A Piece Of Bread, A Country, And A Shehnai


(Translation from Telugu: Afsar and Shamala Gallagher)

Afsar has published four poetry books in his home language, Telugu and well-translated into English and Hindi languages. Now teaching South Asian literatures and cultures at the University of Texas at Austin, Afsar’s poetry in translation “Evening with a Sufi” is ready for the press. Afsar has a recent publication “The Festival of pirs: Popular Islam and Shared Devotion in South India,” with the Oxford university Press, USA.

In your final rest
on a rope-cot
were you still dreaming
of a piece of bread?

Beloved one,
we the people
of this country

of that country
can make anything

but a piece of bread
for you –


Your death now
is dream – forgotten.

Stingy dream, secret,
yesterday, the day

before, or early dawn
of some endless night,

snatched from
a broken sleep

like a cut thread

(Says Amma: don’t
forget the early

dawn dreams as they
might become real)


One festival
of breads

you drank the last drop
of sweet kheer

at my home,
sweet kheer slipped
into your beard –


So said the Prophet:
“All my dreams
are inevitable

and squeezed his body
into a qibla

and swallowed the poison
in Fatima’s womb

and then slipped away
into his dream

that was like knowing –

Then what was left?

One Karbala

bodies piled on bodies.

And from her birth pangs
from her broken sleep

Fatima began to broom the hurt field

with her braid.


When you poured your pain
into your pipe of shehnai –

did I ever tell you
all my history is a broken sleep

a shattered
genderless dream that multiplies –


Your dream of bread
is not far from her battlefield

Your body at last on the rope-cot,
the last pinning glance of the war –

they are the same dream

one restlessness, one violent shriek

this is what
I am now –


When you left,
the shehnai turned alone
into her dark corner

and sang to herself
beating and beating
the ceaseless tune

of the dream you left
orphaned –

(Illustration – Sourav Dey)

One thought on “A Piece Of Bread, A Country, And A Shehnai

  1. Pingback: Content and Contributors – July 2014 | aainanagar

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