Poetry at Sangam




Translated from the Hindi by Rahul Soni.


Despite turning sixty I still don’t
remember all the words to a single prayer:
I never saw my father praying,
my mother never taught me one.
I have lost many things
but not prayer,
because I never really had any.

You are a lisped sentence
around which I want to weave a prayer:
I want the warmth of sunlight, the diffidence of green leaves,
the unflagging zeal of birds,
the magical aura of toys,
the sound of grain in a pot,
a sleep heavy with dreams,
stars lost in the sky,
helping hands, comforting eyes and tireless feet
to be its warp and weft.

For you I wish not freedom from fear but irrepressibility,
I don’t want you to get anything as a gift or a boon.
I know that as you grow up the world
will be as mixed-up and murky
as it will be for me while I grow old:
but I can give you no flame to fight the darkness,
nor any cane to feel your way through.
I can only wish that
sooner or later you find your own fire, with its own life and light
which you will fight for and somehow keep burning until the end.
I always found it hard to differentiate between dream and reality,
perhaps you will be able to tell them apart early in life –
but I still want
the thread that guides you from the beginning to the end
to be made of dreams, even if intertwined with truth:
we belong to the family of dreams, not the clan of reality.

It’s not a dilemma but my responsibility
to bequeath ancestors to you instead of gods:
to tell you that we may have had our losses
but without surrender, without regret;
that we may have been indebted
but we always walked our own path;
that we have made ourselves useful in times of need
even if we were forgotten afterwards.

Our time will turn out to be no better or worse than yours:
it, too, overflows
with love, with desire and greed,
with injustice and rage, with hatred and anxiety,
but it also contains radiant mornings and sad assurances,
long nights without end, nameless birds,
trustworthy words, moments that will persist until the end of time,
old people active until their last, structures that collapse and overturn,
architectures of hope, soaring aspirations,
and dusty but indelible truths.

What you will take from these as your inheritance is up to you
but we will remain around you invisible like time,
like grace,
which might keep you from losing your light in any situation.

My grandson,
you who are without deceit like god,
spontaneous like the universe,
newborn like the sun,
holy like fire,
ancient like the earth,
with these words I greet you
and hope
that these words form a prayer.