Varnamala : Contemporary Oriya Poetry

 
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RAMAKANTA RATH
 

MURDER ON THE AGENDA


I know there is blood on my hands.  
I further know my hands will be stained  
with much further blood.  
But to stand amidst the crowd  
and throw bouquets on tyrants  
was not my intention of coming here.  

They will die someday. So will I.  
And therefore, the restlessness of the night of unceasing rains  
instils its wildness  
into each of my days and each of my nights.  
My life, clearly, is contingent on their death.  
I shall no doubt die of the shame  
of continuing to live unless they die quickly.  

Unless they die quickly,  
how shall I explain to the moon  
the reason why my laughter has become a grimace ?  
How shall I explain to that faraway woman  
the reason why I turned into a stone?  

If they kill me, they will surely manufacture a legend  
to prove to people  
that my death had become so necessary  
that, as soon as I fell, voices in the sky  
spoke, loudly and clearly,  
their thanksgiving for the assasins.  
Whether people believe them or do not  
is for them an irrelevent matter.  
They have never cared to understand  
why citizens of this country pray everyday  
that this life of theirs should be the very last  
on this planet.  

If, on the contrary, I kill them  
it will be unnecessary to think up a story.  
Even their own widows, in the course of their lament,  
will never, never incite their children  
to avenge the murder of their fathers.  

And as soon as they die, I too shall go away.  
But where? I have absolutely no idea.  
Maybe that woman's face would lead me on like a star  
to some place where the sword I had carried  
to kill myself  
would at once begin preparing itself  
for someone else's murder. 
  

Translation :
The Poet 

A REQUEST TO THE DEAD


I offer this water to you,  
my father, grandfather and great grandfather,  
and to you, soldiers and generals  
who fought for us and who fought against us  
and who were killed by this war.  

I stand here, on this battlefield,  
and give this water and this rice to you—
you must be hungry and thirsty.  

Ask for nothing  
other than water and rice,  
don't add to the long list  
of things I was not able to give;  
be content with this water and this rice  
and return  
to wherever you came from.  

Consider this: the years  
I have spent with you were many;  
and this: it will not be long  
before I join you wherever you sojourn.  
Had I possessed things  
other than this water and this rice,  
would I have denied them to you  
and asked you to return ?  
Whatever I have  
other than this water and this rice  
are surely not appropriate offerings  
for departed souls.  

True, I traverse everyday of my life  
with this baggage of witheld things,  
but whenever I look at them  
I disintegrate and cry out  
with a voice that rends  
the heavens  
and the underworld.  
Tears fill my eyes  
when I make this offering  
of water and rice.  
I know, when my turn comes,  
I shall have neither.  

Look, the sun has almost set.  
Now, go back to wherever you came from  
with the little water and the little rice I gave you.  
Look, I myself do not have  
either any water or any rice.  
Look, I have nothing except the few things  
I didn't give  
and kept with myself.
   
   
Translation :
The Poet   

THE SOLDIER IN EXILE


Sometimes I wish I should return,  
throw this body to the ground before the judges  
installed in all the marketplaces of my country,  
and tell them, come, hang it  
on your gallows of prefabricated words.  

Sometimes I wish I should stop hiding among rocks,  
and feeding on the sunlight and on the wind,  
sail across the ocean's nights and days.  
I would then unload all my bones  
into the arms of the soil smiling at my homecoming  
and tell it I have no further part  
in its future.  

I however hesitate.  
The shores of my country would be inaccessible  
with stones dislodged by vengeance and counter-vengeance  
and with putrid weeds of mangled interpretations,  
all its green and proud forests would have been burnt  
by loud proclamations of conquests that never occurred,  
its body bleeding,  
its railways and roadways and harbours shattered,  
enacampments of imported mercenaries  
all along the banks of its moist eyes.  

All this notwithstanding,  
I sometimes wish I should return,  
but some other times I do not wish I should return.  
Sometimes it seems all my love is a moon  
rising every evening and setting every dawn  
in the sky above wherever I exist.  

   
Sometimes, however, I wish I should return.
   
   
Translation :
The Poet   

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