- Five Prose Poems
Father has returned from his office. Knives glitter in the hands ofpeople in the street.
Father shuffles his papers. Rearranges them. Before his death, they wereof some use to him.
Words, instead of dust, fall from his papers. Scatter on his shirt.
At a deserted crossroad, an old man sells peanuts all night long.
My brother has a gun in his hand. Father forbids him from stepping outof the house.
I hide behind the door and watch. Men with knives arrive at our gate.
My widowed grandmother is busy cooking in the kitchen.
Light, glittering off the knives, falls on my father's trembling hands.
He's afraid they will kill him. [End Page 149]
Mother's money is hidden under some papers in a green box.
Father stands before a dark almirah.
Late at night, my brother gazes into a deep well. He searches for theglass near the earthen pot. He can never find it.
Father is delighted by the red tomatoes in the field. The gardener dragshimself after him. The gardener's wife, sitting on the black soil, pats herchild to sleep.
Mother, walking in her sleep, finds her way to the well. My mother andmy brother fail to recognize each other.
Grandmother mumbles, "On dark nights, ghosts fill water at the well."
"I can never find the glass!" my brother screams, choking with thirst.Mother stands petrified.
Father's dead body, covered with white harsingar flowers, lies in thecourtyard. [End Page 150]
Father sits on the other side of the table. Two moons shine in thecourtyard: one red and the other yellow.
I run towards the courtyard.
My brother is sitting on this side of the table.
Father has returned to this ruined house twelve years after his death. Iknow he is no longer alive.
He wasn't a diaphanous shadow before he died.
For twelve years we searched for him in the hills. He never searched forus.
He neither eats nor talks—nor does he exist.
He has returned to his old house as if it had never been destroyed andhe had never died.
I run towards him, and he towards me.
My brother comes down the sky-path after having felt Father's presence.
Father goes back by the same path. [End Page 151]
Father is sitting on a long dining table eating a roti with a knife andfork. Fascinated, I sit beside him and watch his strange performance.
Mother waits in an empty room as finely spun shadows drown her.News of Father's death slowly spreads over her sari.
Grandfather's lonely hands grope over a wall for the hook on which hecan hang his Gandhi cap.
Grandmother mumbles quietly, "Is the old man asleep again?"
When I insist, Mother changes her white sari.
Where the road takes a sharp turn, Father walks towards the sky.
Father doesn't let me go alone far from home. He has bought me acycle, but doesn't let me ride it anywhere.
Every other day, Grandmother's servant steals money fromGrandfather. Grandfather ignores the theft and concentrates on rowingthe boat of old age.
Mother tries to run the house on the little money she has. In order topass time, she reads Ramcharitmanas again and again.
Then one day, the silhouette of Father's pale and sickly face suddenlyappears through Sita's tears as she sits in the Ashoka forest. [End Page 152]
Udayan Vajpeyi is a Hindi poet, essayist, short-fiction writer, and scriptwriter. His books include Sudeshna & Door Desh Ki Gandh (short stories), Kuchh Vakya Ganitajna ki Kavitayen (poems), and Charkhe Par Barhat (essays). His writing awards include a senior fellowship from the government of India, Krishna Baldev Award, and Raja Foundation Award. He teaches in Bhopal.
Alok Bhalla is a scholar, translator, and poet based in Delhi, India. Among his books are Partition Dialogues: Memories of a Lost Home, The Place of Translation in...