Culture & Society

Short Poems

Here are four poems of Wilson Kateel that have been translated by Kamalakar Kadave.

The salty sweat of a fisherwoman...

"A Demonetized Currency Note"

I have kept a demonetized currency note
Safely with me.

It had passed through
The salty sweat of a fisherwoman
The fragrant fingers of a florist
The blood-redness of a butcher
The creamy warmth of a milkman

The agedness of the woman grown old awaiting her pension,
The coolness of the AC rooms,
The charms of a prostitute whose body is reduced to a price,
The pitch darkness inside the donation-box of the holy places.

It had endured all these
And was worn, faded, wrinkled
Before it reached my father
With a bandage on the torn
Smile of Gandhiji.

It received for a while
The healing touch
Lying folded at the ends of my mother's Saree.

Then, just when it was about to be exchanged
For some bits of food and clothing
That currency note was banned!

I still have that very currency note
Not in my pocket, not in my purse...
Safely within the warmth of a book's pages.

I have scribbled a poem
On it
To prevent it from becoming demonetized!

“Defying Weapons”

The speech of the one
who has weaponized his tongue
is violence itself!

His kiss
is an assault
whose visage is a weapon!

His act of love
too is an assault
when his waist proves a weapon

Defying weapons,
she strived to keep her
feelings, love, and desire
for a man for whom
tongue is just tongue,
lips are just lips,
phallus is just phallus;

her unmet expectations leak away
like the menstrual blood
that dampens her thighs!


“The Garden Test”

“Anybody who wants to rule the world should try to rule a garden first.“
-Gardening Saying

Before handing the reins of the state
over to him
he should be let into my garden with 
a glass of water,
to watch if he feeds a wilted plant
or pours it over some stony deity.

Before handing the reins of the state
over to him
he should be let into my garden with 
a fistful of dung
to see if he nurtures a drooping plant
or daubs the head of the naïve to teach fake faith.

Before handing the reins of the state
over to him
he should be let into my garden with 
a nettle  
to see if he uses it for making a fence
or plants it on the footpath.

Before handing the reins of the state
over to him
he should be let into my garden with 
a small pickaxe 
to see if he can free the soil without hurting the roots
or hacks the flowering tree.

When our chairs
too are made by murdering trees,
my garden surely deserves the chance
to test the worth 
of the one elected and the million electors.


“The Dictator Should Have Fallen in Love”

The dictator
should have fathered a child…
He would have then realized
The responsibility of protecting lives
When he received with trembling hands
The baby handed over by his wife
Who had borne the labor pain that racked her whole body clenching her teeth!

The dictator
should have married…
He would have then realized
The possibility of love behind a command
When his wife called,
“Please help button my blouse.”

The dictator
should have fallen in love…
He would have then realized
that simple squabbles though aggravate into
silent strife,
melt away with a kiss,
that not all victories are brought by weapons!

The dictator
should have had a crush on his neighbor…
He would have then realized
while waiting for hours on end
with his gaze fixed beyond the compound
for a mere glimpse
borders are not always about war!

Let it all be!
the dictator should have at least
visited a prostitute…

when the cot swayed like a cradle,
body in a warm embrace
unencumbered by clothes,
he would have then realized
the throne’s costumed pretentiousness.

Forget about the throne, the chair, and the footstool…
If only the dictator’s heart
had room for a seating plank
for a woman,
at least then this country
would have seen the rule of Love!