Poems by Vishnue Khare in translation


Of birds returning happily home in the evening
I would like to ask an inauspicious question
Where do you go to die, birds?
But they sail by looking at me or not looking,
Like schoolgirls
Unmindful of the old man with vacant eyes
Sitting on a cold bench in the solitary park.

To me the death of birds is a mystery
Not the death of the decorative ones in cages
Who cling to metal so fiercely when they die
Nor would I try to understand
The bodies of crows caught in speeding wheels
Or among live wires in sudden flight –
For a bird’s death from man-made things
Is not my subject.

No, I wish to see the bird
When before its last flight it knows
And rises, as it always had, beyond clocks and cartographs,
For a place where sitting on an impossible tree
It will turn into an invisible bird: Only wish to see,
For I can achieve neither the bird’s decision nor its flight.
I only intend to attempt them in my death.

One Less

Since 1947
I have seen so many
Get self-dependent rich and dynamic
That now if someone spreads his palm before me
For a rupee or a cup of tea or for two chapatees
I know
An honest man or woman or child confronts me
Accepting yes I am helpless destitute or a leper
Or I am healthy and a scrounger and a petty trickster
But entirely dependent on your diffidence shame harassment or anger
Standing naked shameless and unaspiring before you
I have removed myself from all contests
I am neither your opponent nor competitor nor sharer
By giving me something or nothing
You can remain worriless at least from one person

Translations from the Hindi by Vishnu Khare. The author worked with Tom Pow at Smolenice Castle, Slovakia, as part of a Literature Across Frontiers translation workshop, 7-14 July 2012.