Mandakranta Sen is young Bengali poet, who received Sahitya Akademi young writers award few years ago. I had not read her poetry, partly due to not knowing Bengali. She is only writer from Bengal who returned her award and with rightful indignation. She is active participant in Bengal’s democratic movements in solidarity with workers and peasants. She was kind enough to share her fifteen Bengali poems in English translation with me and I am sharing these here with her permission. Her collection of poetry in English translation is also likely to come in few months. I am not connoisseur of literature, much less of poetry, despite translating Pash and Patar’s poetry in Hindi from my mother tongue Punjabi, still I can say that these poems have touched me. She has assertion as well as sensitivity of humanity in her poems and a strong women’s voice also. We came to know each other as we became co-returnee of Sahitya Akademi awards with other writers. But I have been enriched by her poetry and could not resist to share it on my blog to further share with blog readers. Hope you will also like it.
- OFFERING / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Not even a grain of salt, you only have your wish
Cook with your tears, girl, tear is also saltish
Make a full course of menu, a full course of suffering
Sour dream, sweet envy, oh please don’t miss a thing!
Keep it to the east, to the south some lemon to taste
Keep wind to the north, a sleeping oven to the west
Now the ritual is done, shut all the doors and pray
The time has come, girl, today is the ultimate day —
Don’t let him run away from these offerings you’ve made
Onto the dish of God, girl, serve your own bloody head.
2. THE WIND / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Wind is blowing
Wind was blowing.
With that wind, the pyre glowed brighter
Everything that could be burnt, was burnt.
Gradually, the fire quenched, so also the wailing.
Having eaten up the ashes, the river wiped its face and lay down.
Strangely, even then, pervading the whole universe,
Wind was blowing …
A stupid, deaf and dumb, blind, motherless wind …
3. KALI : THE DARK GODDESS / MANDAKRANTA SEN
She has opened a window in between her brows, and then
Sparkled her sharp forehead, sculpted out of stone
Darkness and light slip down the steep day and night
From her arrogant lap, she puts down with all her might
The newborn demolition-day — the crippled hate-child of her own
Clusters of blood … flesh … and brain …
Her altar is blatant and bare
Inside the palms folded together, froths up a lust
Rage becomes pure touching the wine … things change …
Ever since her birth she hid in her loin all the deepest revenge
Placenta, a red hibiscus with stalk, is severed by the midnight’s thrust
And the lethal mantra … hitting … and hitting right there
These are her favourites: young men’s handsome skulls, chalky white
One part sex with one part affection mixed in an earthy goblet
A fierce lamp’s reflections, broken and all over the place …
Right from her girlhood, — curious, thoroughly shameless —
She’s known love as an intelligent doubt till date
Creation-Existence-End is nothing but masturbation. Quite.
Yes, they give her a high:
A breast that’s dextral, a navel that blossoms day by day
A vagina whose petals are arranged like that of clitoria — dark blue
A finger more shapely than a penis — which also gives a clue
By piercing the eye — about how to move the lamp to pray
… And eye means — yes, the third eye …
She has to cook and eat her own flesh, otherwise she too starves
On a dark moon’s tongue, frozen moonlight still shines
So do the marks of reckless bites and bruises
Right below the crematory, when the last piece of firewood chooses
To burn out after an ultimate jump, inside the vault of the shrine
With her teeth she chews her soul —which, with her nails she carves.
4. PERPETUAL / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Keeping awake on the mountains’ chest
Is the old abode of the clouds
Sky stoops over to read his own text
Like an author — content … and … proud
They, who are awake on the mountains today,
Will they fall asleep tomorrow?
‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ — they say
But the sky will be as blue as sorrow
5. FULL MOON: AN UNTIMELY ONE / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Ever since that afternoon,
Even the pale moon looked to be lost in a trance
She— who had stopped menstruating
From the eighth day of previous dark fortnight
At the corner of her mouth, traces of drug,
Or poison, still can be found
What made her think that inside her bloodstream
Still she could take such a chance
With a faint retching sound, the entire roof was
Flooded with vomit, moonlight
Warm milk filled her ancient breasts that
Aren’t anymore that round
6. THE WITCH / MANDAKRANTA SEN
She who writes poetry in the middle of the night
With her hair undone — is a witch
After everyone‘s asleep, she soaks in the clear moonlight
On a netherworld’s roof — don’t know which!
Secretly she roasts, then eats, the pulpy sadness
Plucked from the crown of her head
Climbs up her throat — no, not any lyric of love and caress
Rather, an acidic belch-like moon instead
As soon as it dawns, she conceives the sun
Getting to the full-blown advanced stage by noon
Bathing with her young dad, she beats up the water in fun
— A young woman, struck by the moon.
7. THE DARK FORTNIGHT: A PRESAGE / MANDAKRANTA SEN
From the west to the east, inside my head
The moon floats … the moon sinks … dead …
Putrefied moonlight sticks to its frame
Even today. But the moon is not to blame —
It’s me who have chopped it to death in my brain
Insanity splashed, and my skull got stained …
8. FIRE / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Scattered household. A crude smell hangs in the air.
I know what you think … I think that too —
Something is burning in there.
Though I’m reluctant to find out what really burnt.
I’m not looking for the thing you call cure —
That’s the best disease I’ve earned.
Carrying the signs of that ailment all over my frame
I’m wandering through the alleys. At the windows up there
People are dying with shame.
They’re asking me : Don’t you remember what you’ve lost ?
I’ve lost bits of straw. Meagre fuel. Yet
Fire still smolders beneath the frost.
Thus you get the smell. And you query about what burns where
One by one you gather to have fun
At the busy crossings … and crowded squares.
Now she must’ve learnt her lessons, they say to each other and boo
Over there the fire, treating friends and foes alike —
Burns down your house too !
It burns and burns. Then breaks down to ashes. Well, let it be.
To set fire to Nero’s palace … just a bit later
You too will come and join me.
9. LEFT & RIGHT / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Don’t want to call. Still … please wait a bit.
Worship hall to your right, to the left is a red-light street.
Which one do you desire ? Think man, think real hard —
Here are the two worlds smeared with menstrual blood.
Don’t want to leave you. But that’s the inevitable course.
Alter of Goddess to the right, to the left a colony of whores.
Where do you desire to go ? Think man, think, and tell me
Where would you find your blood-smeared happiness’s key ?
Don’t wanna tell you. Yet for truth’s sake just let me tell
You’ve heaven on your right, on your left,well, you’ve got hell
You think you can manage both the sides ? Very smart !
I am your Goddess, man, believe me, I am your tart.
10 SIN / MANDAKRANTA SEN
I met him again
I knew it would happen one day or other
Not looking at him, I kept my face smiling
Not looking at me, he kept his face annoyed
Maybe he remembered nothing
There is no sin as big as remembrance
11. CIVILIZATION / MANDAKRANTA SEN
In between your and my love
There grew a civilization of dumbs
So delicate to touch
It can be shattered into ruins
If we only sigh together …
12. SATISFACTION / MANDAKRANTA SEN
O please bring down the ghost
From my head
As I say this, simultaneously
I put my head itself onto your feet
And sitting near you, I see,
Like home-made Dahi
Like tasty pickled Khichri
With much satisfaction
You are eating my
13. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO SWIM ? / MANDAKRANTA SEN
I can give up wearing jeans
If you say so, by all means
I will easily be another woman
The girl who loves you, she can
Never be with unoiled short hair
(you told someone somewhere)
Well, I will be unknown to me
From tomorrow, if you be
With myself, at your feet
I will undress and spread out my blue Dhanekhali —take it
I will blow in the wind all my manly quirk
I believe it will work
If I can become a stream
Boy, do you know how to swim ?…
14. NIGHTMARE / MANDAKRANTA SEN
Without sleep all night, yesterday she became blue
Today, she took off her head and placed it on the pillow
Getting the slightest sleep’s clue
The rest of her body
roams around the rooms, cornice, rooftop, here and there
And her head weeps seeing a horrible nightmare
It sees, some persons, are carefully trying to fix
Her head with her trunk with love and venom mixed
At the end her body and head become glued
Nowadays, her head as well
doesn’t get a little sleep’s clue …
POEM AFTER WAR / MANDAKRANTA SEN
So many times we have been devastated
See, yet we have not got used to it
Still it is so painful, how we suffer every time
From every ruin, see, from the death
We are returning to our time of birth
Returning with much labour, crawling
So many times, so many times we die
See, yet we do not believe in death
In the war-field, we grope for faces, fallen faces
O faces of my parents, faces of my children, come on, wake up
The war is over. Before the next one
We will make homes again
Will fall in love once more—
Burying weapon, will grow corps
In the fields up to horizon
So many times we`ve been burnt down, drifted away
Still we do not believe in ruin
We never forgot after all the destructions
How the civilization goes on
How mankind wins …