Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Touch 'Chuo' - Mangalesh Dabral

Touch the things kept on the table in front of you.
A watch, a pen-case, an old letter,
a statuette of Buddha and pictures of Bertolt Brecht and Che Guevara.
Open the drawer and touch its old sadness.
Touch a blank paper with fingers of your words.
Touch the still water of Van Gogh’s painting like a little pebble
that starts the flurry of life in it.
Touch your forehead and do not feel the shame for holding it for long.
It is not necessary that someone sits right next to you for you to touch;
it is possible to touch from afar
like that bird which cares for her eggs from afar.

Do not believe in statements like ‘Please do not touch’ or ‘Touching is prohibited’.
This is a long-running conspiracy.
Various high-priests, flag-bearing-crowned-executives
bomb-carriers, warlords are of the opinion to keep everyone away from everyone.
Whatever filth, whatever muck they vomit
can only be cleaned by touching.
For this, touch, even if you upset the order of things.
Do not touch like the Gods, head-monks, clerics, devotees and disciples
touch each others' heads and feet.
Instead, touch like the long grass almost strokes the moon and the stars.
Go inside yourself and touch a softness.
See if any of it is left in this adamant world.

tr. from Hindi by Akhil Katyal
29th July, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

In such forms of sickness

In such forms of sickness
and half resigned to bed,
if I return to Narcissus
what would he tell me?
Would he throw back
the same sunken eyes like mine,
or would he ask me
to be content with
a memory of my health?
Would he be angry when
I threaten to leave him and tell him:
'Only the beautiful like you
would dare to stare interminably
into faces their own. What do you
know of eyes-lids which do not open,
of a throat which tears and
legs that refuse to walk.
What would you say
to fingers that shudder now
to twine with each other?'
At this, he would look
compassionately at me
and say in a whisper,
'You do not know.
I have been feverish since
before this world was born.
It is the heat of my fever
that melted my ugliness away
and left me an angel to behold.
You tell me of fingers that refuse
to twine among themselves.
I have known my shoulders
giving way under the weight
of my head, a neck that
always refused to sit straight and
wrists which turned more than usual.
I am now the most beautiful
but I have been in a furnace for this.'
Here, the butterfly tells me
of cocoons and caterpillars.
I burn away, and my Narcissus
tells me of his little singes.
I learn from him to look at myself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is this thing, Teja, teaching?

What is this thing, Teja, teaching?
You stand in front of thirty or forty of them;
students (like we were, like we are) who
judge with a kindness that is always
alotted to one who speaks in public.
What happens to this classroom
when you leave it? Does it become
like any other space or do you leave
some traces behind; crumbs of words
for finding one's way again, strands of lectures
to be picked up, registers to be lined?
Do those students, Teja, do they respond
with the mingled curiosity like we did
or do their words turn differently than ours?
Do they flirt with you; when you pause
for a breath, where do they look?
When you step out, are their whispers
neat enough for you to catch a word or two
spoken, as they leave, about you?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Of course I do not respect the game

Of course I do not respect the game;
I think of poems at break points
or just when the championship's
about to be thrown away by a serve,
I set out to make ginger omelettes.
If I would stay, I would only for the frown
on his face, for the pitiful hurry
in which his body runs from one end
to another of the court at Wimbledon;
the white lines on grass become for him
seams of the world. Nadal beats Federer;
If I would stay, I would only for an undeclared revenge
on the other boys in the common room.