My Heart

One day when I became convinced
that my heart was at the root of all my woes
to the point that it had become a woe unto itself
I took it to a doctor
and said helplessly, Doctor this is my heart
but it’s not the heart
I used to be so proud of

The doctor was quite experienced
He’d repaired so many hearts
that this repairman of hearts almost seemed an invalid himself
He said you must have read Mirza Ghalib thoroughly
I know this is an old heart
At first it was transparent, but it has slowly grown opaque
and now nothing can be seen inside it
It keeps soaking up emotions but revealing nothing
just as a black hole soaks up all the light

But tell me your history
I said, Doc, you may be right.
I often feel like my heart’s not in the right place
and it’s hard to figure out just where it is
Sometimes it feels like it’s slid into my belly or traveled to my hands
Quite often I’m under the delusion it’s camped out in my feet
and it’s my heart, not my feet
that’s traversing this vexed world

The doctor abandoned his professional tone and waxed philosophical
Yes, yes, he said, I knew the moment I saw you
that there was no cure for a heart like yours
Best I can do is some patching up – darning and so forth
This type of heart can only be mended
when another heart opens up to it
and surely you know how things are these days
no one speaks from the heart anymore
Everyone hides their hearts
Such a big country, but no souls anywhere
That’s why your heart has abandoned its home
and keeps fleeing from place to place –
stopping sometimes in your hands, sometimes in your feet

Two Versions

Morning and evening
Night and day
I write two versions
The word day melts into the inky black of night
Night’s words float away in the waters of day
A delicate feeling
coming to life
during time spent inside
is lost the moment it emerges
into the outside world
I get up suddenly and say
these words – they don’t contain a shadow of me
And now it’s already late
As soon as I emerge
I’ll be surrounded by such things once again
that I’ve never managed to grasp

Along the way
one man says he recognises who I am
I say, “You are just the same”
But in the meantime, the whole world has changed
from one confusion to another
We walked together a long time
as though we had
a consciousness in common
as though we hadn’t separate names
We rubbed words together and made sparks
We made marks in places on the map
where the rumblings of spring could be heard
And hope was for us like salt
with which we ate our bread
Obviously we could fight no grand fight
But when we returned it was like
returning wounded from a field of battle

Suddenly, I happen upon a woman
I say to her
How can I forget that day
that wore the light attire of night?
It was raining, and people hurried to their homes
Leaves flew from trees, filling up the space
between our faces
their taste still stored in some portion of our tongues
For a short while, we stood fast in the breeze
like two drops of rain
forgetting our own existence
We wanted to surrender our names to one another
but before we could, tangled paths appeared before us
full of sharp turns

What I think of when inside
I forget when I come out
So much of time is out
full of seductive gleaming advertisements
the hands of the clock advancing rapidly
the still body of time, spread out on all sides
People rushing off to shop
or returning home from shopping
I follow them a ways
Their shadows fall upon me
but I cannot understand them

A Manifesto for Murderers

Yes, we know
how sly and wily we are
We know
how many lies we’ve told
We know
how many people we’ve killed
how many beaten
how many bullied without reason
And no,
we haven’t spared the women or children

When people weep and whine
we rob their homes
Our hustle goes on in plain sight
and out of sight
No one knows better than us
the gory details of our deeds

That’s why we don’t worry
about those who know the truth
about us
We know
our strategy depends on the many
who know very little about us
or have no idea at all
And the many who do know
agree that what we do is for the best
And wish that they themselves
could do the same.

Mangalesh Dabral was the author of numerous books of poetry, essays, and other genres, including This Number Does Not Exist. His work has been translated and published in all major Indian languages and in Russian, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Polish, and Bulgarian. He has spent his adult life as a literary editor for various newspapers published in Delhi and other north Indian cities, and has been featured at numerous international events and festivals, including the International Poetry Festival. The recipient of many literary awards, he has also translated into Hindi the works of Pablo Neruda, Bertolt Brecht, Ernesto Cardenal, Yannis Ritsos, Tadeusz Rozewicz, and Zbigniew Herbert.

Daisy Rockwell is a writer, translator and painter living in the US. Her translations include Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, and numerous short stories and poems from Hindi by authors such as Shrilal Shukla, Shubham Shree, and Upendranath Ashk. Her paintings have been exhibited widely, and she is also author of The Little Book of Terror, a collection of essays and paintings on the War on Terror, and Taste, a novel.