“The Wheel” by Vinda Karandikar

Someone is about to come but doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.
I button my shirt
come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots,
like one’s peculiar fate.
I shut the door, sit quietly.
The fan begins to whirl
and turn the air into a whirlpool of fire,
making a noise bigger than the house.
Someone is about to come and doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter.
Calmly I lean against the wall,
become a wall.
A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously,
laughs at the shoulder it perches on!


My soul of flesh and blood puts a long thread in the needle’s eye.
I stitch a patch on my son’s umbrella.
I pick his nose and name the pickings:
I call one “Elephant” and another “Lion.”
Someone is about to come and doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs and doesn’t.
I tickle my children,
they tickle me in turn; I laugh,
with a will; for I do not feel tickled.
It doesn’t matter.
I scan their fingers for signs:
Nine conches and one wheel.

Note: “Nine conches and one wheel” are formations of lines on the tips of fingers which, in Indian palmistry, foretell a happy life.


Translated from the Marathi by the author

http://www.poetrymagazine.org/magazine/0907/poem_180011.html

“Some one is about to come but doesn’t/Is about to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.” A possibility with a certainty of the event not happening,ab initio. This is how despair reveals itself.”I button my shirt come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots” I am leaving the room but do not. Like those blots on the shirt I have my peculiar fate to enact.I shut the door and sit quietly as the fan whirs and makes a noise bigger than the house.

“makes the noise bigger than the house” is a pretty image. The meaning works both ways.The whirring noise is higher in volume than what the house contain.At another level the noise of the house rises above the noise level of the house itself.The house creaks in decrepitude and its doors rattle. The whirring fan makes the air into a whirlpool of fire.In the blazing heat of mid-summer the concrete roof sends down shafts of heat through the air stirred by the whirring of the fan.Calmly I lean against the wall and become the wall.”become the wall” is to become immobile against the wall merging into its staticity. “A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously/Laughs at the very shoulder it perches on”-the laughter of rejection,of apathy and of the hopelessness of unreturned love.

I stitch my son’s umbrella ,mending its patches ,like the patches which dazzled on my shirt like my fate.I pick my son’s nose and give funny names to the pickings.I get tickled by children but cannot laugh.Because no matter how much they try they cannot bring me back my happiness.It does not matter.My children have nine conches and one wheel on their fingers .Their future will be bright as the the presence of one conch on the fingers is predictive of  a prosperous life.

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“Women” by Bejan Matur

(Translated from the Turkish by Suat Karantay)

With their blue tattoos
And bruises from endless mournings
They stand still looking at the fire
They all shiver when the wind blows
Their breasts bend to the earth

Carrying burning wood in their hands
Old as black rusty cauldrons
Women continue their wandering
When the fire bursts in a rage
Voices multiply
The fire burns incessantly there
Extinguishing it is such a hassle

Women with shrunken breasts
Are thinking of the hardness of the wood
They’ll hold with their uncommonly slender hands
And keep silent
It is hard to guess their age when they are silent
They smell of the earth when they cry out

Unable to recollect where to direct their glances
They let their eyes rest on the earth
As clouds are not permanent in the sky
They relinquish themselves to the earth
Cordially
And occasionally exude a fragrance


http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article.php?lab=WomenBejan

It is difficult to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the poet’s thoughts -what are they ? Is he thinking about the atavistic woman ,the archetypal suffering woman who has lost her sons,her husbands ,her fathers , her brothers in the  blazing fires kindled by man’s animal passions and  inhumanity to man? With their blue tattoos/ and bruises from endless mournings/They all shiver when the wind blows/Their breasts bend to the earth.

The most interesting reference is to the earth ,which is made again and again in the poem.

“their breasts bend to the earth”
“they smell of the earth when they cry out “
“They let their eyes rest on the earth”
“They relinquish themselves to the earth”

The second interesting reference is to the smells of different things -use of the olfactory sense.
“They smell of the earth when they cry out”
“They relinquish themselves to the earth
And occasionally exude a fragrance”

The third notable reference is to the breasts which happens twice-once when their breasts bend to the earth and the second time ,their breasts are referred to as “sunken”.Breasts are obviously used to denote motherhood and they bend to the earth because they are no longer full and have become shrunken due to the ravages of time.

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“The Future” by Rilke

The future: time’s excuse
to frighten us; too vast
a project, too large a morsel
for the heart’s mouth.

Future, who won’t wait for you?
Everyone is going there.
It suffices you to deepen
the absence that we are.

Translated by A. Poulin

“Time’s excuse to frighten us ” – an image reminiscent of John Donne or Andrew Marvell. But the next image
“Too vast a project” sounds more ‘modern’ ,conveying a conscious plan to mould future activities to the achievement of a pre-decided objective.
The next image draws from the sensory experience of taste-“too large a morsel for the heart’s mouth”-a very graphic image.

But the most fascinating image is “it suffices you to deepen the absence that we are” .Just think about it : as future grows ,the past deepens and with it our absence.

“KEY” by Dom Moraes

Ground in the Victorian lock, stiff,
With difficulty screwed open,
To admit me to the seven mossed stairs
And the badly kept garden.

Who runs to me in memory
Through flowers destroyed by no love

But the child with brown hair and eyes,
Smudged all over with toffee?

I lick his cheeks. I bounce him in air.
Two bounces, he disappears.

Fifteen years later, he redescends,
Not as a postponed child, but a letter
Asking me for his father who now possesses
No garden, no home, not even any key.

A memory of a child with brown hair and eyes and toffee spread all over . Re-lived briefly as the key to the Victorian lock is turned and the poet gains admittance to the seven mossed stairs and the badly kept garden. Fifteen years later ,the child re-appears ,not as a grown up kid or as a child frozen in time but merely as a letter asking for his father ,who now possesses no  garden , no home,not even a key.

The lyricism of Dom Moraes’ poems is captivating. The images are intriguing : "postponed child","the key","two bounces,he disappears". The key is the metaphor,the key to the memories of the past, the key to childhood.

I have just noticed the use of visual-dynamic images effectively to convey the back-and -forth movements of the poet’s mind in time. The child is bounced "up" in the air :later he re-"descends". "The child "runs" to me in memory";
"two bounces/he disappears".

“Sea Breeze, Bombay” by Adil Jussawalla

Partition’s people stitched
Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.

Surrogate city of banks,
Brokering and bays, refugees’ harbour and port,
Gatherer of ends whose brick beginnings work
Loose like a skin, spotting the coast,

Restore us to fire. New refugees,
Wearing blood-red wool in the worst heat,
come from Tibet, scanning the sea from the north,
Dazed, holes in their cracked feet.

Restore us to fire. Still,
Communities tear and re-form; and still, a breeze,
Cooling our garrulous evenings, investigates nothing,
Ruffles no tempers, uncovers no root,

And settles no one adrift of the mainland’s histories.

A partition poem which is also a Bombay poem. Partition’s people stitched shrouds from a flag ,a reference to the gruesome killings in the wake of the India partition in the name of nationalism and religion.Bombay turned out to be a migrants’ city and a commercial capital ,where communities break and re-form.Still Bombay investigates nothing (We have the example of the several scams and bomb blasts, riots and underworld killings),ruffles no one’s tempers and uncovers no roots.Above all, Bombay settles no one adrift of the mainland’s histories.

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