Ramakanta Rath

(13 December 1934 - / Cuttack, Orissa / India)

A Request To The Dead - Poem by Ramakanta Rath

I offer this water to you,
my father, grandfather and great grandfather,
and to you, soldiers and generals
who fought for us and who fought against us
and who were killed by this war.

I stand here, on this battlefield,
and give this water and this rice to you—
you must be hungry and thirsty.

Ask for nothing
other than water and rice,
don't add to the long list
of things I was not able to give;
be content with this water and this rice
and return
to wherever you came from.

Consider this: the years
I have spent with you were many;
and this: it will not be long
before I join you wherever you sojourn.
Had I possessed things
other than this water and this rice,
would I have denied them to you
and asked you to return ?
Whatever I have
other than this water and this rice
are surely not appropriate offerings
for departed souls.

True, I traverse everyday of my life
with this baggage of witheld things,
but whenever I look at them
I disintegrate and cry out
with a voice that rends
the heavens
and the underworld.
Tears fill my eyes
when I make this offering
of water and rice.
I know, when my turn comes,
I shall have neither.

Look, the sun has almost set.
Now, go back to wherever you came from
with the little water and the little rice I gave you.
Look, I myself do not have
either any water or any rice.
Look, I have nothing except the few things
I didn't give
and kept with myself.

[Translated by the poet]

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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