Three Poems

Kanji Patel


Eyes, head
Hands, fingers
In harrumph, clucking, clicking, war-cries
I speak
Munch jujubes
Poised on all fours drink from the rivulet
Live off the mahuda tree

Allow me to live, will you?

Why is the forest and papers pact
Still unresolved?
With papers, a bund was built
On the waters
On mother earth
Resulting in a drought
Huts tied into bundles
Took to the path
Farming abandoned
Papers went berserk in revelry

In this hand came a plate:
    -  King, King, give us food
    -  You tell me, should I fill my belly or yours?


I do not desire much
An abode if I get
As much as one cycle of the Earth around the Sun,
The same of the Moon around the Earth
It would suffice
On this ground
Of this much I dream
Collapsed in the dust
The body half awake half asleep
That very instant a bulldozer comes charging
Anderi ganderi tipri ten
O mister what time is it?
One . . . two . . . three . . .


The stepchild
Claws at the ground
Once when the ground spoke
A seed appeared
A creeper grew out of it
Soon the creeper was covered with cucumbers wild
Feeding on them the child gained size
The world was suspicious
We do not see him eating
What makes him gain weight?
This creeper bearing fruit
Sever it from the root.

Of hemp we drink

Sat in a circle
Came a challenge from above
Somebody take it please
Was churning in the mind
Who would speak?
What to speak?
The body spoke
Land and produce
And labour managing it
Next are the papers
What hardship is this?
This very labour gave rise to papers
Land, object and labour
None would utter a word
Papers multiplied
The body knows not bargaining
It is the papers that do the bargaining
And so this patch of land
Starves us
Of hemp we drink.

translated from the Gujarati and Panchmahali Bhili by Rupalee Burke