Thursday, 16 February 2017
The Inimitable Jayanta Mahapatra
hang from the tamarind tree.
The wonder of sweetness
builds through the leaves.
Long shadows spring out
of nowhere as I watch.
The storm has come and passed,
visible still on the horizon.
Today I feel I am surrounded
by a wall of dead fruit;
they are unconcerned
of how I have lived my life.
They seem to insist
I am a traveller lost in the dark
and that the strange ceremony
which once began in darkness
is like the lonely mountain wind
over the grasses.
When I walk up the slope,
a slow thirst for happiness
seeks the worn doorsill
where my dead mother had sat,
as she sternly forbade us
to pluck the fruit
childhood’s sunrise had shaped
so temptingly for our eyes.
The crucifix on the wall holds
a body of humiliating husks.
Rain runs down the callused windows of our sleep.
There is this tale of the unhappy woman
With her body willing to be burnt to death
and the child born blind
with the enormous eyes of sunlight
guarding the secrets of the sky.
All I’ve wanted to do was to spy on God
all my life, to feel empty and light,
but our pains met merely on long sleepless nights.
The lewd calls of a caged parrot at dawn.
I can never know what its voice is searching for.
The sunlight crawls down the householder’s spine
while the immensities of space are numb with silence.
The voices that are heard in the garden
hold plausible lies. The rice is more golden than ever,
the jasmines are whiter, and the goodbyes of mothers to their young who die without reason are louder.
I’ve searched everywhere and found nothing there.
Not even the place where I heard those voices.
There’s only something like a sky with sunken cheeks sitting on the arm of the chair staring at me.
Mother lay in her last illness a walking distance away,
her feeble voice walking against the wind.
Today my sky is the last thing I’ll ever know:
this sky of voices suffering the retribution
of an unseen purpose’s vengeance
that knows nothing can move it
like the sun, here or ever.
Like leaves returning to the tree,
the past years sprout green;
so much love spent at times,
and a poet loses sight of love
because he loads his life with words.
Again and again the pigeons fly back,
Planning their small strategies,
Choosing slender weeds from the ground.
Awake and sleeping,
I feel their exhaustion.
I thought I saw my words
wanting to leave my memory,
and knew my poem had no meaning.
But the years continue to exist
in their glass tower with the veiled view,
with the kiss not taken,
and the word afraid of being no more.
And these years lie in the future,
and we do not know it.
Words are as far away as their pain.
In the thick cashew groves
Policemen pick up the last clues
of a young woman’s murder; they know
this is not the real end of the story.
Padma Shri Jayanta Mahapatra, Physicist and Poet, holds the distinction of being the first Indian poet in English to have received the Sahitya Akademi Award (1981) for Relationship. His other volumes include Close the Sky, Ten by Ten, Svayamvara & Other Poems, A Father's Hours, Temple, A Rain of Rites, Waiting, The False Start, Life Signs, Dispossessed Nests, A Whiteness of Bone, Burden of Waves and Fruit and Bare Face. He writes in English and Oriya. He adorns Re-Markings as a distinguished member of its Advisory Board. www.re-markings.com