Monday, February 25, 2008

Literary Edge 2



The nocturnal porcupine reclines here
Like an alluring grey bouquet
Wearing the syphilitic sores of centuries
Pushing the calendar away
Forever lost in its own dreams

Man’s lost his speech
His god’s a shitting skeleton
Will this void ever find a voice, become a voice?

If you wish, keep an iron eye on it to watch
If there’s a tear in it, freeze it and save it too
Just looking at its alluring form, one goes berserk
The porcupine wakes up with a start
Attacks you with its sharp aroused bristles
Wounds you all over, through and through
As the night gets ready for its bridegroom, wounds begin to blossom
Unending oceans of flowers roll out
Peacocks continually dance and mate

This is hell
This is a swirling vortex
This is an ugly agony
This is pain wearing a dancer’s anklets

Shed your skin, shed your skin from its very roots
Skin yourself
Let these poisoned everlasting wombs become disembodied.
Let not this numbed ball of flesh sprout limbs
Taste this
Potassium cyanide!
As you die at the infinitesimal fraction of a second,
Write down the small ‘s’ that’s being forever lowered.

Here queue up they who want to taste
Poison’s sweet or salt flavour
Death gathers here, as do words,
In just a minute, it will start pouring here.

O Kamatipura,
Tucking all seasons under your armpit
You squat in the mud here
I go beyond all the pleasures and pains of whoring and wait
For your lotus to bloom.
— A lotus in the mud.

Namdeo Dhasal, 1981
(translated by Dilip Chitre, 2007)

Namdeo Laxman Dhasal (b. February 15, 1949) is a Marathi writer and Dalit activist. He was one of the founders of the Dalit Panther movement in 1972. Although he speaks as a Dalit, his treatment of themes like exploitation, oppression and violence transcends caste barriers.

Dhasal spent his early childhood years living in a Bombay slum adjoining Kamatipura, Asia’s largest red-light district. This poem in his characteristic style, presents a stark and violent portrait of a part of Mumbai’s sordid underbelly.

A new collection of Dhasal’s poetry called Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972–2006 has recently been published by NAVAYANA.

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