The Earth In Her Magnificent Dance Poem by Nilmani Phookan

The Earth In Her Magnificent Dance

We were two families sharing a single house
Time passing through the leaky roofs
Night passing water coming down in torrents
Sometimes a wagtail
Used to perch there in a dream

When you smile I weep
I smile when you weep
This is the way we exchange each other
Exchange our days our nights our sleeps our sleeplessness
Childhood and youth

Old age cravings consuming fire
What nightmare or what dream
Or a dream of nightmare
Dream continuous

What home shelter my country foreign dungeon
Open expanse of the field
Jungle bamboo-grove past present
Only the children
Wipe their tears
And light up evening’s fire-flies

Only a blooming flower
In its fragrance
Seeks heart’s expanse

Where have I come where have you gone
None of us know

They say Arjun has come back
What news of the dead child
Which gallery is displaying
The painting of Nandalal
Shiva drinking poison

We do not know none of us know
Whose boat did sink during a storm at Kurua
The shrill neigh of a mad horse
Galloping on the road

And yet would you not plant
A sapling of fragrant banana
In your garden

Sitting on the porch of sunset blooms
Grandfather used to stir up his memory
What he got what he gave to whom

The chill of the stone bridge the fire in the flint
A handful of water and mud from the river Nairanjana
A splash of blood in the grass
Copper silver gold diamond bell-metal bronze
Glass nickel lead

A big fish caught in a river of his native village
A full-blooded fish
With life-lustrous gems sparkling in the eyes
Tore the net to shreds and escaped
And the night did not end.

Roaring prayers leap up from monastic huts around the square
O this world is a serpent full of venom
And what have we been searching for
What pleasure what truth to be given to whom
What vain possession
Free expressed secret unfading
What meaning and meaninglessness
Of what scriptural paraphrase
A blind tantric worshipper

Crows and dogs in the solitary hutment
Many a thing is growing and diminishing
Man’s age man in particular man without distinction
Torn divided individual universal concrete abstract
Brittle hard dialectical unmoved intelligent kind
Cruel wicked deceitful lonely sad

Many things are growing and diminishing
Mishap lethal weapons suicide ennui
Humanist abortion books
Cancer agitation yogi comrade
Uncertainty hustle-bustle
Contract to transform life

Where is the end is this the end or beginning of what
Where is the beginning
Who will take measurement of whom
Whom do I ask what do I ask whom
If ever I wait somewhere
In the pristine darkness of a cave
On a pyre with fire extinguished

If ever I sleep somewhere
In a surgical ward of a hospital
Inside a transport vehicle
Standing naked on a cultivated field

If ever I wait somewhere
At the junction of three roads
In a resonant spring
In the sacred city of the Cosmic Dancer

Whom do I ask, whom do I ask what
Why only in darkness does germinate rice
Why does it rain
Why man is blessed with sperm and
Woman with breast milk

Where have I come where have you gone
None of us know none of us know
What time it is which month or which year
Did I ever see
The whole sky
The whole of the earth
All the faces of men dead or alive

Once at dawn
Waking up
Did I discover myself
In a battered face
Did I ever know An orange
Rosewood tree

What must be done
Are truth love and reality
Each in a flux
Pomegranate flowers burned in the teardrops
Compassion in that sacred chalice of blood
Pre-harvest moon over the cremation ground

We were two families sharing a single house
Time passing through leaky roofs
Night passing water coming down in torrents
Never say that you would never
Would never arrive there
No water in the river
No fire in water

Screaming atop her voice low and then
For what anguish what anger what joy
In her perpetual motion

Is the Earth in her magnificent dance.

Nilmani Phookan

Nilmani Phookan

Dergaon, Golaghat, Assam / India
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