Some poems

Below are some poems in English by our brother. He sends us his compositions in a much more transient medium making them hard to preserve or share. Hence, we decided to anthologize those we could recover and present them here as a record on the internet. Sometimes, they are accompanied by a bit of a “bhāṣya”, which we provide in the cases we were able to salvage it. We also provide some comments of our own.

The Beetle and the Milky Way
From thy curls flows the heavenly stream,
beacon to all creatures big and small;
A scarab scurries under that milky gleam,
homeward bound, rolling her ball.

Danger lurks in the inky dark shadows,
So, the straight path o’er the veldt is best,
But all cardinal points the night swallows;
Who now will guide Titibhā to her nest?

Mounting her ball, as little Titibhā dances,
Her dorsal eye catches the cosmic light —
From a million miles what are the chances
that she could glimpse so distant a sight?

Yet, before long emerge her larvae,
Under the haze of the Milky Way.

The poets “bhāṣya”: Gaṅgā emerges from Hara’s matted locks. In the first quatrain, I have imagined Akaśa-gaṅgā, the Milky Way, emerging from the cosmic body of Rudra. Now, scientists have found that some beetles called scarabs to navigate using the light of the Milky Way. In the dark, they roll their balls of dung away from the source. Second quatrain: This beetle lives in the veldt of southern Africa. After the beetle has collected its forage it must quickly travel in a straight line. If it does not, it risks going in circles and being eaten or its pile stolen by other beetles, or simply going back to the original pile where the competition from other beetles is intense. So, it is imperative that it must take the straight path. But at night, the darkness swallows all the cardinal points; there is no way for it to know where it is going. Third quatrain: Now the beetle does something very interesting. It mounts its ball of forage and does a little dance. As it does that, its eyes catch the Milky Way. Using that as a cue and the small differences in light, it holds a straight-line course. She then buries her eggs in the dung pile. This poem tries to express the awe of how even small creatures are capable of navigating using cosmic cues.
Comment: We had earlier talked about this and other vignettes concerning beetles in this note.

The goddess Ambikā
Mother, these ogres ne’er seem to learn;
Flushed with pride,
every new enterprise seems
to raise their hopes
Only to end in humiliation.

Poet’s Vision: “I see Ambika now seated upon her lion on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing, her lips reddened with wine, her roving eyes mocking them.”

When their chief tried to capture thee,
They hurl their best missiles at thee
And not one came within a yard of thee!
By your side glance,
what this really means,
I have truly known!

O Ambikā I see you now
seated upon your lion
on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing,
Your lips reddened with mead
and your reckless eyes mocking them.

Mater familias of three-eyed One,
Scimitar drawn, garlanded by heads,
swarthy as the nimbus on June’s first day,
Mother of the storm troop!

Comment: The last two quarters indicate her manifestation as Pṛṣṇi, the wife of Rudra, and the mother of the Marut-s.

The gods Saṃkarṣaṇa and the Vāsudeva manifest as the Nandakumāra-s
I saw two boys playing in the mead,
frolicking yearlings followed them everywhere,
drawn by their laughter,
with happy lowing to rapturous notes filling the bright glade.

One lad was fair as marble and wore bright blue,
marking the ground for boisterous play,
with his tiny plow;
The other boy, dark as marble, decked in yellow;

The whole world seemed
to be splashed with joy
They were themselves joy all pure —
like word and meaning tied forever.

Reading with the child
The best books were books with pictures:
lilac castles ‘n golden mornings,
pretty princesses with dainty glass shoes,
pining princes or ones in frogs;
brave seamen ‘n stormy seas,
for many a rainy evening.

Who’d need Andersen’s flying trunk
or Uderzo’s magic carpet
to travel to the farthest lands
fed by the undying well springs
of childhood’s imagination?

The best books were books with words:
Over proud citadels in verdant meads,
fluttered pennons proud ‘n royal hearts;
while dashing seamen braving wind-kissed surfs
‘n brazen buccaneers
leapt out of the pages,
ruffled by untamed gales,
beating upon windows frail.

Who’d need a flying trunk
or a magic carpet
when words could weave
Tabrizian tapestries with the silken threads
of youthful imagination?

O unputdownable novella,
your heart-pounding climax
had drowned the cock’s crow at dawn
but I can scarce recall your title now,
let alone the pretty pictures of castles
like the dreams of my youth, long faded now.

The best books were the books that whispered ‘n spoke:
Faintly at first:
like the tentative chirping of starlings
on spring’s first morn;
And then like the cuckoo’s full-throated ‘n raucous
at midsummer’s high noon.

As I closed my eyes to listen,
the years seemed to fall away!
Proud banners flew o’er the citadel again,
And to the beating of kettle drums marched my tin soldiers,
five and twenty in all,
and astride a dappled mare
tossing her rufous mane,
rode the spirit of story herself,
and even the swaggering buccaneers
with cutlasses drawn,
all came rushing into the mind’s glade
to watch their queen as she cantered.

I smiled.
Through childhood, boyhood, youth
and even in the somber twilight
my soul hadn’t changed;
Ever watching all go by and pass beyond the bend,
reliving the ages now with my own little reader,
who poked at the words
with her chubby dainty finger —
a little wand that turned them into pictures.

A quatrain to the god Kāma
O Madana!
The slender maids of the Kuntala country sweet n fair,
adorned with night flowering florets,
betwixt shy kanakāmbara blossoms trellised o’er their hair,
seem to sing thy triumph from upright turrets.

The visions of the god Viṣṇu
He has a slender waist,
And he’s blue all over;
All riches dwell in his chest —
Our world-strider ‘n soul-saver!

Who could imagine thee —
in the wee fry scooped up
in Satyavrata’s arghya;
Or, bearing mighty Mandara
or, in womanhood’s highest excellence,
ever keeping the greatest secrets
out of demonic reach;
Or, hiding within that pillar,
but the Mantrarāja’s knowers
have seen thee waiting to spring;
Or, crossing the wide ocean,
armed with mighty bow
hastening to the Aśoka grove —
“Aśoka” — coz there’s hope.

I know you were there in all those times.
How can I repay?
O Muses will ye carry these words of praise to Him.

Comment: the verses reflect the poet’s meditative visions of the god.

Blank verse benediction invoking Kumāra
Victory to the reed-born son of Gauri,
whose lance point cleft a hole in the looming darkness of Krauñca,
where birds of light and insight
now chirp and dart in joy;

Impelled by his grace,
may the spear of your intellect too
give us a window to peer
into the secrets of the cell and its denizens.

Who is the thief of life?
Night after night I lay awake,
beset by worry and fear
that your retinue should be near.
In every ache, malaise, and niggle
I heard your herald’s menacing bugle.

Small mercy – you didn’t come!
Yet, I felt my life was stolen
ere the fun had even begun.
So, I’ve come myself to your great hall
to settle the matter once and for all.

I took my courage from the little boy,
who’d waited three days at your gates
in the quest for the fount of eternal joy
unswerved by your treasure crates.
He now shines bright like the flame
you named after his own name [1].

All resplendent you seem
like the thunder cloud.
No offense do I mean,
but are you a thief?
On my way here I saw many a sight
that turned the blood cold in my veins —
Ten thousand pyres all alight
after unending pointless pains.

Heap upon heap of broken dreams,
Families left with no means,
Mangled bodies and minds,
hollowed out long before the end
Ghastly tragedies of all kinds
And wounds that none can mend.

Then I grew numb to it all
‘Tis all absurd as Sisyphus’ curse —
No matter what that downhill fall
in a meaningless universe
Tell me, what are you hoarding here sir?
I ask you squarely “are you a thief?”

Then spoke the resplendent Death,
resting his mace upon his shoulder
“I am no thief.”
It’s true I come when it’s my time.
Yet I did not commit this crime.

Long before were you robbed
by anxious thoughts all your own,
of future miseries — real only in your head
The present moment quietly slipped
like a rug beneath your feet tugged,

I was nowhere in the scene.
Yet you hardly lived these years passed
Why blame me sir?
Granted, sir, you’re not a thief.
Still, I have been robbed every night.
Who will return my precious days,
lost to worry and despair?
I do not have another life to spare.

Resplendent Death thought a bit
And then said: “I think there is One”
But He’s a thief too. [2]

“What? You’ll send me to another thief?”
Then he pointed to his chest mighty
You see this three-pronged scar of old?
I was once young and haughty
And paid dearly when hurled my stranglehold [3].

Perhaps only He can recover what you’ve lost
Hasten, sir. There’s no time.
He lives in the mountains.
Take the winding path.
up the snowy slopes.
The road goes beyond the great river’s womb.

Ignore the goblins and ghouls –
He keeps strange company.
On that path you must trudge,
You will then see his two boys playing [4].

And their mother knitting a shawl [5].
She is the great queen of all,
Yet she won him by austerity —
No greater love story for posterity.
“How will I know him?”

“You cannot mistake Him”
who wears the moon in his tiara.

1. An allusion to the journey of Naciketas the Gautama to the realm of Mṛtyu that is prominently mentioned in the literature of the Kaṭha-s. The final line in this verse alludes to the iṣṭi that is named after him.
2. Rudra is said to manifest as various criminals (e.g., taskara= thief) in the Śatarudrīya from Yajurveda-saṃhitā-s.
3. The conquest of Mṛtyu/Yama by Rudra — the liṅgasthāpanā-mantra “OM nidhanapatāntikāya namaḥ |” alludes to this.
4. Skanda and Vināyaka.
5. The motif of the goddess weaving time.

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