Fall 2001, Volume 19.1
Rabindra K. Swain (Ph.D, Utkal University) has had poems published in Weber Studies, The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Critical Quarterly, Contemporary Review (U.K.), and The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad (Canada). He has translated a book of Oriya poems, Bahubreehi, into English. His own book of poems, A Tapestry of Steps, has recently been published by Orient Longman. Read other poetry by Rabindra K. Swain published in Weber: Vol. 15.2, Vol. 17.0, and Vol. 24.1.
The Way These Days Pass
I do not know why these days pass
the way they do,
beginning with an irritation of no uncertain terms
and ending with the same
or at best with the repetition of those tales
which threaten us as fellow human beings.
The other day the bride who nearly died
of burn injury is still dragging behind
her in-laws' demand for an ever escalating dowry.
And what have we done to stop it,
we as shameless poets, seeker of excuses,
whose pen running across the width of a page
falls into oblivion once it trips over the edge?
Is it power, directing the heart?
While the vast emptiness gnaws at our feet,
what more dark do we need than that of ink
to color the new moon nights of our faces?
Nothing ever seems innocuous these days.
We merely learn to live with it
as the readers down the ages
have already learned our false humility.
You know tomorrow when another child's
eyes and kidneys will be gouged out or another
teenage girl will be pushed into the blind alley
to support her lone, blind, old mother; you will pretend
that these things happen and will continue to do so
irrespective of the legislations to delink
crime from politics, eradicate poverty,
and of the promises to materialize all other
electoral manifestoes out of thin air.
Although Sometimes a Hand
My night ends before my sleep.
It falls on the floor like a dry leaf.
Baffled, the last dream begins
to twitter like an early morning bird.
Then my face opens to another day's world.
In all these happenings I have no hand.
I creep to bed as a day's memory.
Merely a memory, with no mark
to identify if found missing in sleep,
although sometimes a hand
slips into my hands
not a bombshell but the lost face
of a kidnapped baby looking
like a plucked gladioli,
her eyes bulging out of a deep wheat-sleep.
How does her feature
like a faintly remembered coastline
link up my failure to travel
the entire length of sleep this night, I wonder.
Behind the shut lids my eyes open
quietly into one another, and then together,
to a long forgotten harbor
and then start ducking under the waters of sleep.
As I open my eyes I see the rising sun,
like that baby, now retrieved, smiling.
I wish I could only know
when did sleep overtake me last night;
just that much, nothing more.