Varnamala : Contemporary Oriya Poetry




Armed from head to toe,  
the two warriors are arraigned against each other.  
Some anger enlarges  
the dimensions of their narrow necks.  
Battle drums announce  
a face-to-face contest.  

Hunting for insects has ceased.  
Seeking refuge from hungry cats and hungrier men  
has also ceased.  
As battle cries rend the air  
and carnage is due to commence,  
the villagers leave behind their long history of cowardice,  
and gather here.  

The warriors do not know  
what this war is about,  
or who is whose enemy.  
They do not comprehend  
the clamour that rushes on this dumb village  
like a bellowing sea.  

The weapons they wear  
strain their nerves.  
And, suddenly, their blood is on fire,  
feathers almost fly off their flesh,  
and each cell of the body overflows with hatred.  
The war is only a moment away,  
and, when it arrives,  
to kill to be killed will be all the same.  

Evening descends  
on a sky smeared with blood.  

It's all over  
in a moment.  
Darkness erases all  
the day's colours, the day's blood.  
A day ends.  

Carrying a handful of meat  
that has lost its voice  
the crowd returns.  
The village is once again enclosed  
by silence  
breathing like an abandoned child.  

Translation :
Ramakanta Rath  


On the mythic enchantress's open navel fall  
the stars and the dew all through the night, silently.  

On the steps of the temple's pond,  
on the large shoulders of the wise Ganesa  
are washed the greasy patchwork garments  
of tradition and history.  

Like the blind whimsical gods, or sometimes  
like a sudden rush of wind, two or four bats  
fly out from inside the dark along  
the sharp lines of an indifferent sky  
towards an uncertain tomorrow.  

The long, unending afternoon comes to an end.  
From some faraway place comes creaking  
the sound of the bullock-cart's wheels.  
It seems as though in a moment  
time would stop—
over the distant untilled fields,  
in the evening's lonely darkness.  

Who calls whom—  
so affectionately, full of desire and grief, greedily  
(in this life, in the other life) ?  
The smile on the water's broad and shining face,  
like the gesture of a sudden wish, pulls  
the temple's shadow and the rising moon  
together, lovingly.  

The long day ends, waiting.  
The leprous beggar-woman begins to think—
if only some poor helpless worshipper should arrive  
before she left the place  
with her day's last weary yawn.  

Translation :
Bibhu Padhi   

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