There are times when I can’t move

There are times when I can’t move.

I feel roots of mine everywhere,
as though all things were born of me,
or as though I were born of all things.

All I can do then is to stay still
with eyes open like two faces at the moment of birth,
with a small amount of love in one hand
and something cold in the other.

And all I can give someone passing by me
is that motionless absence
that has roots in him too.

–Roberto Juarroz, Argentina

Wind’s Foam

Nothing lasts, behold.
Behold how the leaves, the flowers, the old villagers,
the pose of rivers’ dancing, the brazen pitchers and
the fire of hookah
and the flock of grown up girls gradually diminish
like the monsoon of Hilsa fish !
The yellow leaves, sounding in the wind,
fall down on the droughty desolate land.
The foreign ducks too,
on whose bodies there are millions of bubbles, fly away
into the shallow blue cup of the sky.

Why doesn’t anything last long?
The corrugated iron sheet, the hay or the muddy walls
and the undecaying banyan tree of village
get uprooted by the terrible typhoon of Chittagong.
The plaster splits and in the long run the mosque of our village,
like our Faith, collapses down with a heavy crash.

The nests of sparrows, the love, the twigs and tendrils
and the covers of books fall off twisted.
By the water’s bite of the Meghna,
the crops’ green scream of the horizon starts trembling.
The houses float, float the pitchers and the cowsheds.
Like the affection of my elder sister, the old
embroidered pillow gets also sunk.
After the decay of dwelling-houses, nothing exists more.
Only the birds, fond of water, flying in the sky
wipe off the foam of wind from their beaks.

–Al Mahmud, Bangladesh

The Indians

The Indians


maze after maze

with their emptiness on their backs.

In the past

they were warriors over all things.

They put up monuments to fire

and to the rains whose black fists

put the fruit in the earth.

In the theaters of their cities of colors

shone vestments

and crowns

and golden masks

brought from faraway enemy empires.

They marked time

with numerical precision.

They gave their conquerors

liquid gold to drink

and grasped the heavens

like a tiny flower.

In our day

they plow and seed the ground

the same as in primitive times.

Their women shape clay

and the stones of the field, or weave

while the wind

disorders their long, coarse hair,

like that of goddesses.

I’ve seen them barefoot and almost nude,

in groups,

guarded by voices poised like whips,

or drunk and wavering with the pools of the setting sun

on the way back to their shacks

in the last block of the forgotten.

I’ve talked with them up in their refuges

there in the mountains watched over by idols

where they are happy as deer

but quiet and deep

as prisoners.

I’ve felt their faces

beat my eyes until the dying light

and so have discovered

my strength is neither

sound nor strong.

Next to their feet

that all the roads destroyed

I leave my own blood

written on an obscure bough.


–Roberto Sosa, Honduras

In His Room

In his room the man watches

light shine on the fruit

the apples gathering shadows

the shadows of resting pears

the watermelon’s gash

of liquid pulp

the ancient figs

among solemn walnuts

at night in his room

the man watches fruit

–Homero Aridjis, Mexico

Poem From The Desert Road

Talaivan says—

Fearlessly, my heart has departed
to embrace my beloved.
If its arms are too slack to hold her
what use is it?
The distances between us stretch long.
Must I think of the many forests
where deadly tigers rise up roaring
like the waves of the dark ocean
standing between us? I don’t dare.

Allur Nanmulla
Kuruntokai, verse 237

—Translated by A. Anupama

The Pen

Take the pen in your uncertain fingers.

Trust, and be assured

That the whole world is a sky-blue butterfly

And words are the nets to capture it.

–Muhammad al-Ghuzzi, Tunisia

Wordless Day

There is a wordless tomorrow

In which I’ll forget all the chatter

It will be like the sky clearing after a rainstorm

To the washed gray of morning

The distant mountains an ink black line

Sweeping the mists away from here


But today

Is still a day for cymbals

Percussionists join in the celebration

Raising a din, pounding without restraint


Until twilight when I am so weary

That I long for the sleep

My tongue enjoys inside my mouth


–Chang Shiang-hua, Taiwan

Once I Got A Postcard From The Fiji Islands

Once I got a postcrad from the Fiji Islands

with a picture of sugar cane harvest. Then I realized

that nothing at all is exotic in itself.

There is no difference between digging potatoes in

our Mutiku garden

ans sugar cane harvesting in Viti Levu.

Everything that is is very ordinary

or, rather, neither ordinary nor strange.

Far-off lands and foreign peoples are a dream,

a dreaming with open eyes

somebody does not wake from.

It’s the same with poetry–seen from afar

it’s something special, mysterious, festive.

No, poetry is even less

special than a sugar cane plantation or potatoe field.

Poetry is like sawdust coming from under the saw

or soft yellowish shavings from a plane.

Poetry is washing hands in the evening

or a clean handkerchief that my late aunt

never forgot to put in my pocket.

–Jaan Kaplinski, Estonia

translated by Riina Tamm, and Sam Hamill

A New Dress

I don’t want a new dress, I said

My mother plucked from her mouth ninetynine pins.

I suppose there are plenty, she said, girls of ten

Who would be glad to have a new dress. 

Snip-snip. Snip-snip. The cold scissors

Ate quickly as my white rabbit round my arm.

She won’t speak to me if I have a new dress!

My feet rattled on the kitchen floor.

How can I fit you if you won’t stand still?

My tears made a map of Australia

On the sofa cushion, from the hot center

My friend’s eyes flashed, fierce as embers.

She would not speak to me, perhaps ever again.

She would paralyze me with one piercing look.

I’d rather have my friend than a new dress!

My mother wouldn’t understand, my grownup mother

Whose grasshopper thimble winked at the sun

And whose laughter was made by small waves

Rearranging seashells on Australia’s shore.

Ruth Dallas, New Zealand



Horse By Moonlight For Juan Soriano

A horse escaped from the circus

and lodged in my daughter’s eyes:

there he ran circles around the iris

raising silver dust-clouds in the pupil

and halting sometimes

to drink from the holy water of the retina.

Since then my daughter feels a longing

for meadows of grass and green hills…

waiting for the moon to come

and dry with its silk sleeves

the sad water that wets her cheeks.

Alberto Blanco, Translated by Jennifer Clement