Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MY LOST LANGUAGE by Anna Sujatha Mathai

I search for my lost syllables
in the green grass of the paddy fields.
My lost language, Malayalam,
Has dropped like a gold wedding band,
Into the stream below,
A lost band lying
In the flowing water,
Amid the pebbles deep in the water.
As I search, I hear my grandmother's voice
Speak from the bed under the attic stairs.
How many nights I lay with her
Sharing the pain and the sorrows of her life.
The smell of whole mangoes pickled in brine
Emanates from the earthen bharanis lining the wall
Vying with the smell of jasmine
Coming in through the open window.
Grandmother smells of aromatic oils
Meant to ease her pains.
In the dark night outside, snakes shed their skin.
I hug her tight, as she tells me
In the music of that lost language
About her sad childhood,
The cruel stepmother, the hunger, the humiliation,
The struggle to learn a little English,
All in Malayalam, which opens windows.
On the day of her death she appears to me in a dream.
Clear bells ring, piercing my consciousness.
Molle, you know I lived a sad life,
But can you feel it now, the joy?
She holds out the lost band to me --
English and Malayalam bound together in gold.
My lost language shines in the palm of my hand,
Forming intimate syllables.
Rediscovering lost memories,
A language that trembles in my deepest sleep.
Copyright. Anna Sujatha Mathai.
(First pub. in MOTHER'S VEENA. 2013.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

KINDNESS By Naomi Shihab Nye

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.