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wires begin to glow Birds sing in every forest of flesh and blood The lunatic’s fingers turn into strings in the outer silence The darkness of half-asleep awareness roars through The lunatic’s widening arteries, it’s another kind of Waking--- and even total sleep is a frightening fire It’s compelled to burst out even while being awake. The lunatic sees through his sun-paraphrasing eyes That creates circles centred outside him And unaccountable sleep awakens lightnings To sing a vast lullaby in flesh and blood. The lunatic watches a bird...half-closed like eyes...flying And his eyes as they drown begin to chirp. In Your Poisoned Wounds In your poisoned wounds Fall the shadows of burning planets The splitting breakers of foaming oceans Your invisible paths going through raging storms You spread like lightning flashes through my heart And I grew in this darkness. My back will be of darkness when you will Lash me with lightning For one moment my back will turn into darkness When you will come back in flashes From the undulating shadows of burning planets Into the grapes of my poisoned wounds. Eleven Poems for Cesar Vallejo 1. The Disease of Poverty The disease of poverty Bursts into symptoms of poetry As incurable lesions. There was a time when one thought After all is over There remains a pure formless soul.
Now one sees Gigantic intestines opening And man’s Hunger endlessly bleeding. A bird fallen upon the soil Lamely crossing horizons That’d have a beak That wouldn’t be filled with the whole Earth’s grain... God lies supine In the street. One wouldn’t have recognized Him But for His open mouth. 2.Breaking One Man’s Hunger Into Several Pieces If the whole world were to share and eat One man’s hunger broken into several pieces If the pieces of one man were distributed over the world As several broken up words Who is going to belch out satisfied with poetry? If the crippled body of a whole society were to take flight Into the sky through one man’s language, Who is going to see the nether world In the depth of his eyes from now on? Who, Vallejo, is going to sing from now on? 3.The Song In My Throat After My Knees Got Bruised The song in my throat got throttled After my knees got bruised But I kept the sorrows of others spread around As decorations are set around the idol of Ganesha. The public address system in the lane blared out a song I covered my ears then And protected the silence inside. I always avoided frustration and despair For that’s what was there on either side of the street The road on which I walked Wasn’t my own way. I wandered in hell as though I were a celestial singer. And you, Vallejo, if you were of this place, An exquisite shanty town would have spread In the poetry here--On the smooth complexion of the goddess Sarasvati An itch that has no cure: A musical glide in the lowest voice
To smash the guts. 4.The Difference Between Us Is Only This The only difference between us is this: When you see a piece of bread Hungry mouths open before your eyes While I in the prison of hunger Try to find purity in my stomach Thinking of a glass of wine. You see before your eyes Forever the day of your death: And I stand, according to my tradition, Still, on a brick, Against my tradition. 5.Agonies Can Fit Perfectly Agonies can fit perfectly Even in fourteen lines Like a civil sonnet. Poets are polite In the murderously rushing chaos Of language. Only a rare one of them Gets mashed so much as to be commemorated As, Vallejo, you. 6.We Missed Each Other In 1957 We missed each other in 1957 I had only two shirsts. Every night I had to wash one of them. Monsoon made a worse mess. In the morning I’d go to the Ruia College With a damp shirt on an empty stomach. And there were So many girls bursting with youth, but I had only Twelve annas in my pocket for a day’s expenses. And even in broad daylight I was a poet doing night-shifts I smoked a joint and went to the university to look for Poemas Humanos, they didn’t have it. It was necessary for me to pass my exams that year. I had to learn my notes by rote.
I had to look out for a leak of the question papers. Not doing any of that, I went to a Muslim dhaaba to eat Shorva-roti and wandered over the Dadar Main Road Crossed the iron bridge and came to Vijaynagar I walked passing the Kabutarkhana, Ranade Road, Right up to the Chowpatty at the Dadar Crematorium, Vallejo, even my friends have been burned. At the corner soda is readily available, and booze in the lane. 7.Patching Up A Tattered Heaven Patching up a tattered heaven With melodious notes, in my youth I used to walk barefoot at night From King’s Circle to the Byculla Bridge It never occured to me to write A poem as all-embracing as poverty, Because each one’s agony had its own thorns of private Existence to keep history at a distance These thorns, Vallejo, are man’s original coat And skin, it’s his style under which lies insecure The real impersonal pain he suffers So supportlessly and unseen by anyone else Somebody’s father dies at the entrance of a shop Someone else can’t afford the treatment of his son A third one’s wife cheats on him and runs away from home A fourth one’s daughter is gang-raped Year after year the morning newspapers report all this But what about this road that’s always changing? What about this known neighbourhood scattering away? What about the same images coming back to our mind? 8.A Garden of Poisons In The Eyes A garden of poisons in the eyes Squashed by everybody in a frenzy The cobra’s stare is fixed A little while ago this hood was raised In self-defence, ready to bite, And now all the venom is gone to waste
I am out of my hole, on the flat ground, Pulped and crippled by hitting sticks Separated from my underground brothers These eyes are gems of death’s intensity Our native poisons stand tall out of them Their corrosive water dissolves all your reflections There is no pain in my last hiss There is no hatred, no recognition of friend or foe, My battered body doesn’t bear my crawling signature Vallejo, even Shesha gets slaughtered here These preachers of non-violence are turning against nature now Every morning in the grocer’s shop The meaning of society is amassed In a wooden box, coin by coin They pay by a kilo for a gram I look out my window The growing traffic outside the shanties Last night, in a fight over a girl, There was bloodshed here. Five skulls cracked, One guy’s guts were spilled. The cops came. I shut the window and listened to raga Bihag. Drank whiskey. And again there was pandemonium below A drunk from the speakeasy had come out into the street Fucking the whole world’s mother, and those controlling him Were swearing in the name of his sister’s cunt, When it quietened a bit, I drank a little more. I neither desire nor dare to mingle among these people. One is distanced from them, being different. Although one shares with them mosquitoes, flies, rats, and roaches. The grocer, the paanwala, the women selling vegetables, the fisherwomen. We use in common the street, the railway station, the bus We share foot paths. From now on I better pay Two rupees to the collective Satyanarayan Mahapooja Get a receipt for the payment and not write poems any more.
9.Like A Whole Family Gathering In A Window Like a whole family gathering in a window to watch A procession passing by in the street below All wounds gather in the eyes Democracy has proved victorious once more As though since long ago in this country It was used to being triumphant There’s the man who locks in his young wife To work the night-shift and by the time he signs for his daily wages and returns home, he’s too tired There’s the thick-spectaled one on a bench in the bar As the orange-coloured benches shine And roasted chick-peas lie in a heap in a dish As soon as the machine grinds to a halt they feel like running wild Enemies of the worker on the machine are waiting at the gate, round the corner, with a steel rod In the city, skulls are smashed, guts carved out, If an innocent person tries to cross the street--What does one find but a truck full of bananas and a corpse under its tyres! 10.The Teacher Who Teaches Us Poetry The teacher who teaches us poetry Hasn’t seen the room in which we live When the teacher is teaching us poetry His elder daughter who’s a nympho is at a matinee When our teacher is explaining prosody to us Trains of the Central Railway are running four hours late His younger son is standing at the street corner Our teacher contemplates borrowing forty rupees Meanwhile, the poet Keshavsut’s imagination touches the stars The poet Balakavi blissfully rolls in green pastures The poet Tambe makes a pass at yet another lady
Whose pot is not yet filled at the common tap of water The poet Mardhekar, travelling first class, Murmurs something in English Collecting the egg-plants of class-war at the Lal Bag corner The poet Narayan Surve turns towards Chinchpokli Namdeo Dhasal is gathering stones Tired of teaching poetry our teacher is drinking tea What kind of nectar does his cup of tea contain That our teacher is pepped up to teach poetry? The indescribable pleasure extracted from all the rapes In Brooke Bond’s tea gardens poured in his cup Sugar procecessed by the bones of untouchable labourers Of South Maharashtra has made its crystals clear The whole city of Mumbai is learning To stuff knowledge in the gunny bags of dutiful labour Poets from all over the world have arrived on the sidewalks of Flora Fountain Swarms of tourists wearking dark glasses are moving around Our teacher reads Navakal, Sakal, Lokasatta and doesn’t leave out Maharashtra Times Our teacher can quote the poet Borkar and Kusumagraj Our teacher’s wife is now to undergo surgery He’s gone to the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital With a note of introduction from a physician he knows There’s no poem on uterine cancer Unless Tukaram has written one Our teacher fills the form in English, signs it, He’s still to recover his tuition fees from private students 11.Sparrows Twittering All Over The Tree Sparrows twittering all over the tree Awareness thorned and integrated as pain
It breaks the solid as grief rock we’ve become To lactate and nurse in orphaned tenderness Before the time and the place Of the morning into which we’ve woken is deetermined We’re being slain here We made boisterous many-coloured love With separate bodies caressing each other In the shadows of the trees in this garden of anguish We’ve become empty of desire, we’ve gone to sleep, After sweating profusely ---And suddenly now these spasms twittering all over the tree.
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