Another rendezvous with Death

this time, when i went
to meet Death at his place,
he showed signs of weakness.
he was watching a cricket match
relaxing in his arm chair, legs stretched.
yawns kept rolling
in slow progression
towards the boundary.

`are you well?’ i ventured.
`nothing wrong,’ said he.

stammering, i quizzed him:
which one do you fear most?
allopathy, ayurveda, or

dear wilson,
have you observed sachin
facing the balls of shane warne?
brian lara, wasim akram?
chris gail, brett lee?

i was thrown into confusion.

death admitted, unwillingly,
that like vivian richards
confronted narendra hirwani,
he was laid low by the
secret herb
of an old tribal man!

aaha! the panacea
became then
a spin ball!
(aaha…Nothing official about it!)

i forgot to ask
how our people
smuggled away by him
were faring now.

he forgot to comment
“you will see for yourself
when you face it.”

By Kuzhur Wilson
Trans by Ra Sh

photo - jude hill

Varghese has no home

Varghese has no home.
Stays in his workplace.
Jesus’s very own man.
Big rosary around his neck.
And a matching wooden cross.
He gardens around the yard
On days of no work.
Holds a deep grudge
Against the trees around.

Doomed are they the moment
His eyes settle on them.

Asked him once whether
His rancor was because
Jesus was crucified on wood.
Or, was it the wheezing that
the Acacia trees caused?
Or, was it the itchy worms
from the soft wood trees?
He said time and again
‘Brother, I love the trees
More than you love them.’

Have seen many times
The birds from the trees
Chopped down by Varghese
Looking for their nests.

Clearing the bushes along
The road to the office was
Varghese’s job for the day.

When I went out for a smoke
Glowing was he about
How the place gleamed.

Midnight, after work,
Was driving along the path
Shorn clean by Varghese.

In the blaze of the headlight
A hare dashed frantically
Looking for its bush.

(trans from Malayalam by  Ra Sh)

12 year old sky sea woods

Our house was a 12 year old Lancer car

Sitting in its congested patio,  
Beheld the sky

That sky spilled over the sky
Stars squirmed and threatened to jump down immediately

We were like the children beneath the mango tree who do not rush to school
Even after the last bell

The wind may blow any moment

Our house was a 12 year old Lancer car

Descried the sea
Sitting inside its smoke-filled, odorous kitchen

That sea overflowed the sea

The fish swimming along in the deep asked, “coming?”

We were
Like the fisherman waiting for the snakehead murrel
Though it is noon and he is hungry

The sea fish do not know
The grooves of tears and the little waterway

Rainclouds can arrive anytime

Our house was a 12 year old Lancer car

Saw the woods sitting near its un-curtained window

Those woods got darker than woods 
Trees pretending to cavil for my being late

Moonlight clear and fuzzy amongst boughs

Us, like fireflies watching ripened paddy stalks

There are wounds that are hidden
A lightning can strike any moment

Our house was a 12 year old Lancer car

Sitting in its spaces coarse otherwise
We quenched each other’s thirst and hunger
Perused the holy book

Often, while no one watched,
We fed the dolls
Sung them lullabies

On these occasions,
I went out pretending that I wanted a smoke

Thereupon, between us
Sky sea  woods.

Translation : Anitha Varma

Not because I didn’t insist

Sorrow comes,

Happiness comes,

Love comes

Lust comes,



It is not because
I do not press it
To stay awhile


Translation : Anitha Varma

The crossing

Was crossing the road

It is not like crossing anything else
A Trailer
Might partition into pieces
Or a Hummer,
In a second, make one a nonentity
Or a tin can of a vehicle
Take away your hand or leg.
Even if your last wish,
In case you have to die in an automobile crash,
Is that it should be the red lancer car you are very fond of,
Which court will listen?

On the other side of the road, there is a neem tree
Its dark green leaves are visible.
No, cannot see the bitterness,
But it is possible it is.

I have to cross the road.
I have to stand a bit under the green on the other side
Those birds have to run away (no, not fly!)
And come back just the way they went.

What then? It is, after all, the road that was crossed,
Which is something!

While crossing the road, came a Trailer
Whose driver was a Tamilian
A Hummer came,
In which there was a father, his friend,
Mother and two kids

The kid was singing loudly
The friend was thinking about his girl friend
A rickety old tin can of a vehicle  too came
It was full of wine bottles
For the next century

What then?
Trailer was divided into many pieces
Hummer made one a nonentity in a second
The old vehicle took away two hands, one leg, and two ears.

Now the one who looks this way from the other side:
Is it the one who reached the other side,
Or the one who was standing here,
Or the one who crossed the road,
Or the one who has to return?

Translation : Anitha Varma

The day you came

The first day
God came face to face

Spring, in front of the tree
That had forgotten roots and leaves

The slender note of complaint
Made to its friends
By the cloud that got lost

The goddess’ voice
Unheard by any but water

The flower garden
In front of which
Grass grows with abandon

The darkened house
With cow dung – smeared floor

A cluster of moments
Of butterflies cavorting in the rain

The playhouse
Made of the wings of fireflies and moths

The seaside
Where camels enjoy the breeze

The forgotten oyster
The fry left
Under the sand

The praying hands
Of date palms
Which look upon earth from above

The wedding night
Inside the elephant shelter

Where ants frolic

A pinch of beaten rice,
Cooked, using only the twigs the pigeons bring

The anthology of words 
Read and re-read
In a hand-written letter

The translation of the moment
God couldn’t quite get

what could it have been?

Covered daughter with kisses..
She wept, alarmed

I heard the voice of God telling daughter,
” I didn’t understand anything either!”

Translation : Anitha Varma

2007 February 28

We met
In a deserted street
In Kabul, capital of Afghanistan,
In the next incarnation.

A tee shirt , with the legend
“The lovers in this incarnation
Belonged to two populations
That were at war in the last one”
Walked by.

I realized that day
That your gaze
Was a bullet
Of hatred and vengeance
Left over from unabated fury
Even after firing six times that day

And you told me
That my words
Were like
The satisfaction of chopping repeatedly,
A body long dead

When you saw popcorn on the wayside,
Why did you offer to get it?
Why did you coo, ‘what’s wrong, dear’ when I sighed?
I am clueless!

you asked
How we separated
The first time it was because the flame flared up
When lighting a taper
Once it was because the phone rang while kissing.
There was some stain on my shirt when we met in a dream
For asking
For not asking
For calling, not calling,
For sighing,
For laughing, for whimpering,
For crying, for eating, for not eating,
For sending, for not wishing to send,
For going to the toilet
Without asking permission
For saying a prayer for mother and children

Must have died together on that day.
The anxiety was not
About who would look after you
If I died first,
But who all will look at you!

Must have killed
If not that, God would have interfered
Whatever the rock on which it is built,
God would upset it with an earthquake if nothing else.

God and His strange ways!

In the Afghan capital city of Kabul,
It is the same us who killed with love in this fashion

When you exclaimed
“How lovely this city is”,
I lighted another cigarette

This time, another tee shirt
With the legend “I am not even born”
Passes by

I remembered
The two lines you told me
in the last incarnation,
Four days before Christmas,
A Thursday evening,
At 5:41.
I laughed without telling you that.
You gave me a kiss.

Translation Anitha Varma