend as someone else and live on
full moon and new moon and constellation of stars,
depending heavily on the arithmetic of change !

let me rename myself as `Dushyant',
and you be my `Shakuntala!'
Where's Saint Kanva, your father,
and the tender deer?
I would keep on worrying about
only these two,
throughout the play,
in all the acts
that would follow !

Read Me Your Poems

You took me to your new house,
your old lover ---
down the valley, upon the hills;
You didn't know the way yourself
'cause you had to ask a passing cloud.
I still recall the smile on his face
when he found me with you.

I don't blame the clouds
nor the stars, particular constellations,
geometric designs on paper,
or calculations of destiny
that have conspired to separate us.
I still recall the crater,
near which we met the last time.

I don't blame the crater,
nor the dry pointed gravels ---
planted on earth only to test her patience,
which together with uneven stones were making
the most obscene gestures at me.

I don't blame the stones,
nor the geography of darkness
that had left no seat for us to sit,
nor had the provision of a bed
for us to lay, found a structure.

I don't blame the signals
which we left far behind,
sent by the sun and the earth,
nor the sign of stars
nor the fear of separation -
all of which together conspired
not to let us speak
those memorable words.

that do not emerge from memories,
nor do they live there;

that would have bound us together
with pure and plural feelings
in a nameless relationship,
in a kinship not yet defined;

that I always wanted to speak to you
but I was losing grips on -
like the bygone moments
I always wanted to spend with you.

The silence, however, was stifling.

I don't blame the silence,
nor those inscriptions on the wall,
the foreign letters I hadn't learnt to read -
the private hill of papers that bore your signature,
the piled up poems of yours
which almost filled the crater,
mounting lines of poems on which
I always wanted to climb but couldn't.

I don't blame the lines
between which I wanted to read you,
nor the meaning between your eyes and eye-brows,
the void between your lips
the unspoken dialect
because you have no copyright on treachery.

You took me to your new house,
your old lover ---
down the valley, upon the hills;
I have now come back to you
having learnt your language,
burning with a desire the clear the hill ---
to read all your poems, lines, inscriptions;
I now know how to read your signature.
But why is it
that you are showing me such mundane things like
sand, cement, door-frames, tiles and crowbars ?
Why is it
that you are telling me all about
the kitchen in the making,
the closets on the wall,
the direction of your bedroom,
and the false-roofing ?

Why don't you read me a few poems
in your own language
which is mine, too,
and let me understand them ?


I don't know why
moods of floating letters in sky
have become so bitter !

I don't know whether
the fierce wave of fire-spitting weather
can make them better !

Can it make this clear,
that the poet was not to blame
that all this was a game
of the earth,
So that the shapes don't appear
to them and sign
in delight feminine
So that they could neither
put on a novel
garb of meaning
Nor could they be clouds and revel ---
Rain and dance in joy unceding !

Translated by the poet

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