A Piece Of Bread, A Country, And A Shehnai

Afsar

(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
truths”

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
anymore.

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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