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  • Her Breasts
  • Translated by Andrew Schelling (bio)

gāḍhāliṅganavāmanīkṛtakucaprodbhinnaromodgamāsāndrasneharasātir ekavigalat kāñcīpradeśāmbarāmā mā mānada māti māmalam iti kṣāmākṣarollāpinīsuptā kiṃ nu mṛtā nu kiṃ manasi me līnā vilīnā nu kim

  • gāḍhāliṅgana-vāmanī-kṛta-kuca-prodbhinna-romodgamā. (bv. cmpd.)

  • gāḍhāliṅgana. tight embrace

  • vāmanī-kṛta. flattened, pressed down

  • kuca. breasts

  • prodbhinna. burst forth

  • roma-udgamā. pubic area

  • sāndra. smooth, soft

  • sneharasātiḥ. (bv. cmpd.) affection, filled with love or desire

  • eka-vigalat. at once coming untied

  • kañcī. girdle or undergarment

  • pradeśa. zone, area

  • ambarā. clothes

  • mā mā. don’t don’t!

  • mānada. (voc.) O ravager (literally, destroyer of respect)

  • māti. don’t, enough

  • māmalam. enough for me!

  • iti. [quotation marks]

  • kṣāma-akṣara-ullāpinī. (bv. cmpd.) (f.) weak-word-speaker

  • suptā. sleep (did she sleep)

  • kiṃ nu. what was it, how is it

  • mṛtā. dead (is she dead, did she die)

  • nu kiṃ. what, how is it

  • manasi. in (my) heart

  • me. my, mine

  • līnā. pressed into

  • vilīnā. dissolved, absorbed

  • nu kiṃ. or was she [End Page 14]

Her breastsflattened against meher flesh seemed to rippleat her thighs the thinsilk parted.I heard a mute Don’tdon’t—this is enough for medid she sleep, did she die then?sink in my heartcompletely dissolve?

In the Sanskrit, the first two lines of this poem are comprised of three bahuvṛhi compounds describing the woman and her garments. The third line captures the woman’s exclamations with a nearly animal bleat: mā mā mānada māti. The questions that follow her cry recall Yeats’s words in “Crazy Jane Looks at the Dancers”:

Did he die or did she die?Seemed to die or died they both?

Sound out the final line of the original Sanskrit poem here. You’ll find a repetition, as insistent and fierce as Yeats’s, that drives this poem to its close. Another poem from the Amaruśataka, “She’s in My House,” carries the repetition of a single long syllable even further. [End Page 15]

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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