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  • Tender Lip Bitten
  • Translated by Andrew Schelling (bio)

saṃdaṣṭādharapallavā sacakitaṃ hastāgramādhunvatīmā mā muñca śaṭheti kopavacanair ānartitabhrūlatāsītkārāñcitalocanā sapūlakaṃ yaiś cumbitā māninīprāptaṃ tair amṛtaṃ śramāya mathito mūḍhaiḥ suraiḥ sāgaraḥ

  • saṃdaṣṭa. nipped, bitten

  • adhara. lip

  • pallavā. bud, sprout

  • sacakitaṃ. (adv.) timidly, with alarm

  • hasta-agrama-adhunvatī. (bv. cmpd.) she who is “hand-tip-shaking”

  • mā mā. don’t don’t!

  • muñca. (imp.) leave

  • śaṭha. (voc.) O cheater, rogue

  • iti. [quotation marks]

  • kopa-vacanair. with angry words

  • ānartita-bhrūlatā. (bv. cmpd.) with dancing vine-like brow

  • sītkāra-āñcita-locanā. (bv. cmpd.) with oblique eyes

  • sapūlakaṃ. bristling with desire, thrilling

  • yaiḥ. by those who

  • cumbitā. kissed

  • māninī. prideful woman

  • prāptaṃ. obtained

  • taiḥ. by them

  • amṛtaṃ. juice of immortality

  • śramāya. with toil, labor

  • mathito. (adj. with ocean) churned

  • mūḍhaiḥ. (adj. with gods) foolish

  • suraiḥ. by the gods

  • sāgaraḥ. ocean [End Page 8]

Tender lip bitten sheshakes her fingers alarmed—hisses a fierceDon’t you dare and hereyebrows leap like a vine.Who steals a kiss from aproud woman flashing her eyessecures amṛta.The gods—fools—churned the ocean fornothing.

After enormous labor, the gods collectively managed to raise amṛta, the drink of immortality (Greek, ambrosia), from the ocean floor. They concealed it on the far side of the moon, away from the grasp of dark forces who would steal and drink it in order to become dreadfully powerful. A life-bestowing fluid stored on the moon, amṛta became identified with soma, potent vision-inducing drink of the Vedas. As precious generative fluids, both amṛta and soma have strong sexual implications—they are the juices of life.

The Amaruśataka (Hundred Poems of Amaru) opens in traditional fashion with verses that invoke two ardent deities, the Great Goddess and Śiva. Then comes a twist: two verses—this the second—that mock and dismiss the gods. Even the gods—the poet observes—are disarmed by desire. Let the gods toil away, churning amṛta from the ocean depths. Love is the real beverage that overcomes death. [End Page 9]

Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling, born in 1953 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., has written, edited, or translated twenty books. Early opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, plus an encounter with India’s texts, set him on a lifelong engagement with Asian literature. He studied Sanskrit at the University of California at Berkeley, and began to translate from its classical poetry tradition around 1978. His first book, Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India, received the Academy of American Poets translation award in 1992, the first time the Academy had honored work done from an Asian language. Schelling’s own poetry and essays emerge from the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion in which he lives. Recent books of poetry wrangle with the Arapaho language as a way of reading landscape and the natural cycles; they include From the Arapaho Songbook and A Possible Bag. He has edited The Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature and Love and the Turning Seasons: India’s Poetry of Spiritual and Erotic Longing (forthcoming from Counterpoint Press). Living on the Front Range of Colorado, he is active on land-use issues and teaches at Naropa University. He also teaches regularly at Deer Park Institute, in India’s Himalayan foothills.



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