Geet Chaturvedi Poems

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The Memory of Now

(For Eduardo Chirinos)

Downstairs I left a candle burning
In its light I'll read a few lines when I return

By the time I returned the candle had burned out
Those few lines had faded like innocence

You walk with me
The way moon walks along with a child sitting in a train window

I stood in the balcony one day
Waved a handkerchief toward the sky

Those who have gone without saying their goodbyes
Will recognize it even from far

In my handkerchief they have left behind their tears
The way early humans left behind their etchings on cave walls

Lyotard said, every sentence is a now
No. Actually it's a memory of now

Every memory is a poem
In our books, the count of the unwritten poems is so much more


Once upon a time, there was a Seed. It had an Earth. They both loved each other. The Seed rollicked and rolled in the lap of the Earth, and wanted to remain there forever. The Earth kept it secure within her arms and would repeatedly urge it to sprout. The Seed was reluctant. The Earth thirsted in fecund heat. One day, it rained and the Seed could not defer its sprouting. Half-heartedly, it put forth shoots and soon thereafter became delightfully absorbed in growing. Mental abstraction is a delightful idyll too. It grew a good deal and rose to a great height. The earth does not grow in height but spreads out. Much as a tree may expand by spreading out, its upward growth is its identity.

They both grew apart. The roots stayed in the ground, so to speak, but to date, who has ever regarded roots as trees? A tree is that which furthers itself away from the earth. If it remained glued, it would be grass. The Tree wishes to go back being a Seed again. The Earth wishes to take back her blessing. It saddens the Tree that it can never again become that single Seed. However, it would certainly turn into a thousand seeds. The Earth would never be able to feel the soft touch of that very same Seed. For her, the Tree would merely be a shadow.

Every single thing in life does not have an obverse to it. Night is not a dark Day, and Day is not a bright Night. Moon not a cold Sun, and Sun not a hot Moon. The Earth and the Sky meet nowhere. Nowhere at all.

I go and stand very near the Tree and whisper, You hear me, you are Seed even now. That very same Seed. Don't let height intoxicate you. Even now you are not grown. You are merely Earth's imagination.

All trees grow in imagination. In memory, they always remain seeds.


I'm not mine, but someone else's politics.
I'm someone else's hidden agenda.
By my very being, if someone reaped his well-being
That would only be my misfortune.

I'm not mine
But someone else's name.

For a citizenship of Hell
I had not made any request
But was despatched here
On someone else's ticket.


This is one of the rhymes
Taught in Shri Guru Gobind Singh Hindi Primary School
One of the quavering anthems of olden days sung by those
Now addressed as ma-baba-grandma
It is someone's idea of fun or pastime, rhythm-non-rhythm-marching-rhythm
Oh look, the vermilion-anointed forehead of the Queen is still the same
Or to all of history it shows the power of the power game.
This is the broad formula of Eastern metaphysics -
That everyone has to die one day.
Oops! In the rhyme-story invoked at the end,
No one among the three died dawdling, they died
Doing their work, hup ho! they died fighting their war, bravo!
Why isn't there a word like martyr for them - bearing such a placard
Was the man who just passed by me, named
Swami Varg-Chaitanya Kirti-Akankshi 1008¹
Like our tribal poet, Bhujang Meshram²
I too had asked innocently
About Sivakasi³ the city that makes firecrackers -
Why doesn't its childhood ever go away?
The less the IQ, the better the poem would be; life too.
I say, wherever you have to live, take retirement from there;
In so doing, you'd derive the pleasure of a duplex house :-)
Dear me, no!
This is not a classroom struggle between Class 1-A and 1-B
This struggle is intricate, as cryptic as my class-map.
To present anything the way it is, would be against our customs
So the way I've come to office in my Bermudas and t-shirt
(I warned you this would happen)
The same way in this preshentation I päshte
A moving song of my middle class, read carefully:

The King died in the war he fought
The Queen died in the cooking pot
The Children died studying a lot . . .


From my body, take earth and sprinkle on barren lands
From my body, take water and bestrew the desert with streams
From my body, take the sky and build roofs for the homeless
From my body, take air and purify the breath of factories
From my body, take fire, your heart is frightfully cold


How wonderful
I've plugged ears
Can't hear
What's bad around me

What's good
I'll smell and know
My nose is not clogged yet

Eyes I don't trust
They just see films


There exists a space outside of home which you visit as often as home

You are in love with green,
You translate every scene into green
I am in love with you,
I translate every scene into you
Your blindness is the colour green,
The colour of my blindness is you

There is a poet who is a criminal: a criminal who is a poet: he is almost mute: muteness is, well, an almost: in the background distant, he mumbles a poem: in the foreground, grudgingly commits a crime: he recites a poem like a crime: commits a crime like a poem: a cigarette bonded to his lips: sentences finding no bond with lips: whenever he has to cry, the eyes do not weep: his nose starts bleeding:

A ca dao folk song echoes somewhere afar:
Aimlessly in the streets, the poet wanders
Finds that he has forgotten the way

The kite of my childhood
Is my tattered aspiration hanging in open sky

In the courtyard of reluctance, the poet resides: Verses are the verdure of his reluctance.

The Tongue of Kumārajīva

Kumārajīva lived in the fourth century. The man who rendered the first known Chinese translations of the Buddhist Sutras from the Sanskrit and local Pāli. Extensive translations. It won't be an exaggeration if we say that of antiquated history, he was only the greatest known translator. (Although there had been many translators before him, their names could not reach modern times. Even if they reached, they would be little known.)

It is said that his translations were so authentic, so very faithful to the original, so tightly coupled to the truth that when he died and was being cremated, the entire body burnt and became ash, but his tongue withstood the flames and did not burn.

With that tongue then Kumārajīva had, orally by virtue of spoken words, translated the Sutras into Chinese.

After all these years, reverse-translations of the translated texts are taking place. The original Sanskrit-Pāli treatises have been lost for good, but in the Chinese all of that has survived. Today we get to learn many things about Buddha based on English and Hindi-Sanskrit translations from Chinese.

So the tongue of Kumārajīva is present in much of what we know about Buddha today. Despite that, we know nothing about Kumārajīva. In the history of tongues, therefore, the tongue of the translator is the most selfless.

My Language, My Future

Outside the city in the garbage dump under the bridge
The most senile poet of my language chews bread dunked in tea

This man invented poetry even before Afzal*
All three hundred and thirty million Gods live in his beard as lice
The hairs on his body are all his unwritten poems

He furrows words in air with his fingers
In this way, he writes to his past every night a letter
Which is lost even before an envelope is found

Once before dying
At least once
He hopes that he'll recall the face and name of the woman
Who at one time slept with his book of poems
Pressed under her pillow

ख़ुशियों के गुप्तचर

एक पीली खिड़की इस तरह खुलती है
जैसे खुल रही हों किसी फूल की पंखुड़ियां.

एक चिड़िया पिंजरे की सलाखों को ऐसे कुतरती है
जैसे चुग रही हो अपने ही खेत में धान की बालियां.

मेरे कुछ सपने अब सूख गए हैं
इन दिनों उनसे अलाव जलाता हूं

और जो सपने हरे हैं
उन्हें बटोरकर एक बकरी की भूख मिटाता हूं

मेरी भाषा का सबसे बूढ़ा कवि लाइब्रेरी से लाया है मोटी किताबें
चौराहे पर बैठ सोने की अशर्फि़यों की तरह बांटता है शब्द

मेरे पड़ोस की बुढ़िया ने ईजाद किया है एक यंत्र जिसमें आंसू डालो, तो
पीने लायक़ पानी अलग हो जाता है, खाने लायक़ नमक अलग.

एक मां इतने ममत्व से देखती है अपनी संतान को
कि उसके दूध की धार से बहने लगती हैं कई नदियां

जो धरती पर बिखरे रक्त के गहरे लाल रंग को
प्रेम के हल्के गुलाबी रंग में बदल देती हैं.

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