Singing Life a Capella

How far are you from where I live
for it doesn’t feel like the same here?
The signs have come to pass–
the rains in empty streets–nothing to wet,
the rains hitting the terrace–without love,
the fingers of golden rain trees
tattooed on the tarmac in yellow haloes
in the yellow grainy November nights,
the winds whispering into the woods
the answers in the winds of boozy boys
spending hollow nights in the cold.
The signs have come to pass unaccompanied
like time singing life a capella.
How far are you from where I live?

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An Armless Son

missing you mama
missing you baba
both old and ill
and me just a son
too far for a hug that speaks
when words fail

I am really worried and weeping that I may not be around when all you want in the world is a warm wordless heartfilling hug as you quietly pass on, letting out the last cloud of breath in a long string of thinness on which your crystal dewdrops slide into the mist and beyond. Unwrapped by these arms still small and delicate to you, unlike those warmth and love, and the beating joy and curving smile that you once greeted me with when I came.

There is a time
once in a lifetime
when all one wants
is just an hug
and no word.

I am just words,
and no arms–
words for the mulct
arms for the dear.

চোংশিন্নবা / Face to Face

Face to Face
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

ৱাকচীংদা চপ লেপখি হিংবা৷
উচেক্না তন্না পাই অদুগা থৱায়না
তকই লমহাঙ লমজাউদা শুরু শুরু
তক্তুনা লৈবগুম হিনা হিথাঙফমগি পুনফমদা৷

উপালশিংনা লেপ্পী মনম ওনশিন্দুনা ঐঙোন্দা৷
থানা শীল্লবা উন মরেপ ওল্লী অশিবা চরূনা৷
মন্থরকই খোঙ্গুলশিংনা লৈমায়দা৷
ৱাজরে লোনদি তিরপাল মখাদা৷

নোংমদি লাকই কৈনো’মা থোঙনাউদা৷
খূৎকি থবক থা, লৈদুনা য়েংখৎলুই ঐ৷
মচু মমেন্না ইঙান! ঙম্নমক লৈদুনা য়েংলম্লে৷
মালেমগা ঐগা চোংশিন্নৈ৷

 

Roblin Fulton’s translation:

In February living stood still.
The birds flew unwillingly and the soul
chafed against the landscape as a boat
chafes against the pier it lies moored to.

The trees stood with their backs turned to me.
The deep snow was measured with dead straws.
The footprints grew old out on the crust.
Under a tarpaulin language pined.

One day something came to the window.
Work was dropped, I looked up.
The colors flared. Everything turned around.
The earth and I sprang toward each other.

মঙ্গারকপা / Back from a funeral

The poem came visually and aurally, quite in a pre-linguistic fashion. Yes, when I woke up from sleep in the middle of the black night. Then when I got down to writing, the visuals and audios crystalled themselves linguistically. This process is a subtle aesthetic orgasmic experience, and you don’t ever want to get over this. For this one, the linguistic crystallization occurred simultaneously in two languages–some parts in Manipuri, and some other parts in English, the two languages I straddle most comfortably. The blended nature of how I experienced the original bilingual poem has its own distinct, irreplaceable beauty; however, I have separated the strands for better presentation, translated parts from one language to another and vice versa, and have presented the two versions as below, the English and Manipuri lines kept abreast of each other.

Assuming some may find the line alignment of the English version in the ‘preformatted” juxtaposition with Manipuri uncomfortable, I have reproduced the English version at the bottom of the post again.

ঈশিংদা তাশিল্লে                      Fallen into the water.      
কদায়দগিনো খঙদনা--                God knows from where—
অরূবা ঈশিং                        clear water,
ত্রৎ ঈংবা ঈশিং,                     freezing cold
হকচাং কয়াৎ পূম্বা য়াথোকহনবা৷          getting around all organs.
হোই,                             Yes,
মখূৎতু ঙাইহাক্তি লাম্মী                 the hands grope awhile
মখোঙদু ঙাইহাক্তি কাওই৷               the legs kick awhile.
অদৈদি ঈশিংদু হঞ্জিল্লকই                 Then the water returns
করিশু খঙজদবা মতৌদা৷               to its placid innocence.
ফমজিনখ্রবা ঈমায়দা ফমদুনা             Crouched on the icy surface
উই মশাগি হোৎনবা পূম্বা               he sees all his own efforts
ঈশিংনা চূপশিনখিবা,                  being sucked up by the water,
মাগি ফিথোংদবা হকচাং                 his naked body
অঙৌবা গুলিগুমই                     a blueish-white tablet
অরূবা গ্লাসকি ঈশিংদা                 in a glass of clean water
তুমদ্রঙৈ ঙাইহাক্কি প্রীক প্রীক৷             noiselessly bubbling awhile
                                 before it dissolves.

অহিং নোংয়ায়দা মীৎকপ থোরকই৷         He wakes up at midnight.
মঙ্গারকপগুমই মদু                    It feels like back from a funeral
অঙকপা অমম্বা লমদম অমদগি৷           in a strange dark place

মুশিবা তেবল লেম্প নাকলদা              A glass of clean water
অরূবা ঈশিং গ্লাস৷                     beside the shaded table lamp.
অঙৌবা গুলি অমা থাদৈ৷                 He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
কোঙ্গোল মচা খরা পৃক পৃক              A few tiny bubbles prick up
ঙাইহাক৷                            just awhile.

অমুক তূমথবা য়াদ্রে                     He can't bring himself
মহাক৷                              back to sleep.

The English version is reproduced below again:

Fallen into the water.
God knows from where—
clear water,
freezing cold
getting around all organs.
Yes,
the hands grope awhile
the legs kick awhile.
Then the water returns
to its placid innocence.
Crouched on the icy surface
he sees all his own efforts
being sucked up by the water,
his naked body
a bluish-white tablet
in a glass of clean water
noiselessly bubbling awhile
before it dissolves.

He wakes up at midnight.
It feels like back from a funeral
in a strange dark place.

A glass of clean water
beside the shaded table lamp.
He drops a blueish-white tablet in it.
A few tiny bubbles prick up
just awhile.

He can’t bring himself
back to sleep.

তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিং (Insomniac Night)

Last night it rained here in this part of Delhi where I live. Its sound was so sweet. The sound of the rain is my crush. After sleepless nights, days and nights of sleep and wakefulness in fits and starts of about two weeks, finally sleep came heavily on me after 60 hours of sleeplessness at a stretch. The rain continued.

The alarm rang long before dawn. I could not remember setting it. The last time I went to Manipur (yes, recently), I was so busy that such basic things of life as food and sleep became secondary–I worked at the studio day and night, without sleeping for 48 hours or more. I must have set it then, not to miss the dawn run of the Kakching Runners. Things often slip off my mind. But back to Delhi, I have not once heard the alarm ringing. Strange.

When I woke up, it was still raining, though slow. In the dark. I could not go back to sleep. Then memory brought a lot of things back to me. My thought was set into motion. My emotions aroused.

ঙরাং অহিং দেলিগি ঐনা লৈবা মফমদা নোং খরা তাখি৷ মখোলদু য়াম্না নুংশি৷ নোংগি মখোলসি ঐগি ঙাওজবীনি৷ ইতৎ তত্তনা অহিং তূমদবা, খরা তূম্বা য়াও তূমদবা য়াও হপ্তা অনী লৈরকপনা মমৈদা অমুক্তদা পূং ৬০ চূপ্না তূম্লক্ত্রবা মতুংদা ঙরাং অহিংদি য়াম্না তুম্নীংবা ফাওখি৷ নোংদু অদুম তাহৌই৷

নোং ঙানগদবা ৱাৎলিঙৈদা অলার্ম খোংলকই৷ মদু থমখিবা ঐ নীংশিংদ্রে৷ ঐনা মনিপুরদা অকোনবা চৎলুবদা অহিং নুংথিল তূম্বা চাবা খঙদনা ষ্টুদিওদা থবক চিনখিবা, অহিং অনীকা তূমদনা থবক তৌখিবা, মদুদা ককচীং রন্নর্স কাঙবুগা নোং ঙাল্লমদাইদা লমজেল চেনশি হৌনখিবদু শোয়দনবা থমখিবা ওইরম্বা য়াই৷ ঐ খরা কাউগল্লী৷ অদুবু নহানমখৈদি ঐগি ফোনগি অলার্মসি অমুক্তসু খীংলকপা তাদে৷ করিনো খঙদে৷

হৌগৎলকপদা নোং খরা খরা চুরম্লি৷ অমম্বদা৷ অমুক তূম্মু য়াদ্রে। অদুদগিদি করি করিনো য়াম্না নীংশিংলক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না খল্লক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না ফাওরক্লে৷

 

(১)
অহিংগি ঈচীক হুনবদা
ঊৎমান মচুগি অনেম্বা অতিয়া মখাদা
কাঙলূপ কাঙলূপ ঊচানশিংদো
মুশুক মশুক
মুরূম মুরূম
অরোনবা অমা তানবগুম
কৈনোমা ৱানা ঙাইবগুম
মীৎশেন খাঙদুনা
(য়ৌরকহন্নীংদবা নুংশিবরা মদো?
কুইরবা অহিংদু নীংশিংলি
মমা মপানা পমদুনা পুরকখিবদু
অচীকপা ময়োম অমা য়ূমদা, অপীকপা মচলগি
তুমিন্না, ঈচীক চীক্না
অরাপ্পা লায়েংশঙদগি৷)
লেঙদবা অহিংবু চুরূপকুম চিংদুনা
নিংথমগি অৱাউবা মনিল কামদুনা৷
অচীকপদা
মখোয়গি ফি তক্নবগি মখোল
মখোয়গি শোরনা চঙবগি থোকপগি৷

নুংশীৎ শীৎলকপদা
মখোয়গি মশমশু মফিশু
মায়কৈ অমদা ফ্র-ফ্র৷
য়েংবশু৷
মখোয়না ঙাইরিবদু নুংশীৎনা চেনবীখ্রগুম
ঊনাগুম মরী মরী
হনুবগি মীৎনদি উদবা৷

২.
তপ!
তপ!
তপ তপ!
তপ!
অতিয়ানা থোঙ থীল্লক্লে
মীৎশেন খাঙলিঙৈ তূম্বা ঊনাগি৷
তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিংদা
অহিংনা ঈচীক হুনবদা
নাকোঙগি ঈখৌলাংবা মখূৎ মশা মরেং ঙম্নমক
মরেঙ মরেঙ লামথোরকই৷
খোঞ্জেল মরীক অমত্তশু!
লৈতাদবা ফমুংদা লোংনা৷

নোংগি অশাংবা মরীশিংদু চেন্থরক্লে
মুশুক মশুকপা ঊচান মরক্তা
মখোলদি ইথোক থোকহন্দ
অরোনবা থবক তৌরিবগুম
হোন্দোক হোঞ্জিন তৌরিবগুম অরোনবা খরা
মালেমগা অতিয়াগগি মরক্তা
তপ্না, য়াম্না তপ্না
অচীকপদা খোঞ্জেলদং থিবা
তূম্বা য়াদবা হনুবতনা তাগদবা মতৌদা৷

৩.
নুমীৎনা মমীৎ পাঙলকপদা
উচেক ৱায়া ঈরাঙ লাঙলে৷
অদুগা লৈমায়–মদু অশিবগি ইমুংগুম
ইহিং হিংই, তরু তরুই,
খোঙ্গুল অমত্তশু তাদে
ঊচানগি শম্না অমত্তসু
ঊনা খরা নত্তনা কদায়দগিনো খঙদবা
অকংবা, কংফাত্তবা, নাপু৷

অরোনববু অশুক লোনব্রনে?

Stranger in the Town

A formal experiment in epic poetry,
with sensibilities spanning whole stretch
of known time. To come in a series.

Proetry
Fictional poetry
Epic poetry in a new form
This series will keep coming

 

When I pull into the tavern that is more a tool shed
with tables and benches like the one my grandfather had
where he taught me to wield tools as tools and weapons
a thousand years ago when the human face
was less evolved and more expressive of true emotions,
out of the long winding ways and the endless winter winds and snows,
steaming like my horse foaming at the mouth
and rubbing my unglobed hands together,
the one-eyed man taking black-blood bottles from the counter
shifts his what-should-have-been-the-left eye from me
and says in an unknown language accenting every syllable
equally as foreign tongues do and care, in a tone
that needs no language to get the message across to the mark:
“Ech dot kothari che ni det.”
Did he press a button or pull a string to soul a puppet show?
All the eyes there all at once shoot at me
like long shafts of light directed to me in an opera.

“We don’t serve sons of bitches here.” That’s from the left.
Another voice, deep as hell’s grumble under your feet, dry as a slough.
The bottle gurgles as the dry-blood wine jumps into a tall tumbler.
My steps free and my hands stop rubbing.
“I don’t say that.” He explains, as he turns holding the frothing tumbler by the ear
without looking at me but seeing, but revealing a face
with which evolution has stepped back—one-eyed, with the ball
protruding like an eyed probe, the left side where you would expect
another eye telling the story rather of a hole in the wall
mortared and troweled badly than something
that has anything to do with a human face, ugly though as can be.
A rather huge hagstone nose and a pair of fleshy lips under it
easily taking the shapes of the words pouring out of them.
His probably kind translation carries the breath
of an original hate and feels less like a translation,
and this and how he comes across seem to impress
on anybody who sees him the scripture of his life
whose sole commandment is to hate and hate around.

Do they have the same face? Oh! Do I look at them differently
from how they look at me? I have the same eyes?
Thoughts are invisible but they do concrete magic
like throwing yourself off the cliff or hole a breast
to traffic a soul across the border. I am often too numb
for a warrior, my war teacher told me I would better throw
my brains away to the dogs and pour wine into the skull
than momentarily stiffen in the middle of a battle
while I should be mowing heads like on a grassland.

He raises the restless crystal to his lips and empties it
in a gulp that makes a lot of noise down its course.
When the left-eyed tender walks to and stands on his left
they are more a single monster split in half on a jigsaw board.
“Tu-e pet siot kothari ata wang mal penture khrose,”1 the drinker barks
in his coolest voice as his half drops an oily leg on the table
and makes another crystal trilling with life
and chews his words like cud before he swallows the fluid,
“Ech wech khothari che det, et du pist wang.”2

The right half turns and looks at me with his well-deep eye
that would wrest the breath from a less hardy heart,
and says with a bad smile, “He says he takes sons of bitches
on a windy day.”
My two eyes ray into the only eye he has for a steady moment,
enough to roil its well and before long he blinks
and says with a less bad smile, “That’s not my word.”

My fat coins gong when they hit the hewn top
of the coarse unplaned pine counter, and that suspends
the disbelief of the one-eyed keeper for now, whose wine-stained
thinned-down fingers with the lines on the flats rubbed off
by handling coins too long falter in the drag of the emotion
before he has to gather himself to show me the way.

 

Unwanted notes:
These notes are not meant for reading.
[1] A left-eye can accept a son of a bitch at a high price on stormy days.
[2] I will accept a son of a bitch here, if you pay high.

Berry Picking

So you go on like history blasé
about the obsidian past black as your eyes
(set in a face crumpled from lack of sleep)
that, amid that sleepy creaky voice,
looked up from my “uncomfortable” arms
at my sleepless eyes from behind those
wispy locks tousled from rolling in the hay
we had just gathered from the sun,
the season’s last, that turned out a life’s.
And I will say the past is like your hair—
it’s dark and lost behind the absent wall,
though I often turn every speck of its dust
in the sunless time to scratch back up
the stains of my soul spilled all over
at a stumble—so ungraceful you’d wonder
how God makes things so slack!

I go on—a berry picker (when not dusting
dusty memory), a slow one, who loves berries
like the last thing left all in the world
too far and vast for tired eyes,
I am on my hands and knees in the soil
caring not to break the groping stems
or let the red-flesh fruits slip off
my crinkled hands with broad blunt fingers
or the basket when my used eyes comb
through the cold netty crouch of the lacy stems
and the serrate velvet leaves scratching
the black tightened soil that smells rawish sweet
under the green and yellow coiffure,
to look for spotty lady-bugs in meditation
and lovebugs set in bliss in the green
and semi-transparent worms measuring green miles,
while seeing the season breathing itself out,
and I would know I’ll have to prepare
the land for the next season—
carrot in the mulch, sunflowers in waves.
Seasons go on and on like history
that has nothing to do with the past.

নিংথম ময়ায় / Midwinter

Midwinter
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

শংবান্নবা অমা
ঙাল্লকই ঐগি ফিজোলদৈ৷
নিংথম ময়ায় চবূক৷
জ্রিং জ্রিং মরীকশিংসে উনগি৷
ঐ মীৎ উইশিল্লী৷
ঈচীক হুল্লে তাইবঙসে
অকায়বা মখুল অমা
মদুদৈ অশিবা হোন্দুনা
থাঙই লোন্না ঙমখৈ লান্না৷

Robert Fulton’s translation:

A blue sheen
radiates from my clothes.
Midwinter.
Jangling tambourines of ice.
I close my eyes.
There is a soundless world
there is a crack
where dead people
are smuggled across the border.

 

 

 

 

সোই / Signature

Signature
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

কানশিনবা তারে ঐগি
খোঙ অমম্বা থোঙজিনসিদা৷
শঙজাউ৷
ইঙান ঙাল্লী অঙৌবা চেদু৷
মমি কয়ানা লেঙ লেঙ৷
শোই তৌনীংই পূম্নমক মদুদা৷

মঙালদুনা ঐবু লাকহৎ
মতম্বু খুমজিনখিন্দ্রিখৈ৷

Robert Fulton’s translation:

I have to step
over the dark threshold.
A hall.
The white document gleams.
With many shadows moving.
Everyone wants to sign it.

Until the light overtook me
and folded up time.

 

 

 

উন তারক্লে / Snow is Falling

Snow is Falling
by Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2011)

মঙ্গুম্বা চৎপা লাকপা লেপ্তে
মথং মথং, হেন্ন হেন্নদুম
লম্বী তাকপা খূদমশিংগুম
সহর চৎপগি লম্বীদা৷

য়েংলি মীওই লোক্তাক অমনা
অশাংবা মমিগি লমদমদা৷

মদোম শাগৎচৈ থোং অমা,
তপ্না
হেক্তমক থিনগত্তুনা শুন্দ্রংদা৷

 

Robin Fulton’s translation:

Snow is Falling

The funerals keep coming
more and more of them
like the traffic signs
as we approach the city.

Thousands of people gazing
in the land of long shadows.

A bridge builds itself
slowly
straight out in space.

To John Ashbery

John Askbery photo by Lynn Davis
Photograph by LYNN DAVIS

Poetry is ash, Ashbery—your dust has already scattered in the wind, been the breath of many who have turned into ashes and joined the dust, wind, fire, water and the sky. I don’t know where you came from, Ashbery, but I think you return where you came from, like all of us. We are ashes for a while and we fly and scatter when the home-bound wind comes.

John Ashbery, the beloved Ashbery, your death has let the hell loose in me again, and a sadist or joyist (who can tell them apart, if they aren’t one and the same thing?), I love it because there is a pleasure in all this. You are like me—guilt tasted pleasing, and it made you a poet, for which you have become the beloved.

Surviving the death of a loved one always accompanies a subtle (often acute) feeling of guilt. Life wants to live and death wants to go on, and unfortunately love cannot bridge the two, to our chagrin. If not bridge, love should be able to keep us together in life, through life, or in death, we petulantly demand. But we the warlike humans, who just don’t let it go without a fight but wage wars against and kill each other for whatever petty thing there can be, can’t possibly put ourselves into any action when death wrests our loved ones from our arms invisibly even as we see it, which is stabbingly painful. And life is such that in most of the cases we drag on (just out of nature, but for nothing obvious to live for—it really feels rather empty, unbearably heavily empty, and you just don’t commit suicide), feeling the fading pang of guilt—the survivor’s guilt fading into general sadness or general weakness that pervades the rest of our life, which gravitates toward and finally empties itself into death. Life with its apparent injustice ends well in ash, so it all seems well. Maybe, there will be a lingering after-life feeling of anger at having put through it that badly.

Ashbery, you go on. Your ash, a berry to home—it sucks you back. All the world is ash. I loved you. I love you. I love myself. Life and death. Living and dying. I don’t put myself to a final death maybe because that would deprive me of the (extended) pleasure of continual dying, the pleasure of hating life that in turn breeds love of life, the pleasure of feeling angry at being wronged or done out of something good. The sadism or joy of all this.

Sleeping Home

When you can’t carry your own weight
against the earth’s call for a fall
life is reduced to the weight
of flesh, blood and bone.

The old man settles into his unmade bed,
made only by the fussy wind from the sea—
a bundle of wrinkles among the messy folds.
Old and spent, he sleeps the last sleep.

No snore. The folds and wrinkles at rest.
It feels like time has done with all its fuss—
there is nothing stirring in the bedroom,
in the living room, the corridors, the kitchen,
on the stairs and the cornice—the white silk curtains
in frozen stirs at the windows, and the breeze
caught in the cobweb of the air.

None will hear and the air won’t feel touched
when the old door creaks again to close
when you’ve walked home in your sleep.

নুংঙাইবা থিবদা ৱারদুনা

নুংঙাইবা থিবদা ৱারদুনা
ফমথখ্রে অঙাংদো নুমীৎ তাফমদা
ঙাথদুনা মমীৎ উইশিনখ্রবা নুমীৎতা
মদৌগুম মপোক্না পূংঙৌ ঙৌরদনা৷

মহৌশাগি মচৎতা কনানসু ৱাহং হংলুদে।
মহৌশাদি মহৌশানিদনা,
অঙাংনা শান্নবা পাম্ববো!
অদো, নুঙাইবা থিবদা ৱারবদা
পোত্থাফম থিবদা চোকথরবদা
খল্লুদব্রনে নঙবু নোংমতসু
কনানা করিগি নুংঙাইববু অসুক মমল য়ামহল্লিবা?

য়েকশিনবীরমই লৈই কয়া মাগি মায়থোংদা মতম্না,
ঙাথু থেংথুরবীরমই নুংশিদুনা মাগি হকচাংদা নুংশীৎনা
তারে লৈচিল কয়াগি খূৎফমসু
মমাগি মতম্বাক্তগি শীৎথখিবদা ঙাইরিবা ঊন্সাদা ৷

মদোমই মাদি অদো
কনাসু করিসু লৈজদ্রবগুম–মমাশু, নুমীৎশুুু–
মরোল লোল্লিবা তাইবঙগি
খাঙঙমদবা অচীকপা মরক্তা৷

 

Resurrection after Three Years*

I coffined my books and buried them
Right under my bed where I rocked
Upon wayward wanton lumps of flesh
And dipped my head into hell–its jelly sticky water,
That turned my sight into a wall masonry

Now I am digging love back out of that grave
Bone by bone. One half-decayed tissue after another.

 

  • This is not a … What? Let me think.
    A poem? Prose? (Self-talking: “Poetry?”)
    (Anger)
    Jesus Christ, I don’t have got no name.
    No word…
    This is not a …
    This is a …
    Fuck. Leave it.