Poem of the week: Week Sixteen.

And the last April poem. The theme is ‘Exile’. This is from The Little Magazine’s India in Verse anthology.

Missed out directions
Kalapriya

Those who
Have no faces
Have no directions either

For the one who
Got the divinations
Right in the womb
Where is direction
What is direction

Searching the orient
Looking for eastern faces
Travelling across
The globe
I returned to my own
Direction
I saw
My faces

Went to sleep
Gathering my faces
When I woke up
The sun was burning
A few with burnt heads were
Running helter-skelter
In the streets
Over the kolams
And my head too

Started to melt

Translated from the Tamil by A. S. Panneerselvan

***

 

 

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Poem of the week: Week Fifteen.

And with this post, I’m up-to-date with time. The third poem under the theme ‘Exile’ is from Jane Bhandari’s poetry book Aquarius.

The Exiles
– Jane Bhandari

My father-in-law
Could put down no roots 
When he was exiled 
From the land of his birth.
Each temporary house
Was furnished with hired furniture
And trunks covered with quilts.
Each temporary garden
Grew seasonal vegetables,
And the impermanent papaya:
No place was home.
The flowers were zinnias,
Not roses.

But my mother-in-law,
Already exiled from her family,
Lost to them by marriage,
Accepted each change as it came,
And made temporary living
A permanent way of life:
Grew bananas, a goodly crop,
Planted orange seeds secretly,
And sometimes
Got to pluck their fruit.
And each Diwali said,
Next year in our own home,
And planned the shape of her garden.

***

Poem of the week: Week Fourteen.

To do justice to the theme ‘Exile’, Tenzin Tsundue’s poetry has to be a part of it. This second poem of the said theme is from his first collection of poems Crossing the Border. I have reviewed the book here.

Crossing the border
Tenzin Tsundue

Creeping in the nights, hiding in the days,
we reached the snow mountains after twenty
          nights.
The border was away by several days still.
The rugged terrain withered us to strains.

Over our heads a bomber flew,
my children shrieked in fear,
I covered them under my bosom.
Exhaustion tore my limbs apart,
but my mind warned me…
We must go on or die here.
A daughter here, a son there,
a baby on my back,
we reached the snowfields.

Through many monstrous mountains we crawled,
whose death-blankets often covered travellers
          passing by.

In the middle of the white killing fields,
a heap of frozen corpses
set our weakening spirit trembling.
Blotches of blood spattered the snow.
The armymen must have crossed their path.
Our land has fallen to the red dragons.
We prayed to the ‘Yishin Norbu’.
With hope in our hearts,
prayers on our lips,
hardly anything to eat,
with only ice to quench our thirst,
we crawled for nights together. 

Then, one night, my daughter complained about
           a burning foot.
She stumbled and rose again on her frost-bitten
           leg.

Peeled and slashed with deep bloody cuts,
she reeled and writhed in pain.
By the next day, both her legs were severed.
Gripped by deaths all around,
I was a helpless mother. 
“Amala, save my brothers,
I shall rest here for a while”.

Till I could no longer see her fading figure,
till I could no longer hear her fainting wails,
I kept looking back in tears ans agony.
My legs carried me, but my spirit remained with
            her.

Long after in exile, I can still see her
waving her frost-bitten hands to me.
Eldest of them, yet just in her teens,
leaving home must have been tough for her.
Every night I light a lamp for her,
and her brothers join me in prayer.

Yishin Norbu – another title of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan.

Amala – Mother in Tibetan.

***

 

Poem of the week: Week Thirteen.

And I’m finally catching up with the April poems. The first one under the theme ‘Exile’ is from Ranjit Hoskoté’s poetry book Vanishing Acts.

Emigrant
Ranjit Hoskoté

Leaving, he looks out of the window,
skirting the edge of the silver wing;
a tear widens in the quilt of clouds,
through which he sees (or thinks he can)

miles below, traffic lights blinking
their green and amber arrows
as rain smears the windscreens of cars
and soldiers jump down from dented tanks.

He clutches his passport. There is no room
for back numbers in his baggage.
The clouds stitch back the widening tear
but he gropes for a towel,

feeling the cabin temperature rise
as though, miles below,
the city of his birth were burning.

***

I have never known the state of exile and I think I never will. It only happens to others, you think, until it happens to you.