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  • The Nakedness of the World
  • Jayanta Mahapatra (bio)

A Burning Ground By the River

Spreads of weed and grass.No marked grave that I could findin this burning ground by the river.I sit here for a time, to weep a memory,thoughtless for peace.If I stay on in the ashes of a thousand years,it would strengthen my feelingthat I was the onechosen to walk only by myself,and that I might go further,parallels life crosses on my worn palms.

Today the world won’t wait as I do.It dies in the distance,arrogant red sun among the clouds.I’d hardly speak; the murdered girlwho was cremated here last weekhad left behind the silence of a nameless lifeas a defense against the freedomthat goes on to make the power of the world.All the groping in my mindfor the thought to be proud of something,something where I’d feel protected, and free.

And as I sat there, it came: A lost moonlight.It played around the ashes. It had a face,looming larger as it approached.Every look seemed to be an attempt on my life.The wind couldn’t escape being chokedby the ashes. I couldn’t help noticethe cold uniform of the moonlight.It took me years to walk back home. [End Page 591]


The cigarette burns down to a lonely stillness.A storm from the south-of-nowhere driftsover the earth to the west-of-nowhere, spent,grown meaningless. If it could return to whereit came, would it recognize itself?An hour in my history breaks down my lifeit has been carrying stupidly on its back.A small window in a lonely wall of my room,my long dead grandfather has nothing more to dowith what I wish to do. Or with what I’d used to be,yet he keeps moving and always moves himself,making use of my past life to hold me backif I wanted to leave. Such a harmless secret lifebleeding from history was what I didn’t deserve.

I walked across the seven stars in the skyunafraid of what their sadness might contain,and they seemed to spring from a puppet showto enact their roles without the heart’s cryI am used to feel in me. Here was a silence.Here’s what I was thinking about: my grandfatherleft to himself, when he was left alone with himself,his hunger a mask, his body a mask, his day a mask.And under the bright lamps, men as alone as him too,their hearts crying like locomotives at night with    homesickness,and I, seduced by the small understanding of my heartas I find a space to cross the street in front of a buswith my absurd embarrassment,unable to bearmy worshipful stand in front of the nakedness of the world. [End Page 592]

On that Faraway Field

Each yearwhen the new rains come,fireflies frisk aroundthe scarred tall teaks,a great wet windhums in the forest’s throat,nests like a giant bird.

Over the graveof my long-dead father,lost evenings,like actors in a play,are ready to drop their roles,then becomethe characters they played,larger than before.

The things that happenare things that cannot be seen.This eveningI feel I am in another countryto which I’d never return.A firefly that is deaddoes not know

its light spoke to meunder its breath of another daythat might be mine tomorrow.The rain goes on and on.I turn to the darknessand to shadows on which I dance.The year. Who counts the cursesof the great wet windof the frail fig trees? [End Page 593]

The Ruins of the World

Another day falls into nowhere.The past walks alone.On this street too:just the memory of a journeythat is lost before I step on it.

A poor thin salesgirl is this India,her face above the toothlessjewelry tray display of her past;more...


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pp. 591-594
Launched on MUSE
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