Poem by Sudhakar Gaidhani

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Devdoot : The Angel
Sudhakar Gaidhani

Translated from Marathi by Om Biyani
Translation of Canto – I of Mahavaakya (The Great Utterance),
original Marathi Epic Poem in five cantos (555 pages)

O seafaring birds hunting for pearl-feed!
Fill up your beaks
with the eternal youth of my wings
because I’ll soon be flown off
by messenger-fakirs that weep while they laugh.
On this isle just a few buds remain
of intoxicating flowers;
so before I too shed my petals
search out and keep my eyes –
because I’ll soon be flown off
by messenger-fakirs that weep while they laugh.
One hasn’t yet found the caravans
of Sindbads with golden dreams
that were on this same way misled;
nor has one yet wiped
the stains,
on the stones,
of the jewels that the stars here shed.
The ruined pavilions
within a score of miles,
in this phantom’s domain,
were undone by their love of tombs,
their passions yet unquenched.
It’s a valley of tyrants where
all hell has broken loose and where
a war is on-a veritable wildfire –
while the waves that girdle me in chains
fornicate freely with the shore.
Fledglings!
Since He does not find on my riot-torn face
the glow befitting a prisoner
God himself is pained.
5
I too can hide this earth
under my wings outspread;
I too can soar can flap my wings
Like you and you; every branch here bears
The marks of my claws
It was I that gifted
This graveyard to those fakirs
To this day I cherish in my wings
the eyes of Christ
and the Buddha’s smile
That’s why this sea has made a captive of me.
Birds,
out at sea the boats of my agonies
are singing their sea-songs;
go and receive them please,
because even they will be flown off
by messenger-fakirs that weep while they laugh.
Friends,
the tribes of hangmen-weavers
that pleat the ropes for their job
have earned a bad name here;
their only crime is this;
they are slaves to hunger.
There is so much fire still
in the kiln of their eyes
that no sooner do the rulers become oppressive
than will they reduce to ash
every dictatorial structure.
Hey, is it that you, too,
consider me a madman?
So, count your feathers in the dark,
quietly sharpen your beaks
by rubbing them on each other’s
and let the night pass
And pester daylight
so much with your beaks
that night should come back fast.
6
It is only now that the sky
is feeling chocked with compassion
and is sending down rains –
at first drop by drop
and then in torrents
The benevolent cataclysmic forces
of the universe, have burst out
shaking up all that is quick or dead.
The sun, spangled with stars
is shivering, seeking alms,
with his begging-bowl of horizon
at the gentle evening’s gate.
And says in a piteous voice:
“Mother, O mother,
God will bless you –
let me spend here this night.
I’ll be on my way
by break of daylight.”
Beware all
A mighty rain is about to fall.
The river will be in full flood again
and my deep, lake-deep eyes
that quest for the shore
will be carried by the current
with my oyster-trapped soul.
Before this calm in me that
anticipates an earthquake
breaks loose, come, death,
and set me free.
The cry of the virgin night
scorched in a forest-fire
in now more than I can bear
The jungle of sufferings on my body
is ablaze, every cell in me
is cracking, bursting,
so remove at once these houses on the shore –
the world is in flames,
the world is in flames.
Hurry up, wash these wounds
on the earth’s heart,
lest it split into two –
7
because this planet is all
that we mortals have got
You who can make out
a bird from a nest,
who don’t my eardrums shudder,
why can’t I hear the anguished chirping
of baby birds that can’t find their mother?
How is it that the spirit
that pervades the five elements
has gone entirely deaf?
Or is it bootless –
the resurrection of us angels?
O merchants,
beware when you tear off the armour
on my vast captive body.
Terrified, everybody will scream and shout,
jungles of trees will rush, roots and all,
ice-forts will crumble like houses of cards,
the rivers, like cobras, will slither here and there
and the earth, like a frightened cow,
will tremble in every limb.
O oracles,
don’t be so prodigal of declarations.
One has to bail a whole ocean
from its fathomless depths:
a mother has to wrench her belly
to earn her relief and to see her babe.
The parti-coloured lamps on this isle
are not decorative lighting –
they are the dropped-out eyes
of travellers who lost their way.

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