Friday, August 23, 2013

New Orleans Jazz - Mangalesh Dabral

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi poem 'न्यू ओरलीन्स में जैज़'    

The beer bottles I see everywhere in America
are also here, but empty, 
and broken, on the roadside are 
shards of glass and stones - Jazz, jazz,
jazz, a long difficult way, 
on both sides are swarms of glasses, in them
beer, trembling,
folks dip their troubles, like bread, in them.
The white hotel manager says:
"I'd avoid that side, if I were you, 
there's a lot of crime there, 
if I were you, I'd read those tourist notices carefully,
do you know, in America, 
New Orleans is among the five most violent cities." 

The moon sends all its black sons here
the night sends all its black daughters here,
here the falling stars become men and women - Jazz, 
jazz, jazz, you can get drunk on Mississippi.
In the French Quarters, the slaves came three hundred years back, 
herded like an army of buffaloes from Africa, and
when ever the whips rested
the songs started, the dance broke out -
the order, always, was to "Eat in the kitchen,"
(not "at the table") they went laughing, ate, 
then danced - how difficult it is to rule over people
even if you are a cunning, cruel civilization -
there were always rules,
they were always breaking rules -
so many tyrants came and went,
French, Spanish, American buyers and sellers of people,
so many storms rose from the sea -
Hurricane Betsy Rita Katrina -
despite them, they are still looking for love in this world,
despite the tags that are still hanging on things. 

When the dark was
flowing out from the clarinet keys, when 
that parched memory was making its way out 
the trumpet's full throat, when the saxophone's notes were 
crowding on the river, then, a trombone 
was so bright as if it was the heart of a city -
then, I saw that man, black, eating bread,
he was smiling and coming to shake my hands,
smiling, like stars -
and from faraway, a Streetcar was calling after him
it's name was Desire,
and faraway, a white hotel manager, afraid, 
was waiting for the tourists.


(thanks to Anannya Dasgupta)



Mangalesh Dabral

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