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Home Poetry India May 2023 Issue

May 2023 Issue


On 8 April 2023, Noon: New and Selected Poems, the latest book of poems by Jayanta Mahapatra was published in Bhubaneswar. Jayanta Mahapatra, a legend of our times, is enviously active even at 95. In the book-release function, he spoke at length about the love he has been receiving from his friends and readers over a long period of time, a love that has kept him alive as a poet.

Jayanta Mahapatra Wandering Yaksha of Poetry

Who is Jayanta Mahapatra? Is he “a sacred relic growing up with the helplessness and the generous tears”?...

In the skies, full of vermillion,
Like an ascetic meditating,
A dark shape emerges slowly.

The lore has it,
Millions of years ago,
There was a volcano that threw everything up.

Look for it
Not on to the stage,
Not in costumes or make-up
Not in props or sets
Not in the electric light,
Not in the sound system,
When I look into your eyes, I know you are an introvert guy
Your heart is burning with pain, the flames are shivering, and I
Can covertly see your eyes, full of introvert tears
Tell me whatever you want, for you I am all ears

In my city, I am surrounded by constant cries
   of the dying, burning pyres heaving

under burden of wood, smoke and bones —
   wailing summed up by sonic notes of Om.

Civilisation’s first sound—Sanskrit syllable
   echoing a conch shell’s harmonic mapping —

The kingfisher’s daydream: rivers under the sun – 
     rain has crept up the daydream like an ant.
The kingfisher bites raindrops: it will rain fishes soon.
Indivisible unity, Parvati and Shiva forever entwined
Women and men interdependent, infused with traits of each other
A softer left lineament draped in finery, a muscular right stretched over taut skin
Artistry overlaying a deep philosophy of a shared destiny
A new bride has come, the palanquin has left. 
Those who’ve come late — the old viewers: grim.
Brittle-finger mothers measure the skin
of the girl. Her ornaments' weight. Hair. Teeth.
The onlookers grow. This new girl’s laugh —
Staring at the thumbless hands,
Ekalavya sits in silence.
Gratitude, grief, sacrifice...
are possibilities only in a poet’s imagination.
is what we are;
While Mother Earth, bearing us, lies nonchalantly under every foot,
we are not embarrassed at being trampled on again and again.
Though there is one on the left and another on the right,
Both the poet and the typists are linguistic labourers. One translates the sticky flour into rounded words. They look like some misspelt words, blemishes on the chest of burnt moon.

Down below await with gaping wonder the audience, the starving majority. The other styles and plates those scribbles with much affection so they look like a divine dish.