It is possible that this is not
a time of today
but of sometime long before us

and there
where we must reach tomorrow
little children are waiting for us
with bated breath
to see what our epoch
brings for them after all...

With today’s newspaper in one hand
and poems in the other
I hesitate

should I first read to them the news
or the poems...

~ From “I Reached This World a Little Late”.

Some Days in Another Time, Another Place

A visitor for some days
in the open timetable
of another time, another place

He settled like a village
without memory
happened like a flower
beyond history
passed like time
without becoming the past

One day
he stopped the clock and kept hearing
his own heartbeat,
then came out
like some final illation
on a horizon he once saw
in a dream

One day
he saw by the sea
his most zealous wish
billow out like frenetic waves
and scatter in his own depth

One day
he occurred – like a dawn
wandered – like a wind
meandered – like a river
went everywhere
but incognito
streamed into all
but invisible

One day
projected on a gigantic screen
he spread out and saw
his scarcest being
turn abstract
and become a speechless invocation

One day
he lived an epitaph
a fresco
a legend –

Searching his many editions, scripts, manuscripts
in libraries, museums and schools
he reached there
from where it was only a return –
from every known place, every acquired thing –
to a standstill,
unfaltering point... all around which
was just a fidgety expanse
seeking a situation for itself

One day
he kept reading a strange book
that had no loops of language,
the biggest of ideas were tiny
word-sized images
with which children could play...

On the last day
he saw them, unaffected
by the difference between language and language –
life’s saga of itself
that could be written and read
at any time in any land,
that could have been born
and could have died anywhere,
that preceding any prologue
or following any epilogue
could all begin by itself
like purusha
could happen on any earth
like prakriti
could resound in any sky
like love

~ From “Of Another Time, Another Place”.

A Sparrow’s Song

A sparrow grew fond of father
in his last days, it would come
and sit beside him
beholding him for hours;

Father used to say, from its eyes
gazed a mother’s doting soul.

A bird chirrups a song somewhere
far in a cluster of trees, perhaps
sings to its fledglings
some quaint little song
in a tongue of its own
that all the world’s languages echo
in motley ways

I want it to fly and come to me,
sit close to me, sing to me
its own songs first,
then those songs of mine
I may never be able to write now...

Let it wipe my tears with its tender wings,
pick from my plate crumb by crumb
and feed me morsel by morsel,
coddle my anxious brow,

lull me gently to sleep,
and even in my dreams never leave me;

And when it flies off that day,
let it take me along
and fly somewhere far away.

~ From “The Wish of a Leaf”.


such a bodiless beauty
that one form couldn’t contain it

she returns again and again
to different bodies
in disparate places, distinct times

sometimes helen sometimes cleopatra
sometimes carmen...

do not chase me, says marisha,
wait for me
i will come to your life on my own

like the fleeting winds of dawn
like gleaming dewdrops on flowers
i am a poet’s dream beyond touch;

sages saw me for the first time
in a rigvedic forest,
so soulful so seraphic
that there wasn’t even
any body
at all

~ From “The Myriad Languages of Love”.

A Sky Tired of Eternity

Sometimes the sky appears infinitely
weary of its own
unrelenting infinity...

It wants to shackle itself down
to the snug space of a home,
it wants to be a part
of some familial routine,
wants to be a lover,
a child’s parent,
the sunlight of someone’s patio

Unsettled by a standstill silence, it wants to
sound and resound in words,
its moon and stars want to become
fruits foliage flowers
drops of dew
want to become tears...

Tired of immortality,
the unbroken yawn of the sky
wants to break off all at once
and become the lament
of after some death

~ From “Pass, Something Pass Us By”.

Excerpted with permission from Witnesses of Remembrance: Selected Newer Poems, Kunwar Narain, translated by Apurva Narain, eka.