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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