Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Mamang Dai

Aug 23, 2020 | Poetry | 0 comments

When we needed someone

When we needed someone
I cried for the shaman, seeking the words
of generations to accompany us,
Where are all the shamans?
We needed someone
to mend these bones, lift this arm,
dress this shoulder, spine, collar, with fine ornaments
and place a spell under these feet
to heal this heart,
and reclaim life and splendor.

The strong, black beetle is an uncle
visiting on the back of the wind
this rainy morning.
No, words are not dead.
Rustling through the trees
the shamans are in the garden,
their craft is not ended,
recounting each weathered moment
like beads, in a long conversation
to win mastery over time.

We meet here every day—
shamans, prayers, spirits.
The bees bring me a message:
This is for your protection,
Remember, and believe
the truth about land—-
rainwater, sleep.

The truth about love—-
eating flowers and thorns.

The truth about life—
eating flowers and thorns.


Hello, Mountain

Every morning when the forest wakes
The canopy goes for a walk
Hailing the sun, courting the wind
Discussing fruit and weather

The idle moss turns to velvet,
Branches make signs,
Who says there is no time?
The only thing we are given is Time

Chattering life, high above
Babel of tree dwellers,
For a seed falling so far down
to rise again,
Time is a given, a foothold
for the hunger of a weed
Colour, scent, camouflage
And the grass that never sleeps

Shooting up
to meet the gaze of the mountain.
How are you, mountain?
Is everything alright
Is the earth growing old,
birds flying away, trees falling?

Green Mountain wearing a rain hat
are there caves and bats in your bosom,
wedged in your folds a hum of voices celebrating
the anniversaries of birth and time

Is a raindrop growing into a river,
A rock into a jewel?


After Gabo 

(A lockdown poem)

No one can say it like you said it
About love and magic,
Solitude, and growing old

Here it’s white butterflies
Whirling around in the garden
And the scent of bitter almond
Is the scent of orange blossom

You know, love is a virus too
Racing across continents and oceans
Jumping ship,
Landing up in ports and cities
so eager, enchanted,
by the banks of another river
in the time of quarantine

There are lines and lines
of communication
Jostling through a virtual pandemic
A sadness named, unnamed,

Fermina Daza, is it true
Everything is in our hands?

Outside my window
Red hibiscus, red.
If the aim is to survive
It’s time to weigh anchor again

For how long, who knows?

Our old life is gone.
It’s another summer
And the pages are turning
In a chronicle of things foretold

One battered flag in a time of lockdown.
Despite contrary winds
A battered flag is fluttering,
You’ll see it here and there
In the direction of the future,
Salt water, caresses,
Buoyant as the hearts of old lovers
Young enough to believe—
in forever.

In memoriam

In the past many things happened.
It rained, and we plunged into the river
our hearts in our mouths,
ready to turn into a current.

Time was a river
wearing a headdress of ice,
A flashing summer
with the face of the long cloud
camouflaged with light,
bending low,
when a small town suddenly fell asleep
as the sun dipped down
one afternoon.

Stronger than illness or injury
I thought we would grow old together.
How can it be that we will not visit
those winding places wet with rain,
when there is more to find out
about freedom and love.

In secret we dreamt of new beginnings,
of work we would do,
who knows—-
Time is a narrative of finding words,
losing them,
to find them again in another place
waiting with the wind and stars
in the mountains where we were born,
for the short walk together
to retrieve those stones with names:
Adi Pasi, Siang, Wakro, Liromoba.


Mamang Dai 

Mamang Dai 

Mamang Dai is a poet and novelist from Arunachal Pradesh. A former journalist and President, Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, Dai’s first publication Arunachal Pradesh- the hidden land (2003) received the state Verrier Elwin Award.
She also worked with World Wide Fund for nature in the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspots programme, and was Member, Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (2011-20017).  In 2011 Dai was awarded the Padma Shri, (literature and education), and the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2017, for her book The Black Hill, in English.
Dai lives in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India.


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