Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance - Carl Sandburg..........Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject - John Keats .........Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge - William Wordsworth ..........Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand - Plato .........No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language - Samuel Taylor Coleridge .........One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves - W. H. Auden ...........Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash - Leonard Cohen .........There is a pleasure in poetic pains which only poets know - William Cowper .........Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood -T. S. Eliot ..........Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason - Novalis...........He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life - George Sand .........A poem is never finished, only abandoned - Paul Valery ........A poet is a bird of unearthly excellence, who escapes from his celestial realm arrives in this world warbling. If we do not cherish him, he spreads his wings and flies back into his homeland - Kahlil Gibran.............Poetry should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance - John Keats..........To be a poet is a condition, not a profession - Robert Frost........A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself - E. M. Forster.........Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo - Don Marquis...........Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things - T. S. Eliot ..........You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick. You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in - Dylan Thomas .........Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words - Paul Engle......... There is not a joy the world can give like that it takes away! Lord Byron

Dreaming in Another Land

Rati Saxena - India

Translated by Seth Michelson

 

 

My Sheet

 

That morning when I woke, I saw

a small hole in my sheet,

the result of being lost in sleep.

So I struggled with silken thread throughout the day

and by night had stitched a window

for glimpsing a few, new dreams.

 

The next day I woke to a new hole

and this time added paint to the thread.

Before dark Iíd built a door.

 

My dreams could leave now and wander

instead of gazing out a window,

dreams freed to roam the entirety of the night.

Each morning brought new holes;

each day bustled with thread and paint.

 

Today my sheet is an enormous courtyard

with a banyan tree filled with birds with beaks like red stars,

though both sun and moon remain absent.

 

So I spend my mornings searching for holes

where a sun and moon might be woven,

not only in this galaxy

but also across

the many, layered others,

 

knowing at the end thereís a final hole

through which to exit

and join the great beyond

 

in a seamless realm of light.

 

 

The Body change

 

With my first step onto the seventh-story floor

I removed the coolness like a shoe

that Iíd brought from the courtyard

painted with cow dung.

I donned the new room like a sweater

with windows, shelves, and walls,

the surroundings climbing my body like bougainvillea.

 

Whenever moving between homes

I carry bits of the old ones on my body.

 

The walls of the next home are made of sunlight

that disappears with darkness.

To put on this home

is to enter dreamfulness

as a road to reality.

 

At the final home, a pillow waits

on my side of a shared bed

beside a window facing south.

 

The south is the house of death.

I make it my body

and lie down on my pillow.

 

Now

I am ready. 

 

 

 

Mother Used to Save

 

At any moment,

under any conditions, the storehouse

of mother was never empty,

she saved oils, grains, pickles, beans,

salt in clay pots, glass jars of jaggery,

all of it living for centuries

in her magic storeroom, and available

in an instant

without a single ďOpen, Sesame!Ē

 

Mother saved flesh, too:

on her waist and hips, for her

seven hungry children, born

one after another,

and for the next generation:

to love grandmaís soft, sweet feel.

 

And she saved stories, myths,

unknown rhythms, steps

for the grandchildrenís dreams,

a way of keeping her with them

after sheís long gone.

 

In her final moments, her last

breaths left her daughters a home,

through which she keeps dissolving

like a sugar packet into water.

 

 

 

Before leaving

 

close all the doors, one

by one,

 

hear them shut with a click,

pat each knob farewell,

 

and try never to promise to return,

not even by mistake,

 

donít fret over who next

might pass through; each door

itself decides this

 

before leaving wipe away

each footprint

and fingerprint, no longer

needed by anyone,

 

before leaving, pack your things,

bundle every rusted story

 

and decorate the table with memories of laughter

 

before leaving, check every book,

throwing out the pressed flowers

dried in their pages

 

before leaving erase every line, break

open all the knots

 

and smile with strength

until life comes to sit

in the corners of your mouth

 

before leaving, close the final door,

and the rest will close themselves

 

  

 

Dreaming in Another Land

 

He wanted her to smile

the dream of living in another land.

 

He wanted her to dance

like a melody on a violinís strings.

 

He wanted to see in her lap

the milk-stained mouth of a sleeping child.

 

He looked after her

like day-old bread to be relished.

 

He was trying to save her

from the barbed wire

around Albania or Siberia

that bloomed like flowers from stone.

 

He loved her more than his country

but lost her far away like his dream,

 

the same as a young man

of his enemy country.

 

 

 

Nicholaís Mother

 

Her world is only as large as her bread,

her sky

the blackbird

flying across the window,

all juices for her

start and end with grapes.

 

She stands on her toes

and starts to twirl.

 

Borders draw and redraw themselves

across her chest, languages

peeping and pecking grains

from the palm of her hand.

 

Sheís been so many countries

without ever moving

from her axis as Nicholaís mother.

 

*Nichola is a Macedonian poet and his motherís home has been ruled by three different countries in her lifetime

Amzad Aliís Sarod

 

Amzad Ali lifts the sarod to his lap

like a jumpy rabbit and slowly begins to stroke it.

With a hiccup, strings clear their throats

then a gamaka bites, sharp as a knife.

 

Amzad Ali closes his eyes in the glow of raga

while Night Queen wakes from the magic box, peeking out

at the jhinjhoti strutting its nine-beat swagger.

 

In that instant, I see a cry, my chin

cupped in my palms as I watch the sounds

of music dancing, my eyes numb, the rhythms captured

in the clap of the tabla as it weaves its silk.

 

I watch the cry flutter with each note,

and I lose track of time,

canít tell if anyone else here

sees through blind eyes.

 

Iím carried away by Amzad Aliís rendition

of ďLet Us Walk Alone,Ē and I forget the cry,

which falls asleep like a small child sucking her thumb.

 

And though Iím freed now to enjoy Amzad Ali,

the sound of the cry resurges,

suffusing the jhinjhoti and ďLet Us Walk Alone.Ē

 

Cries call me now to the town square, where

they become flags draped on bushes like dusty rugs. I want

to reconnect the broken strings of the great teachers,

drowsied, half-strangled by the coiling serpent

 

of rhythmic waves of music

that make us deaf to youthful cries.

 

Amzad Aliís sarod doesnít know the language of the deaf,

 

and Iím almost deaf with the non-cries of this crying.

 

 

Roots

 

An itch in the sole of my foot

reminds me of my roots

 

and while searching for them

I wander aimlessly

 

though theyíre not very far:

only five feet and a few inches down

 

not very deep,

but they shift in the evening

so by the time I draw near,

my soles are disappearing

into their own shadow.

 

 

Migraine

 

A woodpecker hooks

its claws into my temple

and pecks into my brain,

his beak snatching up

the tiny worms

of my thoughts and attachments.

 

There is no fixed date for the arrival

of this woodpecker,

who instead of fruit prefers the dry wood of brains,

devouring my every thought.

 

I close my eyes to his tuk-tuk

pulsing in my veins

and disappear into the bird.

 

 

 

A Thread Is Being Spun

 

A thread is being spun

a seed sprouting

the earth waking

and the sky is turning into trees

meanwhile a small sparrow

flutters down, lands

on a finger on my left hand

 

*

 

You, a shard of light

You, the dew on a thornís tip

a sprout in parched earth

a secret told in goose bumps

like a clairvoyantís vision

 

You have come to me

 

Against all the souls

severed in the womb

Against a lake of a thousand sounds

buried in deep waters

 

An earthworm burrows into a ditch

A conch writes a word

The thread of a web

snaps, is broken

 

*

 

I try to read

the letters of dreams

written on your eyelids

want to learn

the script

written long before civilization

emerged from the Indus Valley

scripted in its streams

between the mountains and rivers

 

I want to dip my faded paintbrush

in the colors of your dreams

absorbed from the sky by trees

before taking birth in the earth

 

I want to write a poem

soaked in the gurgle

of your innermost soul

like an oil-soaked wickís

dancing flames

 

And in this

I wake

with the heavenly music

of the unstruck sound

hidden deep inside my navel

 

*

 

How do you recognize

the tunes

the hidden rasas

the mind and spirit

the sounds produced

against classicism

how do they become sweet as milk

upon reaching you

your eyelids

becoming heavy

as you listen to my lullaby

 

how do you weave dreams

with the words of sleep

and how do you find

the meaning

of whatís not there

but spread

like a maze of tunnels

until reaching the past

where you and me

converge

in a single point

 

Iím perplexed!

 

*

 

I spin your cry

into a thread

I embroider your smile

onto the weave

and I see in you

the face of my mother

who stretches her feet out under sunlight

counting moments of peace

with closed eyes

 

She sat spinning

golden rays of sunlight

visible to me only from a distance

looking disinterested

with a strange enmity

an incomprehensible stiffness in her fingers

or pain in her knees

I never longed for her hug

 

You smile between the cries

and I kiss your forehead

as if kissing the painful fingers

of my mother

 

In her half-woven sheet

mother descends four steps

and sits on my lap

 

I find in my cupboard

two masks

nearly thirty-years-old

a bit dirty

but firm as new ones

 

Your mother dusts them

to be decorations

and hung on the wall

they begin to smile

freed from thirty years of prison

 

I wonder if

mother too smiled that way

when getting up from her cot

and hanging on the wall

 

You learned to respond to the smile

 

I want to get rid of all

the debris and rubble of the world

want to remove all the nails

so that your smile can spread

like morning sunrays

 

*

 

History

I do not know the history

you wrote on horses during war

 

I donít accept the books

that test you on religion and spirituality

 

I ignore the cobwebs

that constrict my neck

with their red and blue noose

while I feel the whip of the Rajiya Sultan

the neighing of Lakshmibaiís horse in my mind

 

I like to think

of all the brackets

that still confine people

of the drugs

that have fused our brains

of that shriek

still stuck in the throat

 

History

has never been my friend

 

*

 

I did call you

a parcel of sun rays

I will close you in my fist

and then open, so slow

you can weave a silky thorn on your body

Then Iíll toss you gently

towards the sky

so you can open your wings yourself

 

You shall fly

without forgetting to crawl

then crawl while flying

 

and search for all the answers

to all those questions

in the eyes of my mother

as question marks

moments before her death. 

 

 

Stray Dreams

 

Each morning

my dreams begin

to wander around

 

They know where not to go

Destinations

are never marked in their plans

 

They donít go to Fairyland

The beauty of the stars

doesnít attract them either

 

Among those living on Earth

they love only black ants

which are not less than elephants

 

Trees and birds donít

attract them

 

Their most interesting practice

is to trail running cars

 

Abandoning cities and villages

they reach

those satellites

where live those

we in our languages call the dead

 

The story of dead people is different too

They donít recognize the new ways of life

and go gossiping to the dreams

 

By night the dreams return

home

 

and place their bundle on the stump

in the middle of my mind

where they themselves sleep

 

the bundle opening me awake

in my nights with its gifts

 

 

Varicose Pain

 

A few ants

traipse down my thighs

to the ground, bottling up

in their mouths

the dreams of those

saved by living.

 

Leaving behind blue oblivions

they descend further.

 

Pain melts in their mouths

in thin blue smiles.

 

I encompass the pain

in soles consigned to earth.

 

 

 

Varicose Pain II

 

Within my torso

two bags huff and puff

filled with the tedium of things

 

Among the boredoms is a list of work

that exceeds my limits

 

I donít know which worthless law

decreed me this list

and I, a fool in the night,

have forgotten that I myself

am not even on the list

 

My swollen veins

question meó

bang-bangó

and I rub my feet with my hands

to keep the cries beneath my tongue

 

 

Knee Pain

 

Above my calves two oleanders

bloom, piquant and climbing

all aggression, tireless,

till they morph to hibiscus

with biting pain

on these axes like a bobbin

 

Until time blossoms

on my palms

Until the lines open up

twin pains wake in hibiscus

and control my journeys

 

Still I walk, two stars

on each calf, forgetting

the count of destroyed time

 

against all the pain

centralized

just below my thighs

 

Spiders

 

On the back of each of my hands

a spider climbs

weaving the warp and woof

from neck to feet

I think only of mother

 

I donít remember Kabir

and his sheet

donít even remember the two girls

singing a hymn to Prana

 

I think only of mother

and her veins soaked in oil

I put my palms on my lap

and stroke them

as if they were motherís forehead 

 

 

Time Near To Me

 

Today I woke late

and ignored my cup of tea

reading an unknown

poet from Lithuania.

His poems were open like a glass jar

and my words began

to fill the gaps between them.

 

Today I ignored the dirty dishes

in the sink, didnít bother

to fold the washed clothes.

I turned on the TV, flipped

channels, and let my room

fill with many voices.

 

When words took flight from my fingertips

on the keyboard, birthing

a poem by computer,

that movement

ďtimeĒ wandered around me

like my tame dog.

The Wings of an Ant

 

They say an ant has no wings

and that even if she did, she couldnít fly.

 

And if unable to fly, why suffer the pain of wings?

 

The antís death rides on her wings,

but death itself is flight.

 

The ant started to fly

by pale blue light, bending

her wings to the south,

an illusion of silence amidst noise.

 

Towards the yellow light, she flew

against her life,

carrying flight in her every cell.

 

She saw the seeds of flight

for the next generation.

 

 

When he plays the drum,

 

the sea steams

and his belovedís brow

beads with sweat,

 

when he beats the drum,

huge stars implode

and the curtain

flickers in his belovedís window.

 

Sweat-soaked pain sprays out

from his beating drum,

the Earth losing its way,

 

a small bird

landing on his belovedís roof,

her hair

showering down,

the trees

bathed in its sweet perfume.

 

 

The Swamps of Alzheimerís

                                              

1

 

Her trembling feet inch forward

into the future, they

slip suddenly, she falls

into the past, starts

to chuckle, Look! The trees,

theyíre talking to me,

and she starts chatting

with branches, the leaves

of the Neem tree,

in the courtyard of grandfather.

I pull her back with force

from the heights of coconut trees

and she gets irritated,

runs to words,

granduncleís storeroom,

where she searches

for inked addresses

long wiped clean.

 

I pull at her

and she becomes again

and again a little girl,

mother in the swamps

of Alzheimerís.

 

2

 

Itís my turn,

Iíll comb your hair,

youíre pulling mine,

apply more oil.

 

Raking fingers

through gray thin hair

the daughter thinks

of the little girl

grown up and the old mother

changed into a little girl.

 

3

 

These days sheís upset

by riotous memories,

whatever happens now

is wiped away,

a crowd of memories

rushing backwards.

 

Sheís forgetting

the meaning of key words,

forces her way

into stories, sometimes

sleeping, sometimes hiding

in the kitchen pantry.

 

4

 

After wetting the bed

she tries to hide it

with a pillow,

inspects it and smiles

like an opening bud,

even after a scolding

mischief swims

at the corner of her lips.

 

O, is this my mother

or a careless little girl?

 

5

 

These days

everyone talks to her,

each chair, table, and box,

they come to her room,

dogs, lions, and leopards,

without fear

she plays with houseflies,

dances with ants,

mother a friend

to everyone

who cannot be seen

by we, the intelligent.

 

Like a kite

slipping from hands,

mother drifts

through the swamps of Alzheimerís. 

Remembering the Camps of Exiled Kashmiris

 

These days Iím forgetting

a number of things:

a pen, spectacles,

and sometimes I canít even recall

what Iíve forgotten,

but today, after two long years,

I can still remember well

the exiled like the memory of my own mother.

 

When I met them that day, I recalled mother,

a woman often compared to them

because of the color of her skin

and her pink lips.

I met them again

and I thought again of mother,

who still looks like them,

her pale, dull skin, her lips.

 

Mother lost control of her legs

then her arms, and finally her

neck; bedridden, unable

to talk, sheís full of wounds and waste.

 

They first lost their feet

in their land, then their arms

were pinned down by a political system;

their voices taken away by hunger,

their hearts filled with bloodshed.

One can see their wounds in their eyes.

 

How strange after two long years

to recall them

as clearly as the sky on sunny days,

suffocating sounds

come from motherís throat:

ghon, ghon.

 

I get restless

and think of them, I think

of a new bride wrapped head-to-toe

in a red sari. I remember

the windowless room, the ventilator,

fifteen family members packed in there.

I choke on the thought

of a newlywed couple

waiting to celebrate their marriage.

 

I remember mother when I recall the eyes

of angry youth,

a number of questions on their lips.

 

When I think of their exile

I cry for mother, forced to live

against her wishes

in her daughterís home,

forgetting to die.

 

Why do I mix mother

with them

when in many ways

they share little in common?

I ask myself and begin to cry

for their land, their sanctuary,

my flood of tears

washing motherís feet.

 

 

The Sea

   

1

 

The sea is quite different

from the sky,

different too the clouds

from one another,

but when, as she stands

on the shore

and he takes her in his wavy arms,

wets the hair

strewn across her face,

fondles her thighs,

lays his head at her feet

and looks up at her,

where, then, is the difference

between him

and a starved lover?

 

2

 

Every evening

the sea gathers

the sacred wood of clouds,

strikes the holy fire of the sun,

and sets out an offering of waves

to conjure its black magic,

every evening the darkness comes

from that magic, spreading

the news of a conspiracy,

and from that conspiracy

this world has grown.

 

3

 

As evening withers

a star sprouts

on the sea,

with a finger at his lips

he bids everyone quiet,

says Be careful,

youíre not the only one

alone,

weíre each alone

in our own sea.

 

4

 

I saw him

and the sea that evening,

he was bobbing

in the water, the sea

flowing over him.

 

He saw me

and the sea together,

the sun sinking

into the water,

and me sinking with him,

 

each of us

sinking

into the other.

 

5

 

In the quiet black

of night, the earth grows

a ray of light,

 

whatís unusual

is how the sky hangs

lamps of light

each night, looking

at the sea

he stays behind,

blows the line of light

into an oven burning

across the sea.

 

6

 

Somebody says

Itís an open sky,

open

as an opened fist.

 

Somebody says

Itís a deep sea,

deep

as the heart of man.

 

When I saw it

it was an empty canvas

without

a single scratch.

 

 

Itís the sea, smell

of bodies,

of floating light,

the smell making nostrils

flutter like fish

darting through water.

 

The smell enters

every pore

like pieces of shell

and the body changes 

into a sea of smells.

 

8

 

Keeping innumerable colors

close to his chest

like floating lights

and laughing rocks

how lonely the sea is

who knows?

 

Even the sea doesnít know

his reverberations,

the waves laying their heads

on the shore, bursting bubbles

whispering into ears

how lonely the sea is

who knows?

 

9

 

The sea is getting wet

in the rain

laughing

like a desert child,

 

the sea is getting wet

with its own tears

smiling

like a young woman

sitting on an island,

 

the sea is getting wet

with a shower of love:

his sobbing pain

at getting separated

from his loved one,

 

the sea is getting wet

in the first rain

after summer.

 

10

 

The smell of the sea

is different

from the soil

wet in the rain,

has no relation

to the smell of flowers,

doesnít know

the sharp taste of passion.

 

The smell of the sea

doesnít enter through nostrils

but through every pore,

touching gently,

hypnotic.

 

The smell of the sea

speaks the story

of the sweat of fishermen,

the play of sea life,

the legends of ships.

 

  

 

Old Lady Talk

 

The old ladyís stomach

was a drum of chatter:

rat-a-tat here,

yippity-yap there,

playing so long

loneliness passed her by

without even knocking

at her door.

 

Then one day she went

quiet.

The sun rose;

she said nothing.

The moon bloomed;

she stayed silent.

Wind, flower, ants, lizardsó

all came and went,

the old lady

remaining silent.

 

People say

that was the time

of the great collapse

of walls

between heaven and hell.

 

 

 

 

Tongues

 

My mouth teems with tongues

of many tints and flavors,

similes and metaphors.

 

At first I had one,

just one

that I fastened early

each morning and gave over

to sleepís care

each night.

 

I donít recall

when it split and branched

like an aloe plant,

dividing into two,

three, four sections.

 

All these tongues talked

even in sleep,

causing days

to lose their count,

and striking the dreamworld

dumb.

 

And in the midst

of so many tongues

I had none.

 

 

 

Cry

 

My cry

finds no place

on Earth

nor in the sky

and so seeks

shelter in my chest,

my belly and thighs,

my womb.

 

They fear my cry

and so rip

at my skin

with nails, wishing

to remove

my womb.

 

I bury my womb

in the earth

and stand still

until turning

into a tree

that grows with thousands

of cries

against the nails

of artificial

civilization.

 

All this can begin

in a single cry.

 

 

 

A Faithful Prayer

 

Deep love cannot surface

during faithful prayer.

Itís a sin think of love

while praying.

But prayer within love?

Thatís the greatest virtue!

 

 

The language of the poetry

 

At the tip of my penís nib is a colander.

My words sieve through it like fine sand:

a few words, a few spellings, and a few meanings

always stick to colander, turning

the language that makes it through

babble the critics say. The language of poetry

cannot be babble.

Grammarians do not accept the language even

I scrape the stuck spellings, meanings, and vowels

from the colander and blend them into language.

Itís still not poetry

because itís plastered with corrections.

So I leave the language and colander

and take only expression:

I fly it as a kite into a sky of emotion.

Now a poem can walk the earth

and face the sky.

Now thereís no colander on my pen

and no critics look at my poems.

 

 

 

Refugee

 

They came to this land

as if by sea, the way wind

clings to spar, like the dew

on a humid morning

somewhere near the equator

or the way moths on a rainy evening

fly towards the light,

they took shelter in this place

the way wasps nest in the holes

of old wooden doors, or a letter

with a wrong address in a post office box

or unwanted email in an inbox,

they settled in this land

the way ice floats in a glass of juice,

like kites holding tight to the ruins

of buildings,

they return each night

by marshy paths where

their footprints stipple the land

like goose bumps, their hunger

stubborn as the blackened ash

stuck to the bottom of a pan,

one step backward

to lurch one forward

they disappear into the land

that does not belong to them.

 

 

 

Laughter Is a Prayer

 

Laughter is a prayer

needing many intonations

to go from chortle to song.

 

The chortle wakes the gods,

but its the first note of song

that connects with time.

 

The second note of laughter

flows from the eyes,

not the lips.

 

Laughter is a prayer

against all unrepeated prayers

and against all deities

who dare call my laughter uncouth.

 

-----

 

The Aroma of Spices

 

1. Poetís Pyre

 

In a blindfolded world

I beat the deathless drum

óBhikku Nanamoli

 

This is not the first poem

Iíve taken from the dusty old file

despite the many fresh ones

redolent of new earthen pots

 

But Iíve taken this one

Agnaye swaha!

the primary offering for the pyre

the journey into your being

and not being

is not so difficult

 

You were here till yesterday

in the yellowness edging the leaves

in a pen between my fingers

in its scratches on paper

in the the wind rolling through my fan

in the aroma of spices filling the kitchen

youíre still there

though the pen stand is empty

dried leaves have fallen

and the aroma from the kitchen

is gone

 

Agnaye swaha!

this is the second offering I make

for your pyre

the boat is in the sea

the net is in the boat

the fish in the net

the fisherman killing the fish

blue is a shade that fades

a boat can sink

I am fish for your net

 

Agnaye swaha!

this is the third poem

the last offering for your pyre

 

Youíll remain in the verse

in the remains of the poetry

we wrote together

 

remember?

 

 

2. Marks of Decay on New Moons Day

 

When I meet the right consort

my thoughts become clear

óChogyam Trungpa

 

This time again

youíve given yourself up to prison

have walled yourself in

and now live in a heavy dungeon

where there arenít even cracks

to let me in as air

and where you shine like a sun

giving light to your own name

 

This time youíve cheated on me!

I who warmly kissed on your feet

and stroked your whole body with my eyelashes

 

Last night on my window sill

I saw marks of decay

of creeping death

of my poems ending

the corpses and my fingers stiff

with pain in my neck

and shoulders

the cracks inside me aching

my body at war

as I turn from river to blood

 

3. I Fear Thunder

 

Sesame oil is the essence.

Although the ignorant know that it is in the sesame seed,

They do not understand the way, effect, and becoming.

óChogyam Trungpa

 

For a while a smile has danced on my lips

like a butterfly

but I know thunder

will come and freeze them

Iím afraid

what will happen

when it roars me awake?

 

The paths are disappearing

and in the undergrowth shadows emerge

and on the tips of tree branches

a thousand deaths wait

to take flight as one

Iím the vulture preying on the bird

of love

I dip my fingers in its broken feathers

sweep away the remains

which disappear into the holes of snakes

O look at you, a half-broken branch

about to fall!

 

Youíre an illusion in my hallucination

as Iíve known for quite a while

youíre selfless selfishness!

Iíve learned this from your company

Iíve discovered how youíre my myth

which cannot be abandoned

I learned this in all the trials

to forget you

 

Do I leave the company my pen?

Iím sinking in its ink

how do I search for Nirvana

in the eye of a needle

woven into the colors of the flowers?

 

 

4. Embroidered Flower

 

The birds warble their glad songs.

Spring blossoms in the treetops.

óLouis Nordstrom.

 

A long time ago

I sent you the aroma

of flowers

stitched to my sari

through the cracks in the walls

of a castle

embroided by thread

Iíd colored

 

5. You Are Mehandi, The Henna of Full Moon's Day

 

How much more so when perpetually diseased

By the manifold evils of desire?

óShantideva

 

How strange

to have discovered my feet

only after walking

almost half of the way to you!

 

And now on the road to red lotuses

where my heels once taipsed

there are blossoms between my toes

red flowers of fortune!

 

I love my feet

as if they had faces

oh donít stroke me

with your fingertips, friend,

donít bite me

you who sent me

henna to adorn my feet

I draw flowers for you

on my feet

vasant spring already here

the sun shining

stripping off his sweater, my love!

 

Shishir is the wintry time of ice

falling from the heavens

greeshm is the green shimmering heat

on my shoulders

I am ready to journey

first stretch a fingertip to toe

my journey is a flash of pink

my journey continues

and continues

toward you

 

6. Donít Decorate the Pyre

 

The trees and also the great woods

All are made splendid in the 10 directions

óEdward Conze

 

Iím not a river and so donít need

mountains to give me form

Iím a lake! The sweet lake

honey lake

in the lap of the desert

my womb never goes dry

never moves from here

to menopause

 

No, no my lover! My lover!

You canít light the pyre

with the pallu of my sari

itís for the children

the laughter of my children

who are tickling me

as I dance laughing

 

Look! Oh look! I am not

a dried up water reservoir

Iím the lake

my womb is water

this world is inside me!

 

7. Cuppa Chuppi/Hide-and-Seek

 

In the sea of my mind the words as waves have risen

In recollection of the Great Queen

óChockyam Trungpa

 

Lake! O dear Lake! Play chuppa

chuppi, play hide-

and-seek with me!

I turn and run from Udaipur

hide behind a coconut tree

where are my friends?

where is my playmate?

where is she?

oh this isó

I got her!

chooooooo!

 

Time passes

days weeks years

Iíve forgotten to show myself!

forgotten!

like Iíve forgotton the way

I first came to you

my dear dear lake!

where are my friends?

where are they?

where is my playmate?

oh this isóchooooooo!

will you come looking for me?

Iím sitting in a shrub of thorns

 

8. Hands on Shoulders

 

I go to Kasiís city now

To set the wheel of law in motion

óBhikku Nanamoli

 

ďRivers may split and reconnect

but friends never meet again in lifeĒ

Come O Lake friend 

and put your hand on my shoulder

Iíll keep mine on yours

come let us gossip about the village  girl

who fell in love and split

with the weaver boy

let us weave the thread of gossip

as long as the threads of memories

 

 

9. Anklet Bells on Protector's Day

 

Dancing in space

Clad in clouds

Eating the sun and holding the moon,

The stars are my retinue.

óChocyam Trungpa

 

Come swim in me

come swim with me

come wash away your dirt

how much of it can you carry

on your journey towards lifeís end?

when night falls on me

a thousand dancers emerge

to dance for me

dhinna tak dhinn

lotuses bloom on their feet

white lilies blossom on their toe rings

come to the shore of this lake

touch my body with your poised finger

Iíll bloom into a hundred lotuses

see, Iím blushing

 

Donít worry, my pilgrim!

Iíve discovered all of my feet

time and again

Iíll give you my part of the journey

Charevehi! Chareveri!

keep on walking

my loving traveller and donít tire

 

10. Small flowery marks of lotuses

 

Rain, sleet, snow, ice - as such

they may different, but when melted,

they're the same valley stream water.

óThomas Cleary

 

That evening at godhuli

that evening when the cows were returning

when the temple bells were ringing

she came out from hiding

behind the mango tree

there she is Ė there!

taking a baby girl up in her arms

a baby girl pockmarked

with small flowerbuds

lotuses tied to her feet

O where will I take these girls?

 

Look at the bird

its yellow beak

thatís my baby girl with a ribbon

sheís in the tree

she flies

she sings

and when she dives through the sky

her beak turns blue

and when she dips it

in the lake

it turns everything

blue and fresh

it was just yesterday

she had a red berry

in that yellow beak

firey as the sun

squirrelike she climbs a tree

gifts me a mango seed

 

11. The Singing Mother on Dakini Day

 

In the sea of my mind the words as wave have risen

In recollection of the Great Queen.

óChockyam Trungpa


All the palaces and pearls in the world

are yours my son
O mother the pain for me is separation
please donít send me away!
O please donít send me away!

Mother used to sing on rainy days

She was singing on the banks
of Udaipur
at the wide-open lake
donít send me away!
O please donít send me away mother!

Iíll be the parrot in your garden
Iíll live in your golden cage
you can seal it tight with a song of yours
donít send me away O mother

why did you send me away?
Iím your daughter
Iím your singing daughter

 

12. Pain Like a Blanket

Eating the sun and holding the moon,

the stars are my retinue.

óChogyam Trunpa

The aroma of spices
the crosses over the lake
the crosses over the sea
the boundaries across the sky

The day, is it
your gift to me

or mine to you?

A yellow day
why when Iím happy
does pain roll over me like a blanket?

 

13. Tale of the rain girl

May the Ocean benefit
Those who sail beyond the great sea.

óChockyam Trungpa

The farmer girl sings

Give me rain, Black Cloud!
wet me completely!

give me rain

sugar cane and puffed rice

 

my crops are dry
Black Cloud, give me rain!
she begs for happiness
and love for her brothers
and her father
and her cow


the dancing girl reaches the city

of rain

peacocks dance on her thighs

streams swirl on her hips

white lotuses blink on her toe tips

the night hides in her black skirt

the sun and moon in her blouse

 

Give me water so my beloved wonít be thirsty


Nobody knows the story

Of what comes after Pralaya

the doom
not even lake Udaipur knows
only me


Epilogue: Yesterday

Didnít I tell you it was there?

You could have found it without trouble, after all.

      óLouis Nordstrom.

 

Yesterday I took some photos
of my feet

my running feet
with the camera

you know:

the ordinary one!

 

 

 

Translatorís Note: On Dreaming in Another Land

 

In discussions of literary translation, one often encounters the claim that it is impossible to translate poetry. That is, at some point in conversations about the translatability of poetry, someone will opine that it simply cannot be done. Typically the speaker means this linguistically: poetry in one language, with all of its rich and layered denotative and connotative depth and resonance, cannot be rendered adequately in another. But such a claim is more properly an interrogation of adequacy than possibility, no?

 

Other rationales for claiming the translation of poetry to be impossible foreground cultural, aesthetic, and/or political emphases. For instance, one hears relatively undertheorized claims about the incommensurability of cultures, the lack of aural equivalents between languages, and the untranslatability of metaphor due to both the intrinsic and relational instability of both signifiers and significations.

 

But to my mind, regardless of the specific terms of its instantiation, the assertion that poetry is untranslatable is as dull as it is glib, and it may even be downright dangerous. For, from my perspective, claims to the untranslatability of poetry are foreclosures of possibility. They are a violent censoring of communicative potentiality, disallowing new modes of being, new modes of perceiving, and new networks of solidarity.

 

Why, then, are claims to the untranslatability of poetry so prevalent in literary discussions and beyond? One answer might be that these claims abound due to the relative difficulty of theorizing, practicing, and understanding literary translation. I would therefore like to offer some introductory remarks about the translation of poetry, including the efforts that have resulted in the book currently in your hands.

 

To begin to theorize translation in relation to poetry, one might consider how poetry is always already translation. This is evident in Rati Saxenaís work, and a clarifying example might come in a poem of hers included herein in translation as ďThe Sea.Ē In the original poem, one notes how the lines pivot upon metaphors built of a linguistic blend of Sanskrit and Hindi. That is, Sanskrit words like ďsamidhaĒ and ďhoma kundĒ propel that poem, in part by transfiguring theological significance transhistorically and transculturally through poetic imagery. That is, the poetic verve emerges from the linguistic energy born of the juxtaposition and integration of two language traditions into a contemporary, comprehensible Hindi syntax and speech, which invokes a vibrant historicity, theology, and politics through extended metaphor.

 

And perhaps this fails in English-language translation. Perhaps the intricate hybridity of the original poem is mismanaged and muted in ďThe Sea,Ē wherein the contemporary Hindu reader in India might lament the lack of Vedic resonance, for instance. That is, the translation might compromise the complex pastiche of theological, historical, political, epistemological, cultural, and ontological markers that create the symphonic beauty of the original poem. Of course such imagining problematically presupposes the existence of a singular Indian reader, not to mention a singular reading of the poem.And, more broadly, arenít such normativizing presuppositions and insistences antithetical to very nature of poetry, which aims to expose, disturb, unbind, and disrupt the violence of normativity?

 

Consequently I would suggest most generally that the translation of poetry is not an impossibility but an emergence. It is a praxis of poetically formulating the conditions for the realization of resistance and alternatives to dangerous logics of purity. It bears mention, too, that such logics are purposefully exposed by Ratiís work. In other words, the plurivocality, transculturality, and transhistoricity of Ratiís poetry are its defining features, so to argue for purity in the face of her poetry is to misconstrue it. More generally, to argue a logic of purity is to perpetuate an essentialist ideology, with all of the fascistic imaginative heft that such ideologies entail, and that doesnít seem propitious for poetry or people.

 

In other words, readers of poetry are gifted the opportunity to reckon the hybridity of language. This is as true of so-called original poems as their translations. In both cases, the poetry compels careful readersto think through the mobility, elasticity, and vitality of language(s), which demands continuous attention to transformations, excisions, invocations, and extensions. This is another variation on the aforementioned idea of language being in motion; it is always already translation. After all, isnít that one of the key promises and possibilities of language? Doesnít the poem offer itself as a mode of emerging through new networks of discursivity via the orchestration of language(s) via the manipulation of the tropes and figures of poetry?

 

In this manner, Ratiís translators must grapple with the importance of the aforementioned example of her blend of Sanskrit and Hindi, for instance, recognizing the original poem as always already a translation. That is, even before its translation into English, for example, the poemís language is already hybrid, forging and extending translingual, transhistorical, and transcultural affinities and possibilities. How else to reckon the resurgence of Sanskrit in a poem reinvoking the Iron Age in northern India to speak in twisted tongues through the syntax of a contemporary Hindi, feminist poetry emerging from southern India during a twenty first-century crisis of globalization?

 

More deeply, Ratiís invocation of sacred Sanskrit signals both a return and departure. It enacts a subtle and intricate historiography of linguistic transformations in the service of theological reflection on the past, and it concurrently enacts the past in order to challenge the conditions of the present. Moreover, in challenging the present, the always-already-translation of this work serves to effloresce and ramify the possibility of the future. In other words, it necessarily postpones the future by contesting the present through rememorations of the past.

 

And this disordering of time offers itself further as a point of consideration for me to clarify my theoretical interest in translational poetics in general and my work with Ratiís poetry in particular. From my perspective, the translation of poetry, hers or otherwise, is precisely a possibility because it struggles towards the horizon of escape from the censorious and oversimplifying rigidity of (false) binaries, such as original/translation, purity/impurity, self/other, male/female, etc.

 

That is, to think translation impossible is to reassert predetermined taxonomies. Meanwhile poetry aims differently; it aspires to expose, undermine, and escape the tyranny of such rigidities. To claim the translation of poetry impossible, then, is to reduce the potentiality of poetry. In other words, language exists only through its actuation, and the limits of language are therefore the limits of possibility, meaning here the limits of world(s).

 

This is not to hyperbolize or melodramatize the work of poetry and poetry-in-translation. Rather it is to emphasize the theoretical underpinnings of a praxis of translational poetics that understands wor(l)ds as infinitely prismatic, schismatic, and adaptive, meaning they are riddled with irruptive potentiality, which is the possibility to conjure entropy, to create through emergence.

 

In other words, the work of translating poetry is not an agonistic process of immersion in the irresolvable tensions between antinomies. Nor is it an impossible struggle with incommensurable binaries that cancel the art as aptly as the audience. Rather translation is a faith in the possibility of transformation and emergence. It is the promise of the possibility of future(s), meaning an opening of formerly foreclosed potentiality. It is the blossoming of possibility returned, a (re)discovery and (re)articulation of form from within itself, a chance to surge forth and illuminate former absences and previous erasures of potentiality.

 

Thus translation can stand as a horizon of possibility for the recuperation of self. And therein lies its initial impossibility, which is undone, or released from stasis, by its reckoning through a translational praxis. In this manner, translational poetics also signal a foundational condition of democracy; it is a mode of thinking through the non-subject, she who has been pushed beyond the frontier of legibility through a series of sacrificial violences. And here again Ratiís poetry might prove clarifying.

 

Specifically Ratiís poetry explores these sacrificial violences, or erasures of subjective possibility, via her poetic revelation and consideration of gendered, economic, political, and intellectual inequalities. Moreover, through those poetic renderings, we can theorize the potentiality of a translational poetics. It is engaged in the study of apparition from and through absence, lack, negativity, and erasure. So in working to wrest an English-language poetry from Ratiís gorgeous already-translations, a translational praxis extends Ratiís effort to cancel former failures, disappearances, exclusions, and censorships.

 

It is a politics of exposure, then.It is a belief in the value of grappling with the concept of legibility. In the case of translating Ratiís poetry, that legibility emerges through a process of discovery, meaning one could not foreknow the eruptive force of the poetic realizations to come from translating. Otherwise they would be merelythe formulaic promulgation of preconceived logic. Instead the translational poetics created the conditions for the emergence of new possibilities, and this came from working closely with Rati in a diversity of forms and media, including the continuous re-reading of her poetry in  multiple languages, listening to recordings of her reading her poetry in Hindi, and talking with her in person, by phone, by email, and by Skype.

 

Of importance, each of those modes of reflection and discussion engendered its own temporalities, meaning its own synchronization of absences and erasures, whether they be attributable to the miscommunications of multilingual conversation, the absences intrinsic to phone calls due to their disproportionate emphasis on disembodied voice, the delays and gaps in email conversations, and/or the insuperable silences and forfeitures intrinsic to working by Skype across a dozen time zones and with inconsistent Internet service. Of course this stammered, multimodal network of conversation of and through poetry was facilitated by Ratiís unflagging grace, patience, and intelligence, which time and again made clear to me the unclarity of worlds, and the potentiality of poetry or, more properly, poetry-in-translation.

 

So please join Rati now and struggle to realize through her always-already-translations some of the possibilities for rupturing the false constraints of the subjectivated being, whether they be grounded by gender bias, economic exploitation, hawkish militarists, ontological dogma, or otherwise. Ratiís way is the way of irruption; it is to live by availing oneself to the violence of re-emerging, of realizing oneself by destroying her through the languages of new potentialities. It is an ontology of dreaming the self in another land, with that concept having everything and nothing to do with travel. Ratiís poetry encourages valiant defiance, a courageous challenging of the capture of the subject. And she first and foremost makes this possibility known poetically, as this book makes clear.

 

This book dares to dream in another land, through and of oneself, who is many, meaning you are traveling alone and with other selves, yours and otherwise, via Ratiís animated and vital poetry, which cleaves possibility from deep within the word. She risks everything to transform it, understanding the importance of entropy, and trusting that what was sacrificed might return: through her, of her, from her, and for you.

 

óSeth Michelson

    Lexington, Virgina, U.S.A.

 

 

Rati Saxena Ė Poet/ Translator/ Editor (kritya) / Director Poetry festivals-kritya and vedic scholar. She has 11 collections of poetry in Hindi and English and one each in translated in to Malayalam (translated), Irish, and Italian, and English by other poets.  Her poems have been translated in other international languages like, Chinees, Vietnam, Albanian , Spanish, Uzbek. Indonesian etc .She has a travelogue in Hindi- ďCheenti ke parĒ, a Memoire in English-ď Every thing is past tense ď. a criticism on famous Malayalam Poet Balamaniyammaís work. Her research on the Atharvaveda has been published as *The Seeds of the Mind--* a fresh approach to the study of Atharvaveda, under the fellowship of the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts. She has translated about 12 Malayalam works, both prose and poetry, into Hindi and two from Norwagian languages. she has participated in several national seminars and published articles in a number of journals. She secured the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi award for translation for the year 2000. She has been invited for poetry reading in prestigious poetry festivals like "PoesiaPresente" in Monza (Italy), Mediterranea Festival (Rome) and International House of Stavanger (Norway), Struga Poetry Evening (Mecidonia) , and '3rd hofleiner donauweiten poesiefestival 2010, Vienna , the prestigious poetry festival in Medellin (Colombia- two times), She is the only indian participant in some imp poetry festivals like - Iranís Fajr Poetry Festival ,  International Istanbul Poetry Festival (IIPF) Turkey, 4th international Eskisehir  Poetry Festival. Turkey And in Chinaís Moon Festival and Asia pacific poetry festival 2015 Hanoi She has been invited to some American Universities also to talk about Vedic poetry and recite her own poetry like Mary Mount University in Loss angles and University of Seattle ( USA) , She is one of the three representatives from Asia for World Poetry Movement, which has 37 foundation members around the world. She is the only Indian whose poem has been chosen in popular book of china Ė 110 modern poems of the world.

 

Seth Michelson is the author of the poetry collections: House in a Hurricane, Big Table(2010); Kaddish for My Unborn Son, Pudding House(2009); and Maestro of Brutal Splendor, Jeanne Duvall(2005). His latest book, Eyes Like Broke Windows (2012) won the poetry category of the 2013 International Book Awards. His translation of El Ghetto, Sudamericana(2003), by the internationally acclaimed Argentine poet Tamara Kamenszain, appears as The Ghetto, Point of Contact(2011).His translation of bicho bola, Yaugurķ (2013), by the Uruguayan poet Victoria Estol, appears as roly poly, Toad Press(2014).

Seth Michelson holds an MFA in Poetry and a PhD in Comparative Literature, and teaches the literature of the Americas in the Department of Romance Languages at Washington and Lee University in the United States. His scholarship appears internationally in a variety of venues. He will be finishing his two academic books, The Poetics of Re-emergence: Poetry, Subjectivity; Political Violence in the Neoliberal Age; and Decaptivating Bodies: Prison, Politics, and Literary Production soon.

 

T P Rajeevan

 

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