Poems by Subin Ambitharayil

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Translated from Malayalam by Ra Sh

Mermaid

Once,
in a dream,
I had to traverse on foot
a sea seething with fish.

Though I walked far,
though it was a dream,
I did not come across
any mermaid.

The schools of fish
swam thick and sang
while gulping down food.
I felt like saying Hi to them.
But, they did not mind me
even with the swish of a tail.
I felt irritated.

I let float a troll
‘how thrilling is their life
till trawled by a net!’

They cannot fool around with me
who can troll even someone’s death.

Wasting not the opportunity
that came by free of cost,
I roamed around
all corners of the sea
searching for the wreckage
of the Titanic.
Apart from wasting my time,
I could not find the Titanic.

I found relief in the thought that
the time of my dreaming
might have been before
the Titanic was wrecked
and that there could be no dream
that travelled alongside life.

It was one expanse of a dream
that spread like the sea
to the far distance and to
great depths.

Though I was in water the whole time,
I had no difficulty in breathing.
I assumed that there was
no need for oxygen to dream.

If that is so,
there won’t be any break in dreaming
even after death, I happily thought.

I even felt like writing a poem
about the dreams the dead ones have.

After walking long
I crawled up the shore of
the dream about to end.

She was sleeping beside
unmindful of all this.

Like always, I thought then.
What a pretty sight is a woman’s slumber!

Calling out to her, “O my mermaid!”
I planted a kiss, lip-locked.

No, the lingering scent of
last night’s fish curry
was yet to leave her lips.

I felt hungry again.


 

Sadness is not such an infant as a kitten

Found a kitten
on the way.
Took four strides past it
as it would be a nuisance
at home.
Then, answering an inner voice,
turned to pick it up
and carry it home.

I used to go past beggars on the way
like this.
Before one decided they are in need
and should be given alms,
one would have gone past them.

Many times,
I used to go back to give them something
and walk on.
Sometimes, with half a mind
would not give anything.
That day, a feeling like a guilty conscience
would rub against my legs.

The kid in the house down the street
cries for a kitten.
I can’t give you the kitten as a whole,
you can ask for what you like in it,
I show my smugness in possessing a kitten.

She asked for the meow of the kitten.
Since I had made a promise,
I reluctantly give it to her.
She cuddles the meow of the kitten
Naming it and fondling it.

I reached home with the kitten
without its meow.
It refuses to drink the milk.
Of course, the greatest hunger
of those without voices
must be for their voice.

Discard it somewhere.
I don’t need this thieving cat in my house,
Mom ordered.
Who knows why moms bear such
dislike for cats.

I walked to the house down the street.
Gave back the body to
the meow of the kitten
who was sleeping in the kid’s lap.

I felt then that
the voices of the people born dumb
must be living elsewhere like this.

Though I lost my kitten completely
I felt happy that
I could give it back its meow.

Yet, I feel sad when I think of it again.

The sadness that I could not
bring it up for a long time
though I intended to
is not such an infant as a kitten.

My poetry is also a poor kitten
who wishes to be fondled by everyone.

It has great craving
for its life.

That’s why I don’t end this poem by writing
whether I need to talk of a nation
that brings up its people like kitten
unable to love them
as much as it wants
though it’s its own house.


 

The boy who sees an elephant for the first time

When lost in a reverie,
I imagine a boy
who sees an elephant for the first time
in his life.

As he sits alone
in his home
from the alley is heard
the clanging fetters
of the elephant walk.

I make up a simile of that moment
and compare it to dead noon.

To project the extent of his excitement
I make him run barefooted
at great speed on that path
strewn with pebbles
to see the elephant.

Now, the elephant becomes
visible to him from behind.
His eyes widen with amazement.

Assured by the sight of
a man with a stick
walk with the elephant without fear
he runs to catch up
with the elephant.

Watching the elephant from the sides
he is amazed again.

He rushes past the elephant
to watch him from the front.
He is flabbergasted by
the approaching elephant
shaking his tusks
and swaying his trunk.

He wonders in his imagination
whether the caparison
he has seen in pictures
will suit this elephant.

The control of my imagination over him
begins to unwind.

At the peak of happiness
he sings, dances and shouts
and when his pleasure is intolerable
I realize it is dangerous and
make the mahout rebuke him
and send him back.

Now, he is back home
alone again.
Totally within my control.

Till he narrates this to his mom
his heaving chest
doesn’t assume calmness.

Me too
am sitting alone.

Till I can tell someone
about him,
the crescendo of the
rhythmic beats of the drum
in my chest too
never attain calmness.


 

About the Author

Subin Ambitharayil belongs to the newest generation of poets of Kerala. Born in Kattappana, Idukki, Kerala, his poems appear regularly in major literary magazines in Kerala and on social media platforms. His first Malayalam poetry collection ”Sankadam poochakunjine pole athra kunjonnum alla” is getting published soon.

 

About the Translator

Ra Sh (Ravi Shanker N)’s poems in English have been published in many national and international online and print magazines. His poems have been translated into German and French. He has published three collections of poetry – ‘Architecture of Flesh’ (two editions)  ‘The Bullet Train and other loaded poems’  and ‘Kintsugi by Hadni’. Ra Sh also translates literary works from Malayalam and Tamil into English.