Poetry at Sangam



TWO VERSIONS by Mangalesh Dabral

(Translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell.)

Morning and evening
Night and day
I write two versions
The word day melts into the inky black of night
Night’s words float away in the waters of day
A delicate feeling
coming to life
during time spent inside
is lost the moment it emerges
into the outside world
I get up suddenly and say
these words—they don’t contain a shadow of me
And now it’s already late
As soon as I emerge
I’ll be surrounded by such things once again
that I’ve never managed to grasp

Along the way
one man says he recognizes who I am
I say, ‘You are just the same’
But in the meantime, the whole world has changed
from one confusion to another
We walked together a long time
as though we had
a consciousness in common
as though we hadn’t separate names
We rubbed words together and made sparks
We made marks in places on the map
where the rumblings of spring could be heard
And hope was for us like salt
with which we ate our bread
Obviously we could fight no grand fight
But when we returned it was like
returning wounded from a field of battle

Suddenly, I happen upon a woman
I say to her
How can I forget that day
that wore the light attire of night?
It was raining, and people hurried to their homes
Leaves flew from trees, filling up the space
between our faces
their taste still stored in some portion of our tongues
For a short while, we stood fast in the breeze
like two drops of rain
forgetting our own existence
We wanted to surrender our names to one another
but before we could, tangled paths appeared before us
full of sharp turns

What I think of when inside
I forget when I come out
So much of time is out
full of seductive gleaming advertisements
the hands of the clock advancing rapidly
the still body of time, spread out on all sides
People rushing off to shop
or returning home from shopping
I follow them a ways
Their shadows fall upon me
but I cannot understand them