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.

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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.

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.

Failed Comedy: Chewing Gum

Here I sit where time terminates
My tired legs hanging off the cliff into the other zone
Listening to the noiseless sounds beyond these gates
Still feeling the hard end of time’s long bone
Brooding on rock climbing, climbers and mountains
Chewing the gum over why things are as they are over the mains.

পুরিবনে পোৎলূমসে নুংশিবগি

পোৎয়োমসি অসুম পুরিবনি পুনীংদুনা, নুংশিদুনা
উহৈশিংসে ফংদবদি নত্তে য়ূমগি হৈকোলদুদা
শাত্তবদি নত্তে নাচোমশিংসি ইপাগি লৈকোলদুদা,
অদু পুরক্লিবনি নুংশিদুনা চৎলুবা লমদমশিং
খূদোলজনীংদুনা লেম পানা ৱাৎত্রবা ঐগি নুংশিবশিংদুদা
হেকচরক্লিবনি হৈরাং লৈরাংশিংসে থমোই কয়াদ ঈরাঙ হৌনা
পীবগি অপেনবদু ফাওজনীংদুনা, থারম্লবসু পূম্নমকসে মখোয়না৷

চৎলিবনি পোৎলূমসে পুদুনা ৱারবসু ৱানা
করম্নদি লংথোক্লমগনি অদুক নুংশিনা খুদোলবীরক্লগা নঙনা?
করিদি পুরুনি নুংশি খূদোল পোৎলূমসে নত্ত্রদি?
করম্নদি খূল্লুনি চেগায় চেগুম খুলগি লম্বী মতাইদগি
থাদদুনা নুংশিবসে লম্বীগি ঊফুল মথক্তা?

ও! করিগি অসুক নুংশিরিবনো নঙনা ঐবু?
নুংশিবা য়াদব্র খরা তপ্না, খরা থোৎনা, মতম শাংনা?
তৌফম খঙহন্দ্রে নঙগি নুংশিবনা ঐবু
চৎফমসু খঙহন্দ্রে লম্বীসি নীং তম্না
অসুম নীক্তুনা লৈরে থমোই মরীসে ঐগি!

Bokeh in Lakeshore Evening

The stirs of life slow down to rest
at sunset—they don’t like the dark much.
The streets, closed malls and parks—
they are left to the homelss, dogs, cats,
lost newcomers and nocturnal tourists.

I sit on a shapeless rock growing out of the sand.
Through the sunset. After the sunset.

Dull sounds of oars hitting gunwales—yea,
I saw some lazy boats off the shore in the twilight.
The sound of water lapping against the shore.
A dog barking at a far distance.
Nameless noises of being wriggling in the silence.
A cat teaching its kitten cat tricks
on the white table at my room verandah.
Idiot. Useless things.
There are more important things.

I have brought my eyes back to myself
and keep them about myself only to sense
almost imperceptible ghostly shadows
coming into their curtailed field.
I look at nothing particular—
I just remain capable of seeing.

I sit on the shapeless rock growing out of the sand.
Through the sunset. After the sunset.

The sounds of a familiar language are brought
by the wind, the wave forms twisted into unintelligible shapes,
into a strange language or a non-language.
Just the voices kept intact as humans’.
They must be walking arm in arm in the sand.
In love. In the breeze. The evening soon to pass.
Long tuned to the silence and pressures in the nocturnal air,
you can sense the presence and absence
of movements around.

My mind sits at the center of the quiet
weaving a thought without an idea in it.
Thought in bokehs of ideas.

My photographer friend would say
this is a beautiful scene.

Cold Stone Womb

This black cave, the only space
carved out in the whole rock-solid world.
A black stone womb. Cold.
A single impossible hole. Blinding bright.
Time. Endless. It flows in.
Licking tongues of smoke in a shaft of light
straight as a freight train in full speed
into the jaws of the darkness.
Spiraling. The hooks of an arrow.
Never ending. It flows in. Time flows in
like from an oxygen tank. Keeping me alive.
Giving me time in this black stone womb.
Time stretched thin out to eternity.
To feel every single bite of pain
every single tear in the tissue
in the world where nothing else exists.
Nothing else. Nothing. Just live.
An immortal. A god in torment.

I poetry, because in poetry, they don’t take you seriously

It’s coming up–that heavy feeling
that creeps up the chest,
slithers up the throat
and seeks so forcefully
to force damply out through your eyes,
loudly out through your mouth

I feel like crying.

I wanna go somewhere noisy and rainy
and cry.
I want to rest.
I want to feel sleepy,
sleep at least in fragments
or rest at least in small change
found stuck in cosy pocket corners
or one here another there
in unswept rooms
and in the shade under the bed.

I wanna pour all of me out
somewhere far away
and come back free and empty
to my silence
and rest.

This was not meant to be a poem, if it ever is now. It was like a creature in the wilderness of my mind moving around and practicing wild cartography there. Not restrained by culture that the civilization called poetry usually demands.

It just happened to be this way, the way a lone tree in the middle of an open savannah just grows up untamed by its emptiness. Yes, I broke the run-on sentences into lines, to time them to the beat of the emotion running through them.

Miles and Cosmography

Snaking all along the line
Yuri’s mouth pops out from my receiver
Like a full-blown flower:
The moon is soft.

My brain is taxed in the cave
I can’t make out these paintings:
Arrows and smothering pillows
Hills and vales and rivers.
Do you think they are of hunting?
The arrows fly and the pillows smother.

A cosmography written in secret script
Which should be felt.