The Dark Valley of Fear and Other Poems

    By Bibhu Padhi

    I can only see dark faces
    returning homes from the mines.

    There is fear in their eyes,
    in their sluggish walk.

    Here, everyone thinks about
    the future, of uncertainties and fears.

    The houses are small, their interiors
    waiting for new arrivals.

    The club house is the only place
    where bright lamps take away

    the evenings to gossip;
    the strangers are not liked at all.

    Somewhere near it, a young girl’s voice
    speaks of love and compassion.

    Here, lovers are few. They spend their time
    talking of distant places where

    there wouldn’t be any fear.
    There is death here, walking

    hand in hand with life, like
    the sun and the moon, day and night.

    Death is discussed in close circles
    and decisions are made regarding

    how exactly death should come.
    Someone is assigned the task

    of clearing off inconsiderate faces.
    The sound of bullets rushing

    through the nights mix with the sound
    of walking feet in the slush

    of clay and death, past and future.
    There are bodies that open out

    waiting to be buried;
    the end has its voice too.

    Who takes care of this
    town, offers it the much-needed

    shelter from death?
    The dark valley is full of

    noiseless lives, their moments
    too precious to be forgotten.

    Who waits here to be spoken to
    in the middle of the plans

    for survival, as if nothing
    was lost, nothing gained?

    STORY OF THE SEA

    In front of my eyes, the sea
    rises to new heights.

    The language of the sea is
    private, primitive.

    A haze of salty air
    describes it beautifully.

    My friend who teaches
    English and drinks rum

    in the evenings, tells me
    how time is bound to the sea.

    Now, the moon is full;
    the sound of the sea plays

    around my brown skin.
    I forget myself, feel

    the sea’s tremendous design.
    My words fly over the sea.

    The narrow lanes and by lanes
    of the seaside town

    darken, then go to sleep.
    The sea is colourless now;

    its picture spelling out
    a hesitant future, a fate that

    includes primal elements.
    An old wound opens out

    to the night. The past
    is slowly recalled.

    VOICES

    I listen to a distant voice
    through the April night,

    indistinct, like
    other night-sounds.

    Something tells me
    It’ss the voice of the dead,

    now awakened
    to a new life.

    I remember my widowed mother
    who brought up her children

    and made them men.
    She left a long time ago

    for a land where there are
    no farewells.

    The dead have their own voices;
    I can hardly comprehend their themes,

    their unusual eagerness to make
    their voices heard by us.

    I dream of immortality, how
    some of us long to be

    a part of it, how the disembodied
    work out death’s meanings.

    Bibhu Padhi has published fourteen books of poetry. His poems have appeared in major magazines throughout the world, such as Contemporary Review, The New Humanist, The London Magazine, The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Times Literary Supplement, Wasafiri, Poetry Ireland Review, The American Scholar, Commonweal, The New Criterion, Poet Lore, Poetry Magazine, Rosebud, Prairie Schooner, Reed Magazine, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Queen’s Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg Review, New Contrast, Text, Takahe, Chandrabhaga, Debonair, The Illustrated Weekly of India, Indian Literature and Kavya Bharati,. They have been included in numerous anthologies and high-school/university textbooks. Seven of the most recent of these are The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, Language for a New Century: An Anthology of Poems (New York: Norton), Journeys (London: HarperCollins), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (New Delhi: HarperCollins), Distant Drums (Hyderabad & Mumbai: Orient Black Swan), Converse: Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (London: Pippa Rann Books), and The Penguin Book of Indian Poets. He lives with his family in Bhubaneswar.

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