‘Fearless, You Cannot Be My Prey’

On June 14, 2015 by admin

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Savithri Rajeevan

As You Bathe Your Mother

As you bathe your mother
be mindful
as with a child.
Let the body not slip from your hands
let the water be mildly warm
Do not lather
that body
softened by time
with the heady fragrance
of soaps.
Nor let the eyes hurt.
On her arms
Which bathed and beautified you
You won’t find the bangles
you played with
Nor will you hear their tinkling laugh.
That old ring
which bore your tender bites
will have slipped off her finger long long
ago.
But
Now, on mother’s arms
Countless pleats
bangles of wrinkles
shine with remembrance
Seven or seventy or seven thousand,
the colours on them?
Don’t trouble to count
Just close your eyes
touch, gently caress
that tender body
soft smooth in water’s mild warm flow.
Then
those wrinkles memory-filled
will unfold
Mother will slowly stretch her arms
and bathe you again
Steeped in oil and cleansing herbs
you will keep emerging washed
limpid, clean.
Then
in return give your mother
one of the kisses she gave you.
As you bathe your mother,
as with a child…

(Translated from Malayalam by P. Udaya Kumar)

2

***


In the Lion’s Cage

(In memory of Kamala Das- Madhavikkutty)

Today is the exam day:
the day when questions line up in uniform
and stare at you.
The cheerless girl told her friend :
“Let us go to the zoo.”
They erased the question paper from their mind
and went straight to the zoo.
Deer, peacock, hare, camel,
leopard, donkey, rhino, tiger :
none asked them questions,
not even the ant-eater or the horn-bill.
So the girl and her friend
regained their cheer.
At last they reached
the cage of the king of animals.
The lion was resting, its mane loose,
its fiery eyes aglow,
a plate of red meat before him.
“His majesty is not a veggie,” said the girl,
“The Lord seems to love you so much
as to gobble you up at one go:
see, he is looking at you.”
“ Can I open this unlocked door?”
asked the little friend,
“Will you enter the cage?”
The girl agreed.
“He will put you on that plate
and eat you.”
“The lion has already had his lunch
and is taking rest ; he won’t eat me”,
the girl was confident.
She then entered the cage
interrupting the lion’s post-lunch repose.
Fear, afraid, stood outside.
It locked the door of the cage.
The lion with his unkempt mane
moved towards the girl gently
like a hermit woken from his meditation.
He stopped to gather the swooning child in his paws
and touched her softly.
Then he tenderly licked the girl’s cheeks,
her nose and her back,
caressed her long on her ears with his nose
and went back to his plate
as if to continue his broken meditation.
The girl came out of the cage and
began walking to her school.
Her friend, trembling, asked her:

“What did the lion whisper in your ears?”
“ ‘Fearless, you cannot be my prey’,
that is what the lion said,
and that it likes the fearless child.”
The girl smiled.
The questions for the coming exam,
and their answers, opened before her
one by one like the golden hairs on the lion’s mane.

( Translated from Malayalam by K. Satchidanandan)

1

***

The Lone Wound

He just called her ‘moonface’;
she pressed her cheeks to his shoulders
And there, she tripped and fell straight into the stream,
not even a screw-pine’s prickle or stem
to entangle her.
to see him on the tree with her undone robes,
gone in a single dip, that decade when she was born.
winking and smiling and coquetting sweetly :
She went down and came up fast
playing that famous flute.
She was sad the sixties were gone,
For now she no more remembered
how to hide her breasts in her hair,
to be thrilled by his flute song ,
a hymn to her full breasts ,
to swim as if in River Kalindi,
and to stand under the tree,
‘Give me back my robes…’
No; instead there she goes
refusing to cringe and flirt for her robes,
or to hear his tempting song, stark naked,
her shame covered only by the bruises
like a tree in autumn,

the screw-pine had made
and the blood oozing from them,
scarlet like Durga’s silken vest.
There she goes,
nude, split right in the middle,
a solitary wound.

(Translated from Malayalam by K. Satchidanandan )

3

***

Skin Disease 

Your body looks like an
ancient wall painting,
burnt and peeled off :
the mirror told her.
There is light in the pink
and pale brown, and shade
in the bluish blister
Which country’s secret picture-code
has been painted on you-
Altamira, Egypt, Greco-Roman,
could be of any land,
so ancient is your body,
thin, peeled off.
A deer writhes on a spear
behind your scaly palm
and on your shoulder, a wild buffalo,
grey, shot down by an arrow.
Don’t erase them: researchers
will need to discover them in future.
That Greek beauty on your thigh,
filling her basket with flowers:
her arms reach your knee
her fingers holding a pale white flower.
She wants nothing
short of a bison to ride,

2

that pitch black beast
bellowing on your breast.
Nourish it with grass and hay:
don’t undo it with your steroids.
Stand straight, don’t bend,
the mirror told her.
Let your arms dangle in front,
but tilt your face a little.
Chest, belly, the whole brownish trunk ,
let all of them face me .
But tilt the legs and the feet a little.
If you can, look at me
with both your eyes.
Keep close to the wall.
Now this is no more your body,
its skin peeled off :
you have turned into a painting ,
a pre-historic mural.

(Translated from Malayalam by K. Satchidanandan)
***

Leaving Home

Leaving my home,
I must have walked barely sixteen yards,
and there, my home comes
chasing me, eight yards behind.
One leap, and it reaches for me,
and places me back in the kitchen
and shuts the door behind me.
Then tea, coffee, all the sweet talk.
The second time I left my home
when it was asleep.
It must have woken up
by the time I covered a hundred feet,
opened the kitchen door,
looked for me first in the fireplace,
then inside the well and the pond,
and then set out in search of me.
I sighed in relief thinking
I had covered a thousand yards,
but there it stands, my home,
just five hundred yards from me.
One wink, and it reaches me,
holds me by hand, hugs me tight,
puts me in the attic ,
kisses me behind my ears
and lays me down.
So the third time I left home,

6

I did not tell home that this time
my journey was not along the earth’s surface,
but downwards, splitting the earth open
lest it should stand tall like a tree over me,
imprison me without letting me
dissolve in the rain or fly in the wind
and stand above me , like an umbrella.

(Translated from Malayalam by K. Satchidanandan )
***

The Dog

That dog,
Its thin tail trailing body-long,
came up my steps
on four legs for sure.
No limp, no black mark on nose’s tip
Body all lean, its dark coat all thin.
Look I’m not saying ‘he looked at first sight
like a soot-darkened sheep
or a maneless lion’.
That dog looked like a dog
Dogness of dogs, is it like humanity for humans?
There he stands and looks at me, arching his body,
Readying to tuck his tail between the legs.
His look is not the usual sort
Is that determination?
Some thinking? a decision?
A bite, a bark, a loving wag of the tail?
Which unclear word
which indistinct language
Comes out from his gaze?
On his face there are
shiny pearl eyes
Small sticky ears unwavable.
His stance was so unusual.

7

He showed all at once his front back and middle
his ass he placed in front of my face
showed off his balls
no shame at all!
As if he thought i would ask:
hey, does this dog not have any shame?
that is why he smiled
‘I know all you Malayalis.’ Was that the smile’s intent?
or did he think I’d hold out to him a thin long loincloth?
Anyway, why is he here, in my front yard,
under the mid-day sun,
and not even bark once?
Is he the god of death come down
to invite me up to heaven?
No. he said, i am KCS’s Dog.
I come from the museum’s art gallery
I, amazed, asked: where is the crow that goes with you?
the dog lifted its head towards the tree’s branch
the crow flew down and sat on a stone in front
pecking and poking my scattered alphabet
Then
I no longer asked
Why this visit or What purpose
I got down from the frame instead
and began walking
alongside the dog and the crow.

(Translated from Malayalam by P. Udaya Kumar)

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