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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