Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Prabuddha XXIII

Rani soap fragranced
tap-water showered
deep red lipstick
fingernails and toenails reddened too
thickly powdered cheeks
bright and vividly colored sari
wrapped around her
out on to the lonely street
at dusk she ventures.

Where to, sister, pray tell!

‘Do you not see the multitude
thronging towards the carnival
following them am I
to gift as alms of a kind my flesh.
No, not so I too will attain enlightenment 
as per the doctrine of the paramitas,
but only to pray for a meal tomorrow
for the children starve
and the man is consumptive 
to them relief must I bring.’

Amma bud vaeva!

[Mother, may you attain Buddhahood!]

There were young men
long-haired and bearded 
with rich shirts tucked into pants
held by thick leather belts
arm in arm with girls
as young as she
into whose ears they poured
the sweet nothings of love.

Reclining in soft comfortable seats
in the glow of bulbs
filtered through multiplicity of color
with puckered lips
young and fresh
on the edge of a glass
or else from the bottle straight
through thin paper straws
they sucked in love.

It’s a riot of sound
the carnival grounds
runs round 
the merry-go-round  
heads and heads
they are everywhere.

They weren’t sad
not one of them
laughing joyously were they
danced into the grounds
gathered and sang
grotesquely masked
and yet
all gods, all divine
at one, at some moment in time
that they were,
all bodhisatvas 
marked for Sammaa Sambuddhahood.

The iron voice blurted 
cutting through laughter and cheers 
‘Hey, come one, come all,
let’s dance, let’s sing
for the time it is a-passing!” 

It was his voice
cut into a record
that he heard
aeons later
mind broken by anger.

Disenchanted he still was
when he left the carnival.
among the bushes dark he saw
a darkened couple,
and first glance said
two springs of love
gushing love’s sweetest lines.

‘No, Ranjani, no!
Please don’t cry.  
You’ll never understand
however many times I explain.
How can I marry you?
You would complain one day
you would say I ruined your life!’

He stood still
their words and sighs
brushing the ears of his heart
and cutting through 
laughter and cheers
the loudspeaker’s cacophony
their voices surfaced:

‘All property they pawned
my parents did,
just to educate me
and now thanks to me
they wallow in misery.’

‘Let us drink poison,
both of us,

And then he heard 
many, many voices
a thousand complaints
from a thousand mouths 
he heard
from all all over
the carnival grounds. 

‘My chest get tight
it does, Sir, at night.
I can't breathe then
I fear then 
that death is upon me.
And yet the doctor 
they say there’s nothing wrong
with me!’

‘I will hang myself
I will jump into a well
he was so different then
but now
such a cruel man he is!’

‘Look here boss,
sure, I steal,
I am a pickpocket.
There’s no joy
don’t get me wrong.’

‘Good sir, listen to my story!
My eldest daughter
she ran away
eloped with a vagrant
did she!’

‘Failed again,
but had I passed
it would have been so good
the promotion would be mine!’

‘I have to pay my rates
forty thousand this year
and once that’s done
I’d be finished!’

All these laments
from all corners of the carnival 
echoed like one single 
inalienable chorus
in his ears
and yet
blended into that chorus
was but a singular line:
‘let’s dance, let’s sing
for the time it is a-passing!’ 

Pitiful is life
empty and fruitless
devoid of meaning
‘Konu haaso kim aanando’ 

What laughter, what joy? [when all is burning]

*This is the twenty third part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's classic narrative poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. 


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