TRANSLATED FROM THE MALAYALAM BY K. SATCHIDANANDAN
Like a hapless mother
Waiting in hiding for someone
To pick up, offer a peck and carry home
The baby she had abandoned
Fresh with blood from her womb,
I lay my poem naked on the street
And wait, listening to its first cries
Until it becomes yours,
Hoping that one day
She might recognise me
And love me or curse me.
I live inside the cold, fetid,
mossy language of a cemetery.
Fresh dark dead bodies
arrive here every day.
At night they slightly raise their heads,
unsure they are dead like the dead.
Darkness will scare some
whose memory is still alive.
The corpses of the lynched
at times turn to the other side
groaning as if their bones
on one side ache still.
Some eye-sockets fill
with tears thinking of
their children who have
It is from those sockets that
tulips spring in the cemetery.
The women raped and killed
don’t even look at the dead men,
afraid they will turn them into
hard rocks with no springs within.
It is the voices the dead hear
that the living call silence;
and the light they see, night.
Leaves’ murmur is their speech.
The scent of flowers and
the chirping of birds scare them.
They have seen fangs on roses
and blood on birds’ beaks.
They feel the laughter of the living
is a downpour that drowns them.
Mushrooms are born from them,
but they are far from edible.
Don’t insist that the dead should
respond to everything around them;
don’t approach them with your
microphones; they fear news.
The only hope of my rotting
patriotic flesh is the happy day
when I too will be lifeless like them.
Let none pray for my survival,
for, death frees us from every border,
it is truly international.
This cemetery is my motherland:
The only country shaped like a skull,
whose national flag is black
and whose national anthem
is but an endless scream.
The Aztecs of Mexico believe that
Butterflies are the souls of the dead:
From the youth killed in battles to
The mothers dead in labour.
My tribe believes that the borders of nations
Have been painted with the blood of
The martyrs of border-wars and
The tears of their mothers. And that God has
No caste nor religion, no gender nor race.
Our nation’s border is the sky. It has
Neither rulers nor subjects. Everyone knows
Every language. Woodpeckers speak Spanish
As proficiently as the crows speak Malayalam.
Here anyone can love anyone else, consensually:
Grass can love the worm, the sparrow, moonlight,
Angels can love humans, and memories, dreams.
All doors here lie wide open, for cats,
Humans and comets. There is no divide
Between past and present or future. Grammar
Does not stand guard to them.
The rite is simple when one of us dies:
We go on shedding leaves until another is
Born in the tribe. And then spring will come
Without even ringing the doorbell.
We are the most ancient tribe on earth,
And the smallest. Our sign is a letter
Carved on a parrot’s wing. We believe
That we will be there as long as there are
Parrots and alphabets on the planet. We
Will be there wherever five people laugh
Together, as one among them, And
Where one person weeps alone.
THE BEAST OF WORDS
I am a beast of words.
Be warned: any moment
I may pounce upon you.
Eyes are the part I relish most,
Eyes that look deep into the heart of things.
I walk slowly, silently,
On the soft paws of letters,
Hiding myself, leaving
Only my pugmarks.
In the dense woods of language
I crouch and await my prey.
In the half-lit jungle,
An experience suddenly makes its appearance
Looking for words.
I catch hold of it, bite and shake
And chew it until only the bones are left.
At times, the blood may splatter
And stain your face too, with
All its hues and smells.
The meat may stick to your mind,
As memories and images.
Then I retreat,
Hide in the dark, until
The next experience arrives,
Looking for a dictionary that
Lights up the night.
Joy is a narrow space
between two sorrows.
A space lit by the morning sun
where a sunflower is in bloom
amidst fresh blades of grass,
that two people can hardly occupy,
and may be a pale butterfly too.
You can dance there with
movements and gestures
possible in that narrow space.
And sing in a low voice.
Can even laugh mildly
tickling the baby -sunlight.
But there is little time.
You know it too.
The sun will soon grow harsh,
sorrows will squeeze you from both sides.
You may even get trapped there
Never able to get out.
When the whole body bleeds,
you may suspect that joy is but a snare.
It’s not all wrong, but
you were able to see
the flower, and dance.
But, pain, it is eternal.
and its space, infinite.
Like the abyss that
once trapped the earth.
Also, read Naked & Other Poems by Francisca Paz Rojas translated from the Italian by Brenda Porster, and published in the Antonym: