Translated from the Malayalam by Ra Sh (Ravi Shanker)
Township of a variety of prisons.
The distance between the iron bars
Through them we can see
the jungles of the fables.
A troop of monkeys
screeching abuses at Darwin
at the top of their voices.
A pond where
crocs shed copious tears
yearning to eat their hearts.
In the cage to its north
an aged lion taking a siesta
after eating a rationed prey.
In the next cage, a leopard
watching with lust a few does
who have forgotten leaps and dashes
Through the planted trees
to give the impression of a jungle,
as the noon sun beats down on their heads
the caged peacocks run seeking a shade.
A Giraffe sniffs the tops of the trees
with his lips, with shut eyes,
as if seeking his land of birth.
Hippos that lie half submerged
unable to jump and catch
the preys in their memory.
There are many more in display
of many kinds-
parrots, rabbits, snakes,
porcupines, ant eaters.
The squirrels on the trees
ridicule the caged giant squirrel
with derisive gestures
near the cage of the ostrich
that died two weeks back.
Four or five kids come to see them
sucking on their ice pops.
From each cage,
Eyes in fetters.
No idea whether
they were captured elsewhere
or born here.
Each time they receive visitors,
their spoor leaves with them.
The slopes of perception
a cross section of the metropolis
in aerial view and close shot
and wide angle.
In a place seen every day
what is seen will be repeated
again and again.
Some see the book seller Rakhi Sinha.
Some see Denzil who goes to buy medicines,
Some look for the lunch box
missing from the day before
among the dabbawalas rushing about
in the sweltering sun.
Some stare at the people
coming out of the Marwadi shop
to see whether anyone has
Some get shocked by seeing
the image of the old lover
in the man walking like a street dog.
Some are amazed by the cats
that sleep without being
trampled upon even in a crowd.
Some when they see Sanag
working in a sewage drain
have their nose tips hurt by
the sweat smell of his woman.
Some look for Zakir Hussain’s sweet shop
that sells the tastiest bakarwadi
in the street of sweets and snacks shops.
Some witness Sharmaji who
attends the Satsang daily
bargaining with the pimp
in the street turning to Lal Bazaar.
Some when they meet Musharaff
who used to sell attar
try to recall the channel in which
his sister’s death was subject of
an evening panel discussion.
Some, seeing the blood shot eyes
of the four who sat indifferently
in Garam Chai Ki Pyali, conclude
this is them, definitely them.
When I saw first –
slopes of the streets.
When I saw next time-
bodies in whatever was seen
last time, countless lives
in each body.
Those who sketch the dark
Below, the wild gush of the river.
On a mud bank close to the bridge,
in the undergrowth, in the dark, someone.
Someone called the police.
Two jeeploads arrived.
Two officers slid down along the left side of the bridge.
They searched using flashlights.
Slowly climbed back.
“What did you see there?”
“Treesa. His second kid. She was sketching something there.”
“Did you see her sketching in the dark?”
“We saw her sketching the dark with darkness.
Sketching her elder sister Tina,
my fishing rod that went missing,
the giant fish that I caught twenty years back and then, me.”
“He must be speaking the truth,sir!
She used to frequently sketch with darkness
the snake in search of its prey,
the bottom of the trees,
Tina who lay in the bush,
her petticoat that was torn,
lingerie with dots, the fishing rods that were
planted all around her,
the fish caught in the hooks and him
who stood surveilling the bush.
“Sir! Tina was retrieved from the same bush
twenty years back , near dead.
Today was her first anniversary.”
While returning, the policemen put just me in one jeep.
They sang on the way: Whatever was in the dark
comes to light in the dark.
Tina who vanished into the dark,
Tina who merged with the dark.
There is light in the dark,
There is, John. Twenty year old rod
and your slipper that came off when
baiting the fish today.
Now, tell us, what did you see in the dark.”
Light. Tina who angled in the light.
After many days, me who was angling alone in the dark.
Treesa who came to see me with the fishing hook
lost twenty years back.
Tina in Treesa .
Darkness in Tina.
My eyes that shone in the dark.
The jeep revved.
Revved and raced.
Moved forward piercing the dark.
About the Author
Jishnu K.S. was born in Aymanam village in Kottayam district, Kerala. He is currently working as a senior Human Resource professional. His poems are collections of visual narratives with penetrating observations. Some of his poems are experimental and conceptual. Most of his poems have been published in online journals and various social media platforms. His Malayalam poem Vadhaśikṣa (Capital Punishment) was featured in ‘How to Translate an Earthworm? – Anthology of 101 contemporary Malayalam Poems’, translated & edited by N. Ravi Shankar (RaSh).
About the Translator
Ra Sh ( Ravi Shanker.N) is a poet and translator based in Palakkad, Kerala. He has published four collections of poetry, Architecture of Flesh (Poetrywala), Bullet Train and Other Loaded Poems (Hawakal), Kintsugi by Hadni (RLFPA) , Buddha and Biryani (Hawakal) and a chapbook In the Mirror, Our Graves, written jointly with Ritamvara Bhattacharya. He has also published a play Blind Men Write ( Rubric Publishing.) He is also a translator whose English translations include Mother Forest (Women Unlimited), Waking is Another Dream (Navayana), Don’t Want Caste (Navayana), Kochiites (Greenex), How to Translate an Earthworm (Dhauli Books) and The Ichi Tree Monkey and new and selected stories of Bama (Speaking Tiger).