Three Poems by Amrita Pritam

    translated by Carol D’Souza

    Three Poems

    Joy

    A voice arrived from afar —
    A voice as if yours
    Ears took a deep breath
    Nubile life shivered 

    Innocent joy shaking free
    Both small arms wide open
    Bare feet it ran
    Like a little girl 

    First the thorn of tradition
    Second of societal convention
    The third thorn of wealth and possessions
    Perilous all these thorns…

    Plucking out thorns from soles of feet
    Pressing joints and wiping blood
    Limping miles and miles
    Innocent joy reached there

    Fore leg moving forward
    Hind leg turning backward
    Voice as if exactly yours
    Gaze as if entirely unknown 

    The sharp thorn of doubt
    Pricked the heel in such a way
    The nails of wisdom, knowledge lay defeated
    Who knows how deep the thorn went 

    Whole leg has swollen up,
    A poison-like spreading
    Sitting on the ground, distressed
    Innocent joy has burst out crying …

    Candle

    I am a church candle
    Daily, letting down the fire
    Of my bosom to my feet
    I step out of the church 

    Passing through eyes
    Glowing and going out
    I am able to reach
    The beauty of letters
    But the letters’ beauty

    Is in the paper’s safekeeping
    When it steps out of the page
    And touches the body of the earth
    Then it is drenched
    In the blood there
    O my present-day messiah!
    I don’t find you anywhere
    Then somewhat flickering
    Listening only to the sound of
    Bullets and guns
    I return to that church
    That is yet
    To be built in any nation…

    Sound 

    Cleaving the tracks of years
    Your voice has arrived
    Like someone has applied
    A salve to the feet of the moon 

    Today over someone’s head
    Like a holy bird has moved
    Like the moon has in the
    Night’s hair a flower sewed 

    From the lips of sleep like how
    A fragrance of dream emanates
    Like how the night’s forehead is
    marked red by the light’s first rays 

    To the body of every letter
    Your scent carried on clinging
    The first line of the first song
    Of love it carried on singing 

    Joining the threads of longing
    We kept knitting a covering swatch
    In a parting lament’s hiccup too we
    Kept hearing a wedding march 

    Author’s Bio: 

    Amrita Pritam donned many hats – she was a memorable poet, novelist, and essayist. She wrote in Punjabi and Hindi and her popular works include Pinjar and Rasidi Ticket. She won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956. 

    Translator’s Bio: 

    Carol D’Souza lives in Chennai. A collation of her work can be found at linktr.ee/cblaizd

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