And Suddenly A Woman's Wail At Midnight - Poem by Prathibha Nandakumar
Its a week since we moved in here
strange place, stranger people
The fear of the unknown
mingle with the lightness of the great escape
The sounds of the latest soaps
drown the cooker's whistle
Even at ten there is laughter next door
Not able to hit a nail to hang the mosquito curtains
we give up and light a coil
Sleep eludes. Tossing and turning
finally when my eyes give in...
Suddenly a woman's wail
Stifling words held tight behind the
end of a sari stuffed into the mouth
Its surely a man's voice coming forth
the clenched teeth
Was it my imagination,
that thud of pushing?
I try to figure out the source
of the wail
Peep out of the window
To be mocked by the dark
Who could it be?
One from the opposite house or
the next door neighbour or
the one upstairs?
Before I could find out
it stopped as abruptly as it had started
Was it a hand that put out the wailing or.....
like me, did she also brush aside the hand
and walk out, never to return?
Did she learn to walk with steps bleeding on this dark night,
to reach a new destination
where she could breathe freely?
I dont know
but the stifled midnight wail of a woman
that stopped abruptly
haunts me to this day.
Translated from Kannada by the poet
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