Culture & Society

Six Poems By Sakti Mohanty

Nikhilesh Mishra has translated six Odia poems by Sakti Mohanty into English.

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Reporting a Curfew 

There's a curfew in the town. 

A girl 
Speaking to women of education 
Has been shot in the head. 

And there's a curfew in the town. 

Women, if they turn educated, 
Would not surrender mutely to men 
The region 
Between their thighs. 
The infection of such a fear 
Has driven all men home 
To their wives, 

Before the evening. 
There's a curfew outside. 

Now that the vigil of the day 
Over the corpse of the town is over, 
Soldiers have crowded the brothels 
To un-strain themselves. Darkness 
Looks a bit more khaki now. 

There's a curfew in the town. 

Those who steer religion, 
Those who fear questions, 
Those who fear wings 
Are campaigning, door to door, 
That survival of the girl is 
Against God's Will. 

In this abandoned 
Curfew-clamped street, 
An ambulance is rushing, 
Rushing hard. Its light,  
Funnel-shaped, would have appeared 
To that girl, 
A long cone ice cream... 
... had all the light, all of it, 
Not been consumed 
In glistening the bayonets. 

When the midnight siren wails, 
All the faithful men 
Are busy devouring the breasts 
Of their respective wives 
And also, the thought 
Of the unmutilated vagina of that girl. 

And there's a curfew outside. 

April 

The road looks damp, 
Damp with mirages.  
Looks like you are standing there 
At a distance, 
And here, 
And there too. 
A moment's stay near you 
Is like resting under the shade, 
Like cool water, 
Like the pharmacist finally telling me 
I have no infection in my blood. 

Someone surely suffers 
When a sun just falls down 
Into the burning pitch of the noon. 
Come, sit behind me on my scooter. 
Let my shadow engulf your entire body. 
And the heat of this April, 
My forehead. 

A bus just passed, 
Whirling smokes of dust; 
Somebody's waving his hands 
Like a sailor on a voyage; 
Does he know 
Where I have to reach? 

A bunch of people doing keertan 
In the roadside temple, 
A feast going on, 
A stall providing water. 
And in that beer parlour, 
A bunch of red chairs lay scattered 
Like someone's menstrual blood. 

Above my head 
Is an airplane about to land. 
In its belly of a pregnant fish, 
Full of wounds of dreams - 
Have you finally come in it? 
Who is it that roams in this heat, 
Burkha-clad, in a rickshaw, 
Like you hiding your face? 

The ambulance speeds away 
Honking its siren, 
Can death be dragged like that 
Through the highways? 

What is it to me, if someone 
Lives or dies! 
Doesn't matter at all. 
You must be standing somewhere - 
A spotted umbrella in your hand 
- under a Gulmohur or a Eucalyptus. 
There's a beer bottle in the dicky. 
And there's April, yet to pass. 

Wallpaper 

Did you see that? 
Did you see how flock after flock 
The Nursing students just flew away 
Turning into cranes? 
See, told you! Girls - 
They just turn into birds 
When the clouds come. 

Your scooter suits the rainy days! 
Can't sit in Capri on the bike, 
Throws mud up till the knees! 
You know, you look just like an astronaut 
With that helmet and the raincoat. 
And I clasp you tightly, 
From this earth. 

All the Summer, I have hidden under the chunri, 
The white gloves, 
Like the hands of an apparition, 
I've got prickly heat all over my body. 
Please, let me get drenched! 
Look at that Omfed man! 
How he is oggling at my lipstick 
On the chai-glass! 

Do you know what the voltage of a lightning is? 
Fifty Thousand Volt. 
And on the edge of this flyover, 
Just the two of us. 
Well, how about someone using this flyover as a bow 
To launch us into the galaxy? 
The earth will look like a 
Kadamba flower from up there! 

Tonight when the rain lashes out against the window 
And my pillow vibrates 
With your phone call, 
What should I tell you? 
Should I tell you, 'Come! 
Come back on this rainy night 
To gift a primitive wallpaper to God'? 

O Come on, 
Take off the raincoat now! 
What a stink is this rubber! 

For My Son 

Do all suns set, Papa? 

With every evening, another sun 
Just falls down? 
Another noon of another day 
Just falls down? 

They say there's water on another planet, 
There's life there, 
Do trees there bloom in the morning? 
Is light cooked there 
To green the leaves? 
When a Moon is eclipsed, 
What goes on with its Sun? 
Can a planet really seize us 
With its rings and its looks? 

A shooting star, burning out -
Can it ever touch the ground? 
And if a star dies 
Up there 
In space - will that ever change 
Our fate? 

My son sleeps with eyes 
Full of many such questions. 
To bow daily, 
To break, 
To stand still like an eternal question mark - 
These are all in a father's fate, 
Does the kid understand? 

All questions will die 
By themselves, 
My son will grow up.

Wings 

Get me a pair of wings Papa, would you? 
I really want to fly away. 

Yesterday you scolded Mama. 
And I listened. 
And I saw 
You were strangling her. 
If I had a pair of wings, 
The two of us would have flown away! 

Mama says, 
She was a bird once, 
And you were her sky! 

Why does Mama wake up 
In the midnights to cry? 
Papa! 
Why are you always angry with Mama?
Your eyes Papa - they don’t look red 
In your photos with Mama! 
Why can't you just smile Papa? 
Why don't you smile, ever? 
Why does Mama cry holding me 
So strongly? 

You know Papa, when I'll grow up, 
I'll wear Mama's saree 
And I'll wipe all her tears with its end. 
And I'll tell you fairy tales - 
a lot of fairy tales - 
And I'll caress you. 
And after you two have fallen asleep, 
I'll fly away on my wings. 

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The First Novel 

The poet has died 
Due to a lack of words, 
Writing of love, romance, separation 
Over and over again.  
It’s the season of Fall in poetry now. 

He has cheated all of them. 
He has cheated the society, 
He has cheated the soldier, 
He has cheated his girlfriend 
Who doesn't understand 
A single word of poetry. 

Now the sky is not within his reach, 
The waves of the sea don't break 
Around him, 
Now the moon doesn't salve itself 
Against his girlfriend's bosom 
And her chin. 

He has forgotten the labour pain 
Of the poem he last wrote, 
He has made up his mind 
Not to look at 
His works of the past. 
Now he has written a novel, 
But unknowingly, 
He has named it 
“Poem”.

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(Dr Sakti Mohanty has authored five poetry collections, two novellas, and one short story collection in Odia. He has also translated a few contemporary Indian poets and a couple of plays into Odia as well.)

(Nikhilesh Mishra has written three poetry collections. Apart from poetry, he writes short stories, columns, and scripts, and regularly translates as well. He is currently a student at the Direction and Screenplay Writing Department at the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata.)

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