Poems by K Satchidanandan

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Those Who Pass

Slowly , slowly they pass by
Those who breastfed and put us to bed
who worked hard to send us
to schools and colleges
those who scolded and punished us
who revered and envied us,
hugged and desired us,
those who longed for our death,
one by one, slowly, slowly.

Slowly ,slowly
A part of us too passes with them,
a small part, a breath, some blood,
a bit of pollen.

All that we climbed up we climb down
All that we climb down we walk
All that walk fall, like leaves,
the greener side down,
clung to earth.

A breeze blows above us
The memories of those who passed
envelope us with the odours of
pepper, garlic, wild jasmine.
Slowly, we come alive, like some statues
coming alive at midnight,
loiter along the ancient times
and recall that old life , line by line,
through measured verses.

The river goes on singing,
the primal song of those who do not die
It cuts across the banks, like time
that has no borders, bodiless,
slowly,
slowly.

One Grief

One grief smells my feet
like a puppy, finds I am not his man
and rushes to my neighbour, wagging his tail.

A bark. A cry.

A joy caresses my cheeks
like a kitten: until another grief
comes crawling by
and winds around to choke me

Then Suddenly

I saw myself among the dead
hiding my face in an umbrella in the rain,
in a black cloak,
like an evening shadow.

I wanted to sing a song, a strange song
about horses, cranes and ships,
just a song that has neither flowers nor birds,
neither sunrises nor love-affairs.

But my lips had been sewn together;
my ears , filled with earth.

Then suddenly the sun rose.

Some Things We Take

Some things we take,
some we give.
Death makes a balance sheet.

Heaven is a lie, but
Hell, yes, it exists

Just Now

What happens ‘always’
is what happens ‘now’.
Time has no door to enter us
except this moment.

Valmiki knew this,
Vyasa and Homer too,
why, even Dante.

But we forget that.
So we think infinity is
somewhere outside us
and eternity is what we confront
only once we die.

We can be indifferent to history,
but do not expect history to spare us.

So let us speak about the rain
pouring down this moment in a torrent
this flower blossoming now
this eye opening in front of us,
and this blood being shed
before our eyes, just now.

Knife

The knife is stuck deep
in the soil, on the green tree,
on a woman’s chest
The one who made it does not see it
His job is done once it has been made.

Learning Languages

I would love to learn languages,
Santali, Balochi, Catalan, Slovenian.
In all these tongues
we can say ‘love’;
we can say ‘kill’ too .

It is too late;
no time even to design a time-piece
may be, I can design a verse-piece

Languages walk past the age of love
bent over a walker.

I too will go,
to the land where I have plenty of time
to learn languages
and then
I will kill you with love.

No Time

There is no more time, but
there are some evil deeds
yet to accomplish.
To divide lovers,
to spread hate and harvest death,
to lead a revolution
that denies happiness
to everyone, equally.

All this calls for hard work.
I have the time for it,
and the impatience too.

Answers

He went on
shouting out the answers.

But the questions,
They went on screaming,
‘O, benevolent one,
please look at us
at least once ’.

To See, To Look

We do not fail to see anything
but we fail to look.
We hear, but do not listen.

The map of an unborn country
painted by a young man’s blood
on the crowded road,
the cry of a woman, as if from a coffin,
drowned in the mob’s tumult,
a piece of adolescent flesh salted with tears
from a boy from Arunachal
in the platter of meat
served in the hotel,
the odour of a mother burning
among the scents from the flowershop,
the manacles of the innocent man,
his eyes closed, seated next to the policeman.

Only when a gentleman with dark glasses
burns our thighs with his cigarette
we stare at him.

Poverty

To see how beautiful poverty is
you need to see the Garo woman
walking along the city street.

The crown of feathers tucked among her hair,
the tattoos that turn her body into a parrot,
the many-coloured bangles that adorn her
from her wrists to the shoulders
like the annual rings of a wild teak ,
the stone necklaces dangling
from her neck up to her waist
reminding you of Goddess Lakshmi
in the calendar-picture.
But in the belly concealed by the loin cloth
in black and red competing for glamour,
only an unquenched fire.

Had You Been A Poet…

(To late Stephen Hawking)

World just passed by
like a cat, its fur rubbing against you.
It did not expect you to discover
a theory of everything anyway.

The dark matter remains dark
even after your entry.
This tiny being on this little planet
knows only one secret:
that secrets are secrets-
not that it is no knowledge.

Galaxies have been made not by laws alone,
but by accidents too,
like our own small lives.

Definitions have little scope, then,
whether of Karma or of Brahma.
Our brain is too small, and universes,
huge, infinite, mysterious: enough for
many generations of philosophers.

Universes would have been, even without us.
They are indifferent to our discoveries.

Had you been a poet, you
would have understood things better:
like Kabir, Allama Prabhu,
or Hafiz.

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K Satchidanandan, poet, critic, translator, travel writer, children's writer and playwright has authored twenty-three collections of poetry in Malayalam besides five books on Comparative Indian Literature in English. Thirty-two collections of his translations have been published in nineteen languages including English, Irish, Italian, French, German, Arabic and Chinese. He has won fifty awards for his literary contribution including the Indian National Academy award and five state awards for different genres as well as the Ezhuthachan Prize, the highest honor for any writer in Malayalam.

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