By Yuyutsu Sharma
Running out of Ink
Running out of ink
like my karma to pen down
my grief as death rages
in the dank vaults of the world
and poison is sprinkled
with glee on my people
trapped in dog cages, beaten,
broken like stones in enclosed spaces
of hatred, abused and maimed
as their children cry out,
gasping for breath,
their journeys to reach distant homes
thwarted, mocked at,
their efforts to survive declared
uncouth and unconstitutional
by well-fed anchors sitting
on plush sofas
in the studios of current anarchy.
His giant potter’s wheel plops out
piles of corpses, rightful relics of a wrath.
In my dream last night
I saw a blue Mediterranean shore crop up
in my backyard, a sudden sight
of joy at this grim hour.
From my rooftop
I see crystal waves crashing against mossy walls
of my ancestral house in Punjab
where once wheat fields stretched
to the rim of summer songs
of wailing hoopoes.
Life multiplies here in my village,
even nails of the corpses flung into
the bottomless water wells
a decade before my birth
grow nonstop along with their black
shiny hair, eyelashes and long lush beards.
“Their women were so beautiful,
kohl-eyed, fair and sharp featured, houris,”
my grandma once
confided in my childhood,
“Death,” she said, “is a discarded broom
of gloom, a misshapen, pygmy slur.”
The Queen mother in her tales cried so much
when the father of my hero, the king, brought in another wife
that she lost her eyesight
from crying all the time.
And Grandpa whispered the anecdotes
of his darker times when the British ruled.
The floods swamped the entire district,
everyone waded knee-deep in the muddy waters
and corpses of the animals
came floating to our doors, instead of singing saints.
On the seventh day he slept
in the main baithak of our house,
uttering prayers as the waters kept rising
ready to cross over our threshold
and the thunder roared
overhead all night long.
In the early hours of the dawn
he dreamt the waters rushing back
to the colossal mouth of blue-throated god,
and life resuming its normal pace.
He woke out of his creaking cot
moved out of the house to step on the ground
dry as the bones
of our ancestral spirits.
I wake up from a dream
in a sullen city.
I see its streets emptied
as if some demon has sucked its essence
with a funnel like long beak.
Feral dogs come sniffing
asphalt of the newly pitched roads
looking for crumbs
some INGO might have
their bellies sunken,
flattened at the rear,
their tails shedding grace,
turning into ugly carrots,
obscenity of the current polity.
One of them scampers around the city
limping on his tripod.
Kathmandu has been sucked
out of Kathmandu
like breath finally flies out of its lungs,
pulling nuggets of survival,
moth-eaten sacks of supplies,
lentils, rice, biscuits,
lifelines of existence
of freshly minted currency.
The big clown sits in the castle,
celebrating the myth
of Himalayan immunity,
crystal airs fed on pristine glaciers.
Monkeys from the nearby
Rama Shrine come gliding
over the telephone wires
to eat flowers on my rooftop garden;
there are no devotees
to feed them in the shrine
that they seemed to have owned
since the birth of Lord Buddha.
I throw a banana from the rooftop,
he scowls at his accompanying consort,
freezing her on the neighbor’s rooftop
and jumps onto the tin-shed in our courtyard.
He quietly peels the banana,
takes a bite and greedily gathers
the crumbs of the Britannia crackers
scattered for birds on the corrugated tin,
eats them with relish
and finally enjoys the banana
as his skimpy dessert.
The mate waits, bends her body
on the rooftop, then places her chest
on the warm cemented floor.
I toss a banana towards her too.
He frowns at me, rushes in her direction
to revert and reach the rooftop
before she can devourer the donation.
Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma is a world renowned Himalayan poet and translator.