08 September 2015

Selected Poems of Iyyappa Madhavan

The following few are WIP translations from Tamil.

I recently (August 30, 2015) met Mr. Iyyappa Madhavan in Coimbatore through a mutual friend - my long time friend Karuna Prasad (theatre artist and publisher - Bodhivanam Publishing House), during their visit as part of a Book Release occasion.

During our talks, Mr. Madhavan requested me to attempt translate a few of his select modern poetry. He indicated which one. Later I picked three short ones as well to go with his longer choices. Hope you like them. These, as I have mentioned above, are first impressions and Work In Progress and shall be fine-tuned and reworked until both of us are happy, before they hopefully see the light of printing day!

In the canopy of darkness

Trees are indistinguishable
Only from the crash of the branches
Are their forms discernible
Silence is
When the wind shuts its eyes
Dew sleeps patiently
Like a beacon of light the moon
On bird-nests
The shade of leaves
In the sounds of feathers
Language was born
When leaves fell down
Dewdrops were scattered
As tear drops.

A woman is reaping flowers in a park

As they are scythed it seems the heart is
The small blades of grass
Appear like the hacked tails of lizards
Seem like the chopped tails are writhing
How would this meadow ever fan the breeze?
How would it ever cool with dew?
Is it not the total extermination
Of the sanctuary of insects?

Locked Room

Do not call me by name
I would prefer to remain
Without anyone, anything
From today I bear no name
I am just a human form
My functions occur
Out of my lifeform
My life’s functions end
My body is a locked room
Key you may possess
I keep changing my keyholes.

Sleeping on Air

No smoke in the kitchen
Vegetable lie cut
Rice boiling
They have no interest, nor protest
about spiraling prices
Their rice boils properly
along with soft little crystals of stone
A woman in sari
Another woman, in a small piece of cloth, fills water
in a small pot, from a tap
Some men are getting ready
To eat
A family with no feud, nor fight
No doors for the houses
No barriers anywhere
Food is being served
They pretend to eat
by making a show of chewing
and a show of their tummy-fill
through loud burpy noises
Out in the open they are
acting as though sleeping on air
talk delightedly as if
in love with one another
Never mind this world
replete with problems
Waking up as out of slumber
they leave for their homes
disassembling their families... casually.

Violating the Tree-torso

Caught in the carpenter’s hands, the tree rustling in air
Bird-house tendril-leaves
Shade flowers fruits palate
All mixed and carved out of trunk into form
Chop-block chop-block
The muscles of the tree’s torso spill out powdery
The smell that spread as the torso is chopped
The cacophonic cries of the immortal trunk
As human hands handle it
I am a wastrel
Useless and unable to stop
The violating vile world
Blessed to live with this pain
The tears of this base birth
Shall freeze like the tree’s death
Upon completion of work, the carpenter calls it a Chair
I, the dead torso of the tree.

Wooden Buddha (or) The Buddha Tree

I wish to be a tree
On the banks of the long-winding peaceful river
To become a tree is a good fantasy
To escape the noisy wails of this city
Imagining myself to be a tree
I dance with the wind waving my boughs
Birds sit on me as I sing to cure my loneliness
Caring, like the stillness of waters undisturbed by stones,
I am ecstatic upon realizing
I preach the meaning of silence
No brook has caressed me
A lot of trees around me
But among us never conversed have we
None of us steal away each other’s silence
Nor grief surmount us if one of us uproot
Neither tears if I am broken
As Buddha in a state of nothingness
Enlightenment can happen as a tree too
Please do not come near the riverbanks.

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