swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
This valley of death is not my country
This arena of gleeful executioners is not my country
This endless graveyard is not my country
This blood soaked slaughterhouse is not my country

- Nabarun Bhattacharya, RIP

(Translated on the fly, apologies for quality. Could not find a translation of the entire poem, so had to make do with the last four lines that I know by heart.)

(PS: Harbart, his landmark 2003 novel, appears to be available in Kindle! I have not read the translation, but Arunava Sinha is a brilliant translator whose works I've enjoyed in the past. Goodreads reveiws, because Amazon doesn't have any.)
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (other: crow blacker than ever)
Ash Wednesday


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

(The rest is here)

video embed under cut )
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
Mailmen in the Autumn Woods


I've seen mailmen in the autumn woods,
Yellow sacks bulging like pregnant sheep' bellies.
Collecting letters both old and new
Like storks spearing fish furtively
These mailmen of the autumn woods
Work assiduously with an impossible mystery.
They are not like our mailmen
In whose hands our love letters are lost.

We are gradually moving apart from each other,
We are gradually moving farther away in the hope
Of receiving love-letters,
We are gradually beginning to receive letters
From distant places,
Tomorrow we shall go away and put our letters
Into the hands of the mailmen.
This is how people like us leave other people
Like us
This is how we show our weakness, stupidity,
Intentions, everything.
We cannot see ourselves anymore when
We stand in front of a looking glass, we
Drift in the afternoon porch's seclusion.
This is how we take off our clothes and float
Alone in the light of the moon.

We have not embraced each other for a long time.
We have not tasted a kiss for a long time.
We have not heard anyone sing for a long time.
We have not seen a child babbling for a long time.
We drift towards a wood older than these woods,
Where the chins of stones are blue with leaves,
We drift towards a country unconnected with
The world.

I've seen mailmen in the autumn woods,
Yellow sacks bulging like pregnant sheep' bellies.
Collecting letters both old and new
And the distance grows between letters
But I have not noticed the gap between trees
Getting greater.

- Shakti Chattopadhyay

Translated from Bengali by Lila Roy, from the poem 'Hemanter aranye ami postman dekhechhi' (a reading here, in case anyone reading understands the language and wishes to hear!). This is a really gorgeous rendering of original—I actually think this translation's rendering of the third stanza, with the incantatory 'We have not… for a long time' works better than the same in the Bengali poem.

Hemanta, incidentally, is late autumn, although I suppose that's not really translatable. Sarat is the first days of autumn, with impossibly blue skies, fluffy white clouds and bright sunshine that caresses and doesn't burn--Hemanta is when the leaves have fallen and sunshine is closer to pale, pathetic winter sun and pale winter sky.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
When you see this, post a poem in your journal.

Abani, are you home


The neighbourhood lies in sleep with doors closed
But I keep hearing the night knocking at my door,
"Abani, are you home?"

Here it rains all the twelve months
Here the clouds roam like cows
Here the eager green grass
closes in on the door,
"Abani, are you home?"

In my heart, half-dissolved, long-traveled
I fall asleep within pain
Suddenly I hear the night knocking at my door,
"Abani, are you home?"

- Shakti Chattopadhyay

Translated from Bengali (Abani, bari achho?: Brishţi pôŗe ekhane baromash/ Ekhane megh gabhir môto chôre /Pôranmukh shobuj nalighash/ Duar chepe dhôre/"Ôboni, baŗi achho?"). I couldn't find the translator's name, unfortunately.

I like this meme.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
I was going to write a post about beloved female characters and double standards, but then I read this poem. I can't form coherent thoughts now.

Perhaps After Death


after death
the strange timelessness, matterlessness,
absolute differentness
of eternity
will be shot through
like a starry night
with islands of familiar and beautiful

For I should like
to spend a star
sitting beside Grandpa Bach
at the organ, learning, at last, to play
the C minor fugue as he, essentially,
heard it burst into creation;

and another star
of moor and mist, and through the shadows
the cold muzzle of the dog against my hand,
and walk with Emily. We would not need
to talk, or ever go back to the damp
of Haworth parsonage for tea;

I should like to eat a golden meal
with my brothers Gregory and Basil
and my sister Macrina. We would raise
our voices and laugh and be a little drunk
with love and joy;

I should like a theatre star
and Will yelling, "No! No! That's not
how I wrote it! But perhaps 'tis better
that way. 'To be or not to be.' All right,
then, let it stand!"

And I should like
another table
-- yes, Plato, please come, and you, too,
Socrates, for this is the essential table
of which all other tables are only
flickering shadows on the wall.
This is the heavenly banquet
(Oh come!)
the eternal convivium

the sky blazes with stars

And you, my friends? Will you come, too?
We cannot go alone.

Perhaps, then, star-dazzled,
we will understand that we have seen him
and all the stars will burst with glory
and we, too, in this ultimate explosion
of matter
and time
we will know what it is

to be


- Madeleine L'Engle
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (collarbones)
I was in the mood for some Ghalib.

I'll go live somewhere


I'll go live somewhere
where there will be
no one
to talk to
no one
to speak my language
no one.

I'll build a house
with no walls, no doors
for neighbor
no one
for watchman
no one.

If I fall ill
then to nurse me
no one
If I die
then to mourn me
no one.

(translated by Frances W. Pritchett)

The Urdu ghazal is haunting in its simplicity: Rahiye ab aisi jaga chal kar jahan koi na ho/ hum sukhan koi na ho aur hum zabaan koi na ho. And, of course, the last line:
aur agar mar jaiye to nauha khuaan koi na ho
. (Incidentally, this is also one of Suraiya's last recorded ghazals.)
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (close your eyes)
I have forgotten how to write. I give up.

Have a poem before I go to bed:

Deep inside me
the clouds thunder

I fear for you
lest you be blown away
with the innocence
of nests

I live in a world of savages
who do not know
what lightning can do

- Untitled poem by Pash, translated from Punjabi by Rajesh Kumar Sharma
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
More Faiz.

Before You Came


Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, or thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don’t leave now that you’re here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

(translated by Agha Shahid Ali)


And because I can't pick between the two, have another translation of the same poem: the colour of my heart )
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (pander to me)
A friend posted a couple of lines from one of my favourite Faiz ghazals today on Facebook: 'Aur bhi gham hain zamane mein muhabbat ke siwa/ Rahatein aur bhi hain wasl ki rahat ke siwa.' I remember the first time I read this couplet, in a newspaper article somewhere; how it haunted me for days before I was able to find the entire text of the poem. I went looking for translations today and I found this one by Agha Shahid Ali:

Don't Ask Me for That Love Again


That which then was ours, my love,
don't ask me for that love again.
The world then was gold, burnished with light –
and only because of you. That's what I had believed.
How could one weep for sorrows other than yours?
How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave?
So what were these protests, these rumours of injustice?
A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.
The sky, whenever I looked, was nothing but your eyes.
If you'd fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless.

All this I'd thought, all this I'd believed.
But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love.
The rich had cast their spell on history:
dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks.
Bitter threads began to unravel before me
as I went into alleys and in open markets
saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood.
I saw them sold and bought, again and again.
This too deserves attention. I can't help but look back
when I return from those alleys – what should one do?
And you are still so ravishing – what should I do?
There are other sorrows in this world,
comforts other than love.
Don't ask me, my love, for that love again.


It's a good translation, although the shimmering, lyrical grace of the Urdu is quite lost in the process. I went around looking for other translations. This one, for instance, translates the couplet as 'Other pains exist than those that love brings,/Other joys than those of lovers' mingling,' which doesn't work for me. This one does, 'If these images also seize my eye / even though your beauty still enthralls, / it's because there are sorrows other than heartache, / joys other than love's rapture,' which is even further removed from the succinct beauty of the lines. Then I looked around for VG Kiernan's - the most celebrated Faiz translator out there - versions of the same poem, but the internets failed me.

There are other sorrows in this world,
comforts other than love.

I suppose this one will have to do.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
Stray Birds


Stray birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.


The mighty desert is burning for the love of a blade of grass who shakes her head and laughs and flies away.


If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.


The sands in your way beg for your song and your movement, dancing water. Will you carry the burden of their lameness?


Some unseen fingers, like idle breeze, are playing upon my heart
the music of the ripples.


Do not seat your love upon a precipice because it is high.


I sit at my window this morning where the world like a passer-by stops for a moment, nods to me and goes.


These little thoughts are the rustle of leaves; they have their whisper of joy in my mind.


I cannot choose the best.
The best chooses me.


They throw their shadows before them who carry their lantern on their back.


That I exist is a perpetual surprise which is life.


His own mornings are new surprises to God.


The bird wishes it were a cloud. The cloud wishes it were a


The stars are not afraid to appear like fireflies.

These are random selections from Rabindranath Tagore's Stray Birds, another collection of short, pretty poetry.


Apr. 9th, 2009 10:25 pm
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (flowers)

My fancies are fireflies, —
Specks of living light
twinkling in the dark.

- Rabindranath Tagore

This is from Tagore's Lekhan (meaning 'Writing'), comprising of 256 short poems and epigrams. Some of these poems are also a part of another collection, Sphulinga ('Spark').


Apr. 8th, 2009 05:24 pm
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
I give my rhyme
to the wind
that steals the scent of flowers
and forgets
at the day's close.

Who knows where it goes?

- Rabindranath Tagore
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
Dawn of Freedom
August 1947

This tattered raiment of darkness
This sputtering of dawn.
This is not the dawn that we had hoped for.
This is not the dawn we had set out for.
Through the darkness,
Towards the last station of the night stars;
Hoping to find the end of our journey,
Somewhere on the distant shore
Of the languishing sea of night,
Where our sorrow-laden ship
Would at last come home to anchor.

Through youth's warm blooded venues
As we traveled,
Many a hand tugged at our cloak
From beauty`s sleepless abode
Many arms and bodies beckoned us

But very dear was the blush of dawn,
And inviting was the glowing raiment
Of the maidens of light.

Brisk was then the desire
And suppressed entirely the thought of fatigue.

Darkness now has cleaved from light,
We hear.
The Journey has finally now ended,
We hear.

How changed are the rules
For those who have struggled painfully.
Permitted now only is the pleasure
From the delusion of attainment;
Forbidden is the persistent pain of struggle.

Alas! Though the spark of vision,
The fire raging in the mind,
The heartache, none has dimmed.

From whither came the gust of dawn's breeze,
And where did it go?
The flickering lamp on the wayside,
Does not know.

The darkness of the night has not ended yet.
The moment of liberation of hearts and minds
Has not come yet.
Keep going, for we have not come
To the end of our journey yet!

- Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is one of the most famous modern poets in Urdu. He was a member of the Progressive Writers' Movement (featuring names like Ismat Chugtai, Sahir Ludhianavi, Sadat Hassan Manto, Amrita Pritam, Munshi Premchand, Kaifi Azmi...), and opted to stay in Pakistan after 1947. This poem, to me, will always be a poem about the Partition and the half-fulfilled promises of freedom. It's pretty much impossible to capture the grandeur of Urdu in English, but even in translation, the first few lines of the poem make me shiver.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (flowers)

Seeking wine, the drinker leaves home for the tavern.
Perplexed, he asks, "Which path will take me there?"
People show him different ways, but this is what I have to say,
"Pick a path and keep walking. You will find the tavern."

Hark! The wine gurgles and splashes as it falls from the goblet.
Hark! It sounds like the tinkling of bells on the feet of an intoxicated girl.
We have reached there, a few steps are we from the tavern,
Hark! Hear the laughter of the drinkers, as the fragrance of the tavern wafts through the air.

Call it not lava, though it flows red, like a tongue of flame.
Call it not the blistered heart, for it is only foaming wine.
Lost memories serve the wine, that intoxicates with pain.
If you find happiness in suffering, come to my tavern.

He who has burnt all scriptures with his inner fire,
Has broken temples, mosques and churches with carefree abandon,
And has cut the nooses of pandits, mullahs and priests ---
Only he is welcome in my tavern.

Alas, he that with eager lips, has not kissed this wine,
Alas, he that trembling with joy, has not touched a brimming goblet,
He that has not drawn close the coy wine-maiden by her hand,
Has wasted this honey-filled tavern of Life.

My beloved wine-maiden seems a priest; her wine as pure as the Ganga's waters.
With unbroken pace, she rotates the rosary of wine glasses.
"Drink more! Drink more!" she intones in prayer.
I am Shiva incarnate and this tavern is my temple.

Only once every year, the fires of Holi are lit.
Only once is the game played and are garlands of lamps lit.
But, O, those who are lost in the world, come and see the tavern any day,
The tavern celebrates a Holi, every morning and a Diwali every night.

Whatever the taste on my lips, it tastes like wine.
Whatever the vessel in my hands, it feels like a goblet.
Every face dissolves into the features of my wine-maiden,
And whatever be in front of my eyes, they fill only with visions of the tavern.

Ah, Beautiful, your lovely face is like a crystal bowl,
Whose precious gem is your beauty, sparkling like sweet, intoxicating wine.
I am the wine-maiden and I am the guest.
Where sit we together, there indeed is the tavern.

A mere two days she served me but the young maiden is sulking now.
She fills my goblet and passes it curtly to me.
Her coquetry and charms are lost arts;
All the tavern wishes now is to fulfil its obligations.

Life is short. How much love can I give and how much can I drink?
They say, "He departs," at the very moment that he is born.
While he is being welcomed, I have seen his farewell being prepared.
They started closing the shutters of the tavern, as soon as they were raised.

O maiden! Which burning heart has been pacified by drinking?
Every drinker repeats only one chant, "More! More!"
Seeking satisfaction, he leaves behind so many desires.
Of how many such hopes is this tavern a tomb?

Yama will come as the wine-maiden and bring his black wine,
Drink, and know no more consciousness, O carefree one.
This is the ultimate trance, the ultimate wine-maiden and the ultimate goblet.
O traveller, drink judiciously, for you will never find the tavern again.

Each day, O companion, spills more wine from my life.
Each day, O fortunate one, this goblet, my body, is burnt.
Each day, O lovely woman, this wine-maiden, my youth, distances itself from me.
Each day, O beauty, this tavern, my Life, is drying up.

When from the earthen jar of my body, the wine of life is emptied,
When the final wine-maiden comes with her bowl of poison,
When my hand forgets the touch of the goblet, and my lips the taste of wine,
Whisper in my ears, "the wine, the goblet, the tavern!"

Touch not my lips with tulasi, but with the goblet, when I die.
Touch not my tongue with the Ganga's waters, but with wine, when I die.
When you bear my corpse, pallbearers, remember this!
Call not the name of God, but call to the truth that is the tavern.

Weep over my corpse, if you can weep tears of wine.
Sigh dejectedly for me, if you are intoxicated and carefree.
Bear me on your shoulders, if you stumble drunkenly along.
Cremate me on that land, where there once was a tavern.

Pour on my ashes, not ghee, but wine.
Tie to a vine of grapes, not a waterpot, but a wine-goblet.
And when, my darling, you must call guests for the ritual feast,
Do this - call those who will drink and have the tavern opened for them.

If anyone asks my name, say it was, "The Drunkard".
My work? I drank and passed the goblet to everyone.
O Beloved, if they ask my caste, say only that I was mad.
Say my religion worshipped goblets and then chant with your rosary, "The tavern, the tavern!"

O son, raise not water at my final rites, but wine in your palms.
And sit somewhere, having filled the Ganga with wine.
If you can wet the earth somewhere, my soul will be satisfied.
Offer your libations to your ancestral spirits by reading repeatedly, "The tavern, the tavern."

- Harivansh Rai Bachchan

This is from Harivansh Rai Bachchan's collection of poems, Madhushala (literally, a tavern or a bar; 'house of wine', as the title of translation was). It's somewhat based on the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam (Bachchan also translated the Rubaiyyat into Hindi). I was a bit dissatisfied by this translation, but it's the only one floating around on the net, and also, the lilting Hindi of the original would be very difficult to capture in English (which, as a language, requires a lot more words). Incidentally, Amitabh Bachchan is Harivansh Rai Bachchan's eldest son.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (swades)
Banalata Sen

For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
From waters round Ceylon in dead of night to Malayan seas.
Much have I wandered. I was there in the grey world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidarbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life's frothy ocean.
To me she gave a moment's peace - Banalata Sen from Natore.

Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisa,
Her face, the craftsmanship of Sravasti. As the helmsman,
His rudder broken, far out upon the sea adrift,
Sees the grass-green land of a cinnamon isle, just so
Through darkness I saw her. Said she, 'Where have you been so long?'
And raised her bird's nest-like eyes - Banalata Sen from Natore.

At day's end, like hush of dew
Comes evening. A hawk wipes the scent of sunlight from its wings.
When earth's colors fade and some pale design is sketched,
Then glimmering fireflies paint in the story.
All birds come home, all rivers, all of this life's tasks finished.
Only darkness remains, as I sit there face to face with Banalata Sen.

- Jibanananda Das (translated into English by Clinton B. Seely)

Jibananda Das is quite possibly one of my favouritest poets *ever*, and Banalata Sen is arguably his most famous (and certainly most translated poem). This is a good translation, despite the occasional shudderworthy lines ('Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisa' is *not* an adequate translation for 'Chul taar kobekar ondhokaar Bidishar nisha'; god, that line gives me goosebumps).


Apr. 3rd, 2009 02:28 am
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (swades)
This is not my national poetry month, but I'm totally going to steal it and make it mine because *everyone* should have a national poetry month.

We'll go no more a-roving

So, we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

- Byron

I recite this to myself every now and then when I'm feeling particularly nostalgic and melancholy. It might be a poem about love, but it will always be poem about friends and growing up to me, 'So, we'll go no more a-roving...'
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)
And since it is April, have some Eliot.



Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place

What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (brotp)
The poem for every OTP.

The Obvious

We didn't deny the obvious
but we didn't entirely accept it either

We said hello to it each morning in the foyer
we patted its little head as it made a mess in the backyard
but we never nurtured it.

Many nights the obvious showed up at our bedroom door in its pajamas
unable to sleep, in need of a hug

and we just stared at it like an Armenian
or even worse hid beneath the covers
and pretended not to hear its tiny sobs.

- Jeffrey McDaniel
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (cuddy is at work)
Final Notations
Adrienne Rich

it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple

it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives

it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will
swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (glinda sad glinda/elphaba OTP)
Because it has been in my head all morning. ♥

Mad Girl's Love Song
Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"


swatkat: knight - er, morgana - in shining underwear (Default)

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