Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pash: Three poems

Here are three poems of the Punjabi revolutionary poet Pash (1950-88). First one  is a love poem; the second symbolizes people's resistance against state repression; and the third is a premonition of his own death. Pash was shot dead by Khalistani militants on 23 March 1988. The poems have been extracted from my translation of Pash's poetry: Pash: A Poet of Impossible Dreams.(2010)

I Take Leave Now  

I take leave of you now,
my friend, I take leave of you now.
I had wished to write a poem
that you could read on for a lifetime.

In that poem
I would have talked of the fragrance of coriander leaves
of the sugar cane fields rustling in the wind
of the blazing splendour of the mustard in bloom.
In that poem
I would have talked of mists melting on trees,
of the white foam singing on milk
fresh from the buffalo’s teats.
And everything else I saw in your body
would have been there too!

In that poem
my horny palms would have smiled,
my thigh muscles rippled like fish in water
and flames of warmth risen
from the soft hair on my chest.
That poem, my friend, would have held many things
for you
for me
for all the relationships in life, my friend.
But it is so unpleasant
to deal with life’s perplexities!
And even if I had been able to write
that auspicious poem
it would have died its own death
leaving both of us in tears.
Poetry, my friend, has become powerless
while the weapons of warfare have grown
very long claws, and before writing any poem
we must wage a war against them.
In war
Everything can be very simple
like writing one’s own name, or the enemy’s
and in this state,
to compare my lips, rounded for kissing,
with the shape of the earth
or to compare the movement of your waist
with the heaving of the sea
would have been a poor joke.
So I did nothing of the kind.
It was not possible for me to put together
your wish to play with our children in my courtyard
and the exigency of war.
So I take leave of you.

My friend, we shall remember
how the village sand dunes,
burning during the day like the blacksmith’s furnace,
became, at night, fragrant like flowers.
And to lie down on a haystack suffused with moonlight
and revile Heaven was truly musical.
Yes, we shall have to remember all this
because when the heart’s pockets are empty
reliving the past is very heart-warming.

In this hour of farewell
I wish to thank all the lovely things
that stood above us like a canopy
and those nondescript places
that became beautiful because we met there.
I thank the wind, soft and musical like your voice,
that stood by me and brightened the moments I spent
waiting for you.
I thank the silky soft grass,
growing along the water channels,
that unrolled itself under your feet as you walked
and the cotton puffs that came out
of their bolls and willingly spread themselves
to become a bed for us to lie on,
and the piddas that sat on the sugarcane stalks
to keep a watchful eye on passers-by
and the full-grown wheat stalks
that hid us while we lay down.
I thank the tiny mustard flowers
that gave me the chance to brush off
the yellow pollen from your hair.
I am a human being
have become one by assembling things bit by bit
and thank all the things
that saved me from disintegrating.
I have a lot to thank them for.

To love is very simple
like readying oneself for a fight
in the face of tyranny
or like imagining for a moment, while in hiding,
the day on which the bullet wound would heal.
To love
and to be able to fight
that’s how you honour life, my friend!

To fill the earth like sunshine 
then to take someone in your embrace
to explode like dynamite
and resound in all directions -
that is the way to live!
Those who have become traders
can never know how to live and love.

To understand how bodies relate –
to draw no line between happiness and hatred
to overwhelm with love the vastness of life 
to meet after piercing the line of fear
and then to say goodbye
is an act of great heroism, my friend.
So I take leave of you now.

You should forget
how I nurtured your youth
carrying you within my eyelids
how my eyes did everything
to chisel your features into this shape
how my kisses made your face so beautiful
and how my embraces cast into this mould
your waxen body.

You should forget all this, my friend,
that I had an infinite longing to live
that I wished to drown myself in life up to the neck.
My friend, live all that I missed.
Live all that I missed.

[from:In Our Times (Saade Samian Vich)]

I’m grass
I shall green-wash all your misdeeds.
You may bomb the university
reduce every hostel to a heap of rubble
raze all our jhuggis to the ground …
How will you deal with me?
I’m grass, and I shall cover everything,
rise from every heap.
You may flatten Banga,
decimate Sangrur,
pulverize Ludhiana into a heap of dust,  
my greenness will do its act.
And two or ten years hence
passengers will ask the bus conductor:
‘Where are we?
Drop us at Barnala,
where green grass grows thick like a jungle.’
I’m grass, I’ll do my act:
Green-wash all your misdeeds.

[from: Scattered Scripts(Khilre Howe Virke)]

When  Revolt Rages  

When in the pitch dark nights
moments recoil
and stand in terror of each other
the light in the attics
jumps from the windows
and commits suicide

When revolt rages
in the womb of such peaceful nights
I can be done to death any time
in the broad daylight
in the thick of the night

[from: When Revolt Rages (Loh Katha)]


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