11/10/15

Poems| Shakti Chattopadhyay translated by Arunava Sinha

Shakti Chattopadhyay used to be associated with the Hungryalist movement that took Calcutta by storm in the 60's. However, he later went his own way.
 
Source: http://www.parabaas.com


1.
There’s no fixed day or time to visit the forest
You can go to the jungle whenever you like
Whether to pick leaves or to swing an axe
There’s always a generous invitation to the forest
Have you ever walked with the moon in the forest?
Have you seen it sliced by a saw of leaves?
Like a football the moon is poised over the hill
Waiting for the late night game and the war cries
At these moments you can visit the forest


2.

Try just once to love
You'll see rocks tumbling from the breast of the fish in the river
Rocks rocks rocks and the river and ocean water
Blue rocks turning red, red rocks, blue
Try just once to love

It's good to have a few rocks in your heart - they echo sounds
When every walking trail is treacherous, I can arrange the rocks one after another
And go all the way to the distant door of autumn's pale stars for a look
At the naked use of poetry, of waves, of Kumortuli's idols in gaudy, sequined, embroidered costumes.

It's good to have a few rocks in your heart
There's no such thing as a letterbox - leaving it in the cracks in the rocks is good enough
The heart does want to build a home sometimes.

The rocks in the breast of the fish are slowly occupying our hearts
We need it all. We shall build houses - erect a permanent pillar to civilisation.

The silver fish left, shedding rocks
Try just once to love.


3.

I have seen postmen wandering in the autumnal forest
Their yellow sacks filled with grass like swollen sheep bellies
So many letters new and old they had found
Those postmen in the autumnal forest
I have seen them pecking away incessantly
Like a solitary crane at a fish
So impossibly, mysteriously, warily absorbed
They're not like those postmen of ours
From whose hands our constant, indulgent love letters
Are lost all the time

We are moving away from one another continuously
Distancing ourselves out of greed for letters
We are getting many letters from far away
We are going away from you at once to hand over letters
Loaded with love to the postmen

And so we are moving away from the kind of people
We are ourselves
And so we are about to express our foolish weaknesses
And motives, everything
We can no longer see ourselves in the mirror
We keep floating in the unpopulated evening veranda
And so we are taking off our clothes to be swept away
Alone in the moonlight
For a long time we have not embraced one another
For a long time we have not savoured human kisses
For a long time we have not heard people sing
For a long time we have not seen babbling children

We are drifting towards a forest even more ancient than the forest
Where the mark of eternal leaves is fused in stone jaws
We are floating away to a land of such unearthly connections
I have seen postmen wandering in the autumnal forest
Their yellow sacks filled with grass like swollen sheep bellies
So many letters new and old they had found
Those postmen in the autumnal forest
The distance between letters has only grown
I have never seen the distance between trees grow


4.

Why must you go early? Let the hours pass, sever
All bonds before leaving. Like a torn-off vine
Like a melancholy man in a crowd of laughter

Why must you go early? Let the hours pass, sever
All bonds before leaving



5.

I'll ask my old sorrow to visit me today
I sit here, there's some shade, if sorrow sat by my side
I'd like it, I think I'll tell my new sorrow, go away
Wander about in some other garden of happiness
Destroy flowers, set fire to green leaves, ransack the place
After some time, when you're tired, come back
Sit by me.For now, make room for my old sorrow
It's been in many gardens and homes, slashed and burned,
And wants to sit by me now. Let it stay a few days.
Let it find peace. Companionship. Come later.
Come afterwards, my new sorrow.



6.

Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet
Breast in breast
Nothing more - (a lot more?) - even earlier
Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet, breast in breast
Nothing more.
'Hands up' - raise them high - till someone picks you up
Another black van in a black van, and yet another
A row of windows, doors, a graveyard - skeletons lying awry
White termite in the bones, life in the termite, death in life - therefore
Death in death
Nothing more.
'Hands up' - raise them high - till someone picks you up
Throws you out of the van, but into another one
Where someone waits all the time - clutching plaster like a banyan seed
Someone or the other, whom you don't know
Waits behind the trees like a hardy bud
Holding a golden cobweb noose, he will
Garland you - your wedding will be at midnight, when pavements are swapped, tottering from head to toe
From wall to wall, from parapet to parapet
Imagine the train waiting while the station runs, starlight by the dying bulbs
Imagine the shoes walking while the feet are still - heaven and hell turned upside down
Imagine children trotting to the crematorium bearing the corpse - in afterlife
Decrepit men dancing horizontally at a wedding

Not a very happy time, not a very joyous time
That's when
Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet, breast in breast
Nothing more.


7.

Take a step down if you want to stand by me
Take a step up if you want to stand by me
Stretch your arms out, cut your ties to the world out there
One step up and one step down, if you want to stand by me


8.

From Mikir Hills the elephants come down late at night
Tea-gardens below, the shade-giving trees shed leaves
Clouds hang from the dark brown branches all in a row
The bungalow beneath. Even lower, the dishevelled waterfall

I sit in a corner of the veranda, watching the west
In case something catches my eye or misses my eye
With this hope I sit here, sit here watching the west
Silent like rocks in a corner of the veranda

At dawn I'll see my reflection in blue water and leave
I may never return, from Mikir Hills the elephants
Will come down late at night in single file, like rocks
When stones collide there will be bloodshed in the veranda


9.

You are safe now, death can no longer threaten you
It won't cast a long shadow on the distance at your door
Won't break your bones, your home - this ascetic world now
Will do nothing that bears the sinful touch of humankind
Because it was there you tried to provide whatever there was not
The fullness of the goat and the echo of emptiness were yours alone
Whatever was spartan was intense in the stone when it existed
In beauty and in heart, in your wayward manic soul
Trust and fear lived together - once troubled, Bengal is reassured
No one else is there now to torment with lightning whiplashes
This mediocrity, this wealth, this satisfaction within people
You have left, audacity has departed, humility has arrived
You languish like burnt stones here by our side in Bengal,
Ritwik, for you the insignificant poet cries in grief


10.

The boy wraps sleeping arms round his cruel father
Who's always travelling to cities, forests, remote lands
Constantly rushing from one place to another
I'll be back soon, he says, and goes away abruptly

The child won't go along, his arms have grasped the man
It's even possible the father will ignore these bonds
And leave at the dead of night, forsaking everything
Memories will be left, the warmth of a memorable bed
Why does he do this? His son does not understand
What mad attraction, what company takes him away?
What disease is this that no medicine can cure?
The boy wraps sleeping arms round his cruel father



11.

I hadn’t asked for it, still the rain, like galloping hooves
Rang out on the tin shed, flowers were sprinkled on the road
A stain trickled down the garbage hillock, a different
Black torrent facing ugly houses instead of bungalows
Of Calcutta, the rain came, the rain flooded the bylanes
Swept away stories, rags, fish scales and peel, everything
The humidity in middle-class homes, policies of
Strewn scraps of paper, voting ballots, dry wood shavings -
All of these. From the rain to the picnic in the rain, all of it
Is useful for Calcutta, dead grass – that’s useful too
The labour-room on one side, crematorium ashes on the other
Birth and death, all the details, are neatly arrayed in the rain
In a satin case inevitable lumps of cottonwool rest
The rain goes to bed a little late on Calcutta’s breast



12.

Some flowers arrived on my birthday
Amidst the impossible happiness and laughter and music
A cat climbed up the stairs, counting out
Fifty-two steps of its paws, carefully
A spiral iron staircase, atop the stairs
Unobserved by anyone, atop the black stairs
Only I saw
Its hesitant manner
Its melancholy

Some flowers arrived on my birthday
They've wilted now

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