Wednesday, November 5, 2008




The mad have no caste
nor religion.They transcend
gender, live outside
ideologies. We do not deserve
their innocence.

Their language is not of dreams
but of another reality.Their love
is moonlight.It overflows
on the full moon day.

Looking up they see
gods we have never heard of.They are
shaking their wings when
we fancy they are
shrugging their shoulders.They hold
even flies have souls
and the green god of grasshoppers
leaps up on thin legs.

At times they see trees bleed,hear
lions roaring from the streets.At times
they watch Heaven gleaming
in a kitten’s eyes,just as
we do. But they alone can hear
ants sing in a chorus.

While patting the air
they are taming a cyclone
over the Mediteranean.With
their heavy tread,they stop
a volcano from erupting.

They have another measure
of time.Our century is
their second.Twenty seconds,
and they reach Christ; six more,
they are with the Buddha.
In a single day,they reach
the big bang at the beginning.

They go on walkng restless for,
their earth is boiling still.

The mad are not
mad like us.

(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)



K. Satchidanandan

I, Zinedine Zidane,
the stranger you feel like stabbing
as the French sun dazzles you (1),
one with a different face and a different build
still hoping in vain to be
one among you,
one who drank molten steel to
cultivate his muscles so that
you might love him
one who ran along sharp-pointed nails
to grow nimble of foot,
sharpened his Algerian gaze
looking for stars yet to rise ( 2)
and his brain by grinding it
on French’s whet-stone and
rasping it with Arabic’s file.

I was shown the red card long ago:
during my disgraceful childhood in that
squalid suburb of Marseille (3)
and my rebellious adolescence.

Pardon me if for eight seconds
the raging blood of my wounded race
hunted down from New York to Gujarat
rushed into my head I bow only for namaz
Pardon me if the tears of my
acid-soaked motherland rose like a
tidal wave to engulf the venomous
heart of my public abuser
Pardon, for having infused for eight seconds
the illusion of the playground with
the bitterness of reality,
for having subverted the soft rule of
the game with the harsh rule of life.

There were no spectators before me,
no cameras : only the wrinkled face
of my mother, all mothers, in exile;
only the last chance history gave me
to avenge every disgraced being on earth
by a single bloodless gesture.

That, pardon me children,
Was Zinedine Zidane’s final header,
his last goal.

(1)Remember Albert Camus’s The Outsider.
(2) Zidane was born to Algerian immigrants.
(3) He grew up in La Castellane, a suburb of marseille in Southern France.



One day a lean poem
reached Gandhi’s ashram
to have a glimpse of the man.
Gandhi spinning away
his thread towards Ram
took no notice of the poem
waiting at his door
ashamed as he was no bhajan.

The poem cleared his throat
and Gandhi looked at him sideways
through those glasses
that had seen Hell.
‘Have you ever spun thread?’, he asked,
‘Ever pulled a scavenger’s cart?
Ever stood the smoke
of an early morning kitchen?
Have you ever starved?’

The poem said: ‘I was born
in the woods, in a hunter’s mouth.
A fisherman brought me up in his hamlet.
Yet, I know no work, I only sing.
First I sang in the courts:
then I was plump and handsome;
but am on the streets now,

‘That’s better,’Gandhi said
with a sly smile, ‘but you must
give up this habit
of speaking in Sanskrit at times.
Go to the fields,listen to
the peasants’ speech.’

The poem turned into a grain
and lay waiting in the fields
for the tiller to come
and upturn the virgin soil
moist with the new rain.
(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet )


How to Go to the Tao Temple


Don’t lock the door.
Go lightly like the leaf in the breeze
along the dawn’s valley.
If you are too fair,
cover yourself with ash.
If too clever, go half-asleep.
That which is fast
will tire fast :
be slow, slow as stillness.

Be formless like water.
Lie low,don’t even try to go up.
Don’t go round the deity :
nothingness has no directions,
no front nor back.
Don’t call it by name,
its name has no name.
No offerings: empty pots
are easier to carry than full ones.
No prayers too: desires
have no place here.

Speak silently, if speak you must:
like the rock speaking to the trees
and leaves to flowers.
Silence is the sweetest of voices
and Nothingness has
the fairest of colours.
Let none see you coming
and none, going.
Cross the threshold shrunken
like one crossing a river in winter.
You have only a moment here
like the melting snow.

No pride: you are not even formed.
No anger: not even dust
is at your command.
No sorrow: it doesn’t alter anything.
Renounce greatness:
there is no other way to be great.
Don’t ever use your hands:
They are contempalting
not love ,but vilolence.
Let the fish lie in its water
and the fruit, on its bough.
The soft one shall survive the hard,
like the tongue that survives teeth.
Only the one who does nothing
can do everything.

Go, the unmade idol
awaits you.

(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)



In Delhi’s cold
I recall my mother,
the first warmth
that had enveloped me.

I could not take mother to Kasi,
not even her lullaby.
That remorse has a compartment
in every train that shuttles
between Delhi and Benares.

Standing on the banks
of Ganga with my lifemate
I thought: could have brought
at least mother’s ashes for Ganga.

There was no shortage of ashes,
nor of dead bodies;
but mother had lived
and died in Malayalam.
‘Ram nam sach hei’ would have
turned her an alien.

Yet the Lord knew her
with her coolness.
Didn’t she hide in that
unoiled matted hair?*
Here, she flows in front of me.
Let me wash my feet in her.
It may not expiate my sins;
but is cool like affection, soiled.

Reaching home in Delhi
I turn on the water-tap:
Here comes Ganga, purified.
How did mother manage
to pass through this pipe?

“O, I took a magic potion: Death.
Now I can take any shape,
can go anywhere.”

I scooped her up in my hands:
And got cooled,
In Delhi’s heat.

(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)

*Remember Siva hiding Ganga in his tangled hair.




My granny was insane.
As her madness ripened into death,
my uncle, a miser,
kept her in our store room
wrapped in straw.

My granny dried up, burst;
her seeds flew out of the window.
The sun came, and the rain,
one seedling grew up into a tree,
whose lusts bore me.

Can I help writing poems
About monkeys with teeth of gold?

(Translated from the Malayalm by the poet )


(To Sabitha,suffering from Multiple Sclerosis)

K. Satchidanandan

I see my thirty-year old daughter
again as a six-month old.
I bathe her,wash away
the dust and muck
of thirty years.

Now she glistens like
a short Amichai poem
in the liquid glow of Heaven.
The little towel
gets wet with Time.

Beethoven raises his
more than human hands
turning the window-bars
into piano-keys.

My daughter
emerges out of a symphony
to hug me with
her rose-soft hands.

Outside, rain’s bihag :
Kishori Amonkar.

(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet )

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stammer, a poem


Stammer is no handicap.
It is a mode of speech.

Stammer is the silence that falls
between the word and its meaning,
just as lameness is the
silence that falls between
the word and the deed.

Did stammer precede language
or succeed it?
Is it only a dialect or
a language itself?
These questions make
the linguists stammer.

Each time we stammer
we are offering a sacrifice
to the God of meanings.

When a whole people stammer
stammer becomes their mother-tongue:
just as it is with us now.

God too must have stammered
when He created man.
That is why all the words of man
carry different meanings.
That is why everything he utters
from his prayers to his commands
like poetry.

(Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)