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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.

The Newspaper and Other Poems— Nikhilesh Mishra

Aug 17, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM ODIA BY THE POET

 

 

A poem can’t do a damn thing

 

Maybe, someday you will read my poem.

The puppy lying on the road

And exhaling its last breath,

Or the fairy who lost her way

And was raped

Last night by three men,

Or an unknown someone

Whose childhood has been trapped

In the prison of prolonged nightmares –

My poem will return

As the last syllable of their silences.

 

It will return

And at 6:45 am

It will knock on your door

And will keep knocking until

The door opens.

‘But there’s no one here!’

 

It will return

And jump

Straight into your morning

Tea-cup, you wouldn’t know.

You will stir your tea

With two teaspoons of sugar.

My poem will dissolve in your blood.

 

Then you will go to the temple,

Or to the fish market

Or to some fair to sell

Yourself.

 

No, I don’t think you will ever

Read my poem.

 

But every evening

While coming back

To yourself, on an endless road,

Trying too hard to reach,

You will realize,

One day,

That you have turned into

The last line of my poem.


 

Chhotu 

 

What is it to him if tomorrow

This government goes down,

If the petrol price goes up,

If suddenly tonight

Our earth stops revolving around the sun,

What is it to him?

 

He will come again tomorrow morning,

Putting on the same old loose t-shirt,

And the smile,

Like that of a tired God.

 

An old mother,

(More old! Tune it properly!)

And an unmarried sister at home –

He might have, or might not.

Are you imagining

A drunkard father as well?

Why be so sentimental?

 

They will make art films about him.

He won’t watch them,

Ever.

He won’t be able

To watch even a discarded dream

Easily available in any market.

 

He will only watch hunger,

Hunger the question,

Hunger the answer,

Hunger the dream,

And hunger

When the dream comes true.

 

He will come again tomorrow morning,

To fill empty glasses,

To put them on your table,

To congratulate himself

(Although you know it’s a lie)

That he isn’t as hungry as you.


 

The Newspaper 

 

The newspaper usually comes

Early in the morning,

Everyday.

 

In my childhood though,

It used to be the evening when

The newspaper finally arrived,

Jeje used to wait

Eagerly,

‘As if you have plans to join politics!’

Jejema used to make faces.

 

The old hawker guy who brought

Newspaper to my place everyday,

A truck hit him yesterday near the crossing.

Today, the newspaper hasn’t come.

No way to know

If the old man has made it

To the newspaper or

Not.

 

I have sold all the old newspapers

To the kabaadiwala yesterday,

Sold the already-stale 2G Spectrum,

Dadri and IPL, sold

The smile of the baby with that diaper,

All the fairness of the girl

Who attained it

In just 3 weeks using that cream,

Colourful promises to

Bring back the missing pleasure

With that capsule,

Sexy look of that ITEM-GIRL,

Sold everything

At one fixed rate,

Five rupees per kilo.

 

There’s not a single piece of newspaper

In my house anymore.

I am about to leave for the hospital.

I will look for the bed

Of that old hawker guy

And bring my copy of the newspaper

From him.

 

NoteJeje (in Odia) – grandfather, Jejema – grandmother, kabaadiwala – the man who goes door to door and collects junk.


 

For that lonely Man 

(dedicated to Jayanta Mahapatra)

“Who knew that the darkness that froze inside my heart would eventually lead me 

to poetry?… 

All my poems – all those tiny pieces of darkness inside my heart coming out in the 

form of my poems – could they completely cleanse me? Never.” 

– Jayanta Mahapatra

 

(1)

Tonight 

Let there be a ceremony 

Of darkness here. 

We, who are still here 

With a torchlight that’s dying down, 

We, who are looking for a path 

That will take us to the highways, 

Let us all walk barefoot night, 

In the dark, 

Let us stumble upon the rocks on our path, 

All the fences and the barbed wires, 

Let us stumble again and again.

Let there be blood 

Coming out from our feet, 

From our hearts, 

From the darkness. 

Let it all trickle down 

Before the night comes to an end. 

 

(2)

How does it matter 

If we survive or not, 

When this night finally ends?

 

We will definitely see 

In the diluted darkness of the dawn, 

A new map on the earth,

Drawn in our blood; 

And in the sky 

At least two new-born sanguine stars;

And we will see

There still remain 

Much darkness, much blood to be spent.


 

Someone Somewhere

 

It’s been a while since I last cried.

In the crowd of countless selfies,

While bitching about

The rest of the world, while getting lost

From my own self, every single time

I have planned about crying a little bit.

 

While explaining

‘Yeah! I’m good’

To unknown people, while

Burning second after second

Of all the twenty-four hours

And then tossing them away

Like that,

I have often thought

If I could cry a little bit!

 

All night, while talking

To a blank sheet of paper,

While waiting for the words

Jogging on the darkness

Outside my window

And taking forever to finish,

I have only wanted to cry.

There’s no reason why I should cry.

Just like there’s no reason why

Abhay Babu’s twenty-year-old nephew

Should die in an accident yesterday.

Just like there’s no reason

Why a yellow blossom

Should still spring its head out

From the cleavage of rocks.

 

Those who can’t cry at all

Also fall asleep

By the time the dawn arrives.

In a small village somewhere,

Someone sure keeps crying,

Alone,

For our tiny world.

 


Also, read The Lindens’ Perfume by Luigi Cannillo, translated from The Italian by Paolo Belluso, Published by The Antonym.

The Lindens’ Perfume— Luigi Cannillo


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Nikhilesh Mishra

Nikhilesh Mishra

Nikhilesh Mishra has written three poetry collections so far: ‘Kehi Jane Kejani Kouthi’ (2018) and ‘Kabitie Marigala Pare’ (2021) in Odia and ‘Someone Somewhere’ (2020) in English. His books have been shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar four times in the past three years. He is the recipient of the KATHA Nabapratibha prize (2016) and the Tapasya Sambhabana prize (2018) among others. Apart from poetry, he writes short stories, columns and scripts and regularly translates as well. He has recently co-written a short film in the upcoming Odia anthology film, ‘Indradhanu’. His upcoming books include an Odia translation of Abbas Kiarostami’s poetry and a biography of the Odia filmmaker Nirad Mohapatra. 

After his graduation in English Literature from Ravenshaw University and a Master’s from CES, JNU, he is currently a student of Direction and Screenplay Writing at the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata.

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