Portrait of my village

How can I bear to see
my dry lands, surrounded by rocks and hills,
rent, as if by an earthquake's fissures?
The thick sour smell
of the fermented gruel
paid as wages for grass cut and bundled,
received with palms cupped and raised,
hands already ripped by ulundu plants -
still pervades the body, like a ductless gland.
When the single measure of paddy -
flung to us for carrying away and burying
their dead animals - turned to chaff,
the tormenting hunger that followed
still moves in the memory.
Our bare feet are drenched
by the pain of caste that drips from our lips
as we drink tea from palm-leaf cups,
standing at an untouchable distance,
while the portrait of our village
frames itself at a place of double existence,
always vigilant.

Translated by Lakshmi Holmström

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