Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

K. Satchidanandan

( Indian poet writing in Malayalam)


Albert Camus once said that the central problem of the twentieth century was suicide. I am afraid that this was the central problem of the twentieth century and not of the twenty first century which is homicide or genocide. I mean by this the massive destruction of life and the worsening of conditions of life by various forces that promote violence of all sorts. It makes the ideal of peace more and more unrealisable. Global imperialism, predatory capitalism, religious fundamentalism, jingoistic nationalism, patriarchal domination, hierarchies of caste and class and race, irrational terrorism, have all contributed to this escalation of violence in our time. These outbursts we find happen today in all nations.


K. Satchidanandan

(Hiroshima Day, 1991. Dedicated to the people of Peringom)


We, grass no storm can break,

survivors of rabbits, earthquakes and revolutions,

silent witnesses to murderous crimes, say:

No more.




We remember Hiroshima:

Death descended like the spring in the valley

with the light of a million suns.

Then charcoal, ashes,

an orchard of skulls.

Burnt kimonos dripping

with breast milk and blood,

the tiny shoes of children

fallen dead on the steps while

rushing back to their homes’ cool shelter,

darling dolls that had leapt down scared

from the school bags,

now lying charred on the floor,

fingers that had woven clothes and bread

now stuck to the stilled machines,

the caps of dead songs,

the skirts of dead dances,

liquefied loves,

cherry blossoms dissolved

in the white heat of the scorching summer,

molten eyes,

molten time still on molten clock,

molten language stuck to

molten slates.




We grass,

who turn the earth into

a revolving emerald in space,

guard from pain

the feet of the playing children

and the falling flowers,

and tattoo the skulls of the dying

with colourful dreams, say:

No more.


We remember Chernobyl :

Death had come not blood-soaked

like the knife-thrower,

nor in tight vests with a red kerchief

like the bullfighter.

Hiroshima’s sun had risen

like the primal explosion

that had given birth to our earth.

He came amidst the revelries

of that mid-summer night in April

to choke the nightingales’ throats,

to still the dancing Gypsy feet.

Invisible serpents of slithering heat,

venomous light piercing the cawing of crows

and the mewing of cats,

children’s life-breath vanishing into

the balloons with the air that blows them up,

mothers carrying their burning children

running all thirst along

streets that lead nowhere,

stillborns delivered on blanched beds

like vain prayers,

milk-bottles brimming with pale death,

tomato-fields that suck human blood,

wheat-fields wielding their golden sword,

stunted trees from which dead birds fall,

bitter honey, black pollen, black snow,

killing shower, killing air,

killing moonlight.




We, grass,

the green flags of dreams

stained by the atomic rain,

announcing life’s tenderness

even in the deserts of the battle-field,

did not grow just to be crushed under

the hooves of eternal night.

Lend your ears to our green message:

Wake up, mothers nursing lullabies

and cucumbers in this soil,

with the drums of the minstrels announcing

the dawn for witness,

save from the atomic eclipse

the deathless moon of your selfless love

with its healing roots,

Rise up, brave peasants, rearing

future’s gold in paddy fields

and grand children’s dreams,

with the tears of ancestors

dried up on the ritual masks for witness,

retrieve from the poisoned earth

the untiring sun of your courageous action

that smells of arcanum flowers

until the rhythms of abundant life

echo in the drums of the untouchables

and the hearts of the dispossessed,

until this earth flowers once again

in the melodious rains from the

shepherd’s flute and the monsoon clouds.


( Translated from the Malayalam by the poet )






Earth taught me

to live with all, to outlive all,

to evolve from season to season

knowing stasis is death,

to be ever on the move,

within and without.


Fire taught me

to be aflame with desire,

to dance, dance, dance,

turning everything into ash,

to sanctify the world with grief,

to light up with meditation

the granite’s heart,

the ocean’s womb.


Water taught me

to ooze unannounced from

eyes and clouds, to seep

deep into earth, into bodies,

adorning both with buds and blooms,

to strip myself of name and place and

merge with the magnificent blue

of memory’s last horizon.


Air taught me

to sing, bodiless, through

clumps of bamboo, to prophesy

through leaves, to lend wings to seeds,

to be at once a caressing gentle breeze

and a raging tempest.


Ether taught me

to be full with the full moon

and null with the new moon,

to be the lush red flush

of dawn and dusk,

to be everywhere and

be nowhere.


The elements taught me

to be part of all,

to be detached from all,

to be forever changing forms

to be finally freed from Form.


( Translated from Malayalam by the poet )






I hug you with my eyes

you caress me with your wounds

I peel off your garments

you wipe off your bloodstains

I suck your lips

your acid burns mine

I taste your tongue

your untold tales sour my mouth

I rouse your nipples

you mourn your estranged son

I run my fingers across your belly

you start as if recalling a rape

I play on your behind

it grows heavy with distances

I press my lips on your petals

you remind me of our orphaned kids

I enter you

you scream like an embattled city

I raise you to the rainbows

you climax in a rain of bombs

I break and scatter in you

my sharpness pierce you


Love bleeds in prisons.



( Translated from the Malayalam by the poet )

* ‘My love’. Remembering Alan Resnais’s film, Hiroshima mon amour




K. Satchidanandan


Forget the key and remain a child

Adorn the ears with a red hibiscus

Bathe in the wild stream and eat the berry

Drop anchor in the moon and go to sleep

Remember your mother


Pray sitting on the leopard’s back

Learn to walk on the burning pyre

Kiss the king cobra’s hood

Play the sun and sing the Blues

Roll the sea and smoke

Remember your father


Turn the heart into a wasp’s nest

Play chess with the dark

Flirt with the flood

Set fire to your waist

Make a knife of gold

Remember your love


Climb the hill of insomnia,

Write on the wall with burning coal

Beat your skin to awaken the lion

Pierce words with a trident

Ride Tomorrow’s back

Remember your friend


Turn the banyan into a palace

Write a hymn in blood from the cross

Aim an arrow at memory’s feet

Peel off your body and flee

Pay your debts by drinking venom

Remember your foe


Stand guard to the door of the earth

Hold the reins of the sky

Wear the river around your neck

Tattoo the forest on your chest

Lend your heart throbs to emptiness

Remember your God


God is not outside Time,

Just as not the pine, the fish, the cloud.

Nothing He created accompanies Him

When His time ends

He will fall from the East,

A window on fire,

In Auschwitz where poison

Fumes and screams

Or in Gaza dust

Red with children’s blood,

Like those corpses of the innocent

That daily fall on our plates of food

With the burnt fingers of babies.


(Translated from Malayalam by the poet)





Don’t lock the door.

Go lightly like the leaf in the breeze

along the dawn’s valley.

If you are too fair,

cover yourself with ash.

If too clever, go half-asleep.

That which is fast

will tire fast:

be slow, slow as stillness.


Be formless like water.

Lie low, don’t even try to go up.

Don’t go round the deity:

nothingness has no directions,

no front nor back.

Don’t call it by name,

its name has no name.

No offerings: empty pots

are easier to carry than full ones.

No prayers too: desires

have no place here.


Speak silently, if speak you must:

like the rock speaking to the trees

and leaves to flowers.

Silence is the sweetest of voices

and Nothingness has

the fairest of colours.


Let none see you coming

and none, going.

Cross the threshold shrunken

like one crossing a river in winter.

You have only a moment here

like the melting snow.


No pride: you are not even formed.

No anger: not even dust

is at your command.

No sorrow: it doesn’t alter anything.

Renounce greatness:

there is no other way to be great.

Don’t ever use your hands:

They are contemplating

not love, but violence.


Let the fish lie in its water

and the fruit, on its bough.

The soft one shall survive the hard,

like the tongue that survives teeth.

Only the one who does nothing

can do everything.


Go, the unmade idol

awaits you.


(Tao Temple, Cu-Fu, from NORTHERN CANTO)













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