‘The Joy of Books’ Aka ‘The Cruel Deed of Abdullah’  By P.V. Shaji Kumar (Translation from Malayalam)

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https://www.mathrubhumi.com/books/columns/p-v-shajikumar/p-v-shajikumar-shares-his-life-experience-1.3885497

(Translation of  ‘Bookkukal Bhayankara Majaya adhava Anthuchayante Kroora Krityam )

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‘The Joy of Books’ Aka ‘The Cruel Deed of Abdullah’

By P.V. Shaji Kumar

After securing my bachelor’s degree, I was caught in a phase of purposelessness for a while. It was during such a juncture that I received a call from Mani (whom I called Maniyettan with due affection), who was the President of the District Students Union.

‘Eda, you need to take bail very quickly!’

The background can be succinctly stated thus: In front of the Nalanda Resort, there was a skirmish between the Kanjagadu Sub Inspector of Police and the students marching in a procession. I was in my final year of college studies then. I had not participated in the said hullabaloo, but my name was duly added in the list of the accused. The irony was that, the names of those who were involved in the scrimmage, were missing from the list. The police case was registered against eleven ‘known’ people. Since I was the University Union Councilor from the Kanjagadu Nehru College, my name was listed as the seventh accused.

With the exceptions of my friends and co-accused Sunil Kumar Kaiyoor and Mahesh Maniyara, the rest of them had secured their preemptive bails well in time. For some inexplicable reason, we had not been present in the Court and had failed to obtain the bail. The truth which Maniyettan was hinting at was : ‘ You idiot, if you wait any longer, there will be a warrant of arrest and you will have to eat the infamous wheat-ball served as jail meal.’

Accompanied by two well-wishers -duly clutching their income-tax receipts to give guarantees for our personal bonds- we went to the Court. ‘No need to worry… You guys are sure to get bail!’ Maniyettan was very optimistic about the outcome. Inside the trial-box which was dangerously loose and coming off the railings, we stood with our hands tied obsequiously behind our backs. ‘We’ implies yours truly: the seventh accused,  Mahesh: the ninth accused, and Suni: the eleventh accused respectively. Browsing through the case file, the Honorable Judge donning thick soda-glass spectacles, cast his anger at us through a glance.

‘No bail!’

Although I cannot comprehend much English, I could make out the meaning of the word ‘bail.’ I lost heart. ‘God! I am going to jail!’ Mahesh, who has absolutely no clue of English, murmured gratefully, ‘Thank you sir!’ I muttered into his ears, ‘You fool! It means we are going to jail.’ A shudder passed through him too. Suni was shattered. He was a rather sentimental creature. He hurled himself into a whirlpool of misery and terror; and soon started sinking.

When we were climbing the police jeep to proceed to the Kasargode Jail, Maniyettan observed reassuringly, ‘Nothing to worry guys! You will get bail in two days’ time!’  When the first gear was pulled, Maniyettan consoled me. ‘ Shaji, you are a writer, aren’t you? You will get valuable experiences. Besides, you can always take pride that after Basheer, you are the second Malayali writer to have a stint in jail.’ Suffice it to say that  it was Maniyettan’s good fortune that the jeep gathered speed before I could give him a befitting reply.

It was the fifth of December. One day before the bleak day when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. All the known criminals and goondas were jailed in preventive detention that day. We were sent to the same barracks where they were locked.

Mahesh was a veteran of sorts when it came to prisons. Due to his frequent activities like stone- pelting at the cops, burning effigies of ministers, forcefully stopping the public transport et al, he had been in and out of jails in the past. He was familiar with the ordeal. Before we entered the cell, he cautioned us,‘ Keep a grave face. If they perceive that you are a weakling, you are done for!’ On listening to those wise words, we were petrified.

We were cooped up with ten or twelve odd inmates. As soon as dusk arrived, Mahesh relieved himself at the exposed corner of the cell- which doubled as a urinal- and soon curled up to sleep. Suni unburdened his heart of his desolate script of woe: He started narrating it with great agony. After few bouts of crying and jabbering, jabbering and crying, he dozed off. I was however bereft of sleep.

I sat staring out of the bars, holding the three books that I had brought with me. (I tend to carry books wherever I go. Whether I read them or not, I find that they bolster me with some ineffable strength.) My mind was insisting that I break free from the wretched jail. I remembered our pet dog Appu, back home. I could hear his outraged howl of pain when I locked him up after his day long wanderings.

‘I shall never cage you again!’ I promised Appu in the insufferable suffocation induced by my incarceration.

When boredom crept in, I lazily flipped through my books. I had Vaikom Mohammad Basheer’s ‘Mathilukal’ (‘Walls’) with me. It is perfect for the jail, of course. It states that the whole world is surrounded by walls. I had Uroob’s  ‘Shaniyazhchakal’ (‘Saturdays’), and also an anthology of Hunger-Stories. As I was browsing through them, I was hailed from somewhere.

‘Da!’

It had come from the right corner of the cell.  The person resembled the  formidable ‘Ravuthar’ in the movie Vietnam Colony. He must have been nearly forty years old.

‘Yes, please!’ I retrieved my responding capacity with alacrity and great politeness.

‘Give me a book! Can’t even manage a blink since I haven’t had my daily booze!’

Even before he completed his explanation, I managed to stumble across and hand over one book. It was ‘Mathilukal’.  Basheer’s iconic photograph was on the cover: where he sat looking at the world with an air of melancholy; his chin cupped in his hand. The man muttered, ‘Not that I am going to read it of course…Just look at it…’

Since it was an observation to himself, I did not dare to answer in the fear of  an unexpected physical retaliation.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Shaji…’

‘Where are you from?’

‘Kanjangadu…’

‘Where in Kanjangadu?’

‘Kalichampothy…’

‘Near Arayi, right?’

‘Yes…’

‘I had been to that place last year..’

‘For what?’

‘Had to hack off someone’s legs and hands. I took his legs. When I thought of his wife doomed to clean him after he answers nature’s call…well, I spared his hands.’

I shivered.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Abdullah…I have 31 cases in my name.’

I could not even manage a croak. Abdullah opened ‘Mathilukal.’ I sat down in my old place. Staring alternately between my books and Abdullah, I slipped off to sleep.

In a dreadful night mare, Abdullah came to me and tore off my shirt and lungi before having his way with me. I could not even scream ‘Amma…Help!’ When I felt that I would die due to lack of air, I opened my eyes and struggled free from that horrible dream. Abdullah was not asleep. He was immersed in  ‘Mathilukal.’ Seeing my pathetic state, he gazed at me solemnly.

‘What happened?’ He asked.

I shook my head to hint nothing was amiss. With a final look at Abdullah, I covered myself head to toe with my lungi, and curled up: all the while trying to strangle the remnants of that terrible nightmare.

The next day, when we were seated to be fed the wheat balls, Abdullah was my neighbor. On seeing the  gross wheat ball -larger than a cricket ball- I started wondering how to eat it.  Meanwhile, Abdullah, having finished eating his own share, asked me, ‘You don’t want it now, do you?’ Even before I answered, he started munching mine. While chewing it, he muttered in English, ‘Who wants freedom?’

In the next two days, he finished reading Mathilukal, Uroob’s Shaniyazhchakal and the anthology of Hunger-stories! It was an astounding sight! While the rest of us whiled away time by cracking lame jokes, he went on reading. On the third day, after obtaining bail, as I got ready to depart, Abdullah took away ‘Mathilukal’ from me. ‘I want this book!’

‘Oye! This is a book borrowed from the Keezhkangode village library! I cannot give you that!’  That was what I desired to say. Due to fear perhaps, I desisted. I did not say ‘ we shall meet again’ or ‘we will meet again.’ The thirst to see the outside world after three days of captivity, put a naught to all conversation.

Years passed in the way  that only years pass. Every month we had to visit the Kasargode Court for the case. The date of hearing extended endlessly.  I enrolled for a Master’s degree in Computer Applications in Kasargode LBS Engineering College. Suni went on to pursue Journalism course in the Kozhikode Press Club. Mahesh started his Coaching Centre and prospered well. It took four long years before the case could be finalized.

While doing my Masters degree, I used to occasionally visit my sister’s rented house at Kumbala. On one evening, as I was travelling to Kumbala from Kasargode in a bus, I slept very soundly and missed the destination.( If ever someone makes an association of those who sleep immediately as soon as they board a bus, I shall become  a core committee member.) On waking up, I alighted at the next bus stop.

It was raining very heavily. I ran to the foyer of a nearby store. It turned out to be a book shop. Someone was reading, his head buried deep inside a book, at the far end. I watched as the rain painted the entire surroundings black. In his trance-like state, the man seemed to be unaware even of the pouring rain. I felt a stirring of envy at that deeply engrossed reading. Though I knew that there would be a bus to Kumbala, I asked him about the next bus.

He did not deign to raise his head. I repeated my question firmly.

‘Lots of buses.’ He raised his head and looked at me.

God! It was Abdullah!

My face must have displayed my wonder.

‘You are Shaji, aren’t you?’ He came out and caught my hands warmly.

I laughed happily. I could see the luster of erudition in his eyes.

‘I stopped all of it from that day…wielding the machete and chopping off limbs! Put a full stop on those chapters deluged with blood. I started reading…and now here I am, with my book shop!’ Abdullah smiled affectionately at me.

I stood there wordlessly while the rain made its presence known acutely.

‘Books are full of joy!’ Abdullah said.

I could see the bus to Kumbala approaching us, wheezing and panting from afar, in the rain.

What was I supposed to say to that man? Nothing at all.

‘I am leaving…the bus has come.’

Abdullah nodded. The smile remained on his face. ‘Just a second!’ He went inside and then soon returned with a book. It was ‘Mathilukal’ by Vaikom Mohammad Basheer. The same book which I had borrowed from the Keezhkangode village library, all those years ago.

‘The book I took forcefully from you that day…Do you want it?’ Even before I could answer him, Abdullah added, ‘Even if you say yes, I am not  going to give it back.’

I smiled.

Abdullah smiled.

The rain smiled.

Vaikom Mohammad Basheer continued to sit with his chin cupped in his hand; looking at the world with melancholy.

***

Note:

  1. Mathilukal aka The Walls is a very famous  Malayalam novel by Vaikom Mohammad Basheer based on his jail experiences during the Independence Struggle. It has been made into a movie which won many national/international awards. The deep undertone of the book is love.
  2. Maja:  a typical dialect of saying mazā  : pleasure or joy or something yummy or delectable…For the sake of the English readers, I have taken the liberty of using the simple but profound ‘joy’ to elucidate the original  ‘Books Are Full of Maja’ as Books Are Full of Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Translation From Malayalam : Spaces/Edangal by Sacchidanandan

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Edangal ( Spaces) by Sacchidanandan

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My moon rises in the hillside

Of Damascus,

Casting its beams on the Arabian tales.

My sun sets on the Atlantic:

Spreading darkness

From Lithuania to Liberia.

My stars make the Pacific Ocean shimmer,

Turning each island into gold.

My Thesaurus is filled with words

From the whole world:

Arabia, Iran, China, Portugal,

Rome, Netherlands.

Over the music of water emanating from Tamil,

The solid profoundness of Sanskrit.

Emerging from the Middle East,

A Himalaya.

My daily bread comes from Vidharbha

Where farmers kill themselves,

My drinking water from the Ganges

Where orphaned corpses float

My song is of the shrivelling river Nila,

My death is that of the pitch black Yamuna.

I sleep in solitude,

Remembering our Syrian driver Khalid,

In Aleppo.

( Would he be still alive?

What about his sweetheart, the girl who was

Our guide?)

Sometimes a  homeless Kurd

Steps into my dreams, and at other times

A Rohingyan refugee.

I cannot understand Gikuyu,

I haven’t even visited Palestine till now.

I burnt all the evidences of my having lived

In this world.

From the ashes, like a Phoenix

Which cannot fly,

A  single thought remained on the earth-

It still lays eggs.

One day, from one of those

A white sun might rise in my village.

Remembrances of my existence might be seen

As dark specks on it.

Only words fall into my begging bowl:

Compassion, Love, Sacrifice.

Words.

The black hole formed by words.

***

(All mistakes of translation are mine. It was too beautiful to let go!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look Within

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https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/QGviPERg7TbghfCgR0ofrO/KR-Meeras-The-Unseeing-Idol-Of-Light-Blindness-and-ins.html

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/spectrum/books/a-dark-tale-of-light-and-love/586844.html

https://southword.thestate.news/books/2018/04/23/i-am-used-to-gods-without-sight

https://books.google.co.in/books/about/The_Unseeing_Idol_of_Light.html?id=6bNTDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y

https://scroll.in/article/877205/light-and-darkness-kr-meeras-newly-translated-novel-is-much-more-than-a-womans-disappearance

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/read/kr-meeras-latest-novel-deeper-into-the-dark/article23770222.ece

http://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/books/2018/mar/31/between-darkness-and-luminance-1794416.html

http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/eyes-wide-shut-the-unseeing-idol-of-light-book-review-5163833/

https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/book-review-the-unseeing-idol-of-light/1165097/

https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-books/experience-loss-674081.html

Read…and buy…Enjoy, reflect.

***

Translating India…Meera’s Novella

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https://www.litro.co.uk/2018/03/translating-india-moles-angel/

Here is ‘ The Moles of the Angel’, by K.R.Meera. This novella was called ‘ Malakhayude Marukukal’, in the original Malayalam. I was fortunate to translate it into English.

**

 

15. Kishkindha Kanda…Ati Kripal Raghubeer Subhavu

SreeRam

Ram kaha anujahi samuchhayi/ Raj dehu Sugreevahi jaayi//

Raghupathy charan nayi kari maadha/ Chale sakal prerit Raghunaadha//

 

Then Lord SreeRam asked his younger brother Laxman to coronate Sugreev as the King. Following the Lord’s exhortation, everyone paid obeisance to Him and left the place.

*

Doha

Lacchiman turat bolaye purjan bipra samaj/

Raju deenh Sugreev kah Angad kah jubraj//

Laxmanji immediately convened a meeting of all citizens and the Brahmins. He coronated Sugreev as the King, and made Angad the crown prince (yuvraj).

*

Uma Ram sam hit jag maahim/ Guru pitu matu bandhu prabhu naahim//

Sur nar muni sab kai yeh reethy/ Swardh laagi karhi sab preethy//

Hey Uma! ( Says Lord Shiv) In the world, there is no one like SreeRam who always does good to everyone- no Guru, father, mother, relative or mentor will be as well wishing as Him. Whether it is Gods, Humans or Sages, typically everyone is selfishly motivated and acts pleasingly from his or her self-interest.

*

Baali thraas byakul din raathy/Tan bahu bran chintham jar chaathy//

Soyi Sugreev keenh kapiravu/ Athi kripal Raghubeer subhavu//

 

Sugreev, who used to be terribly afraid of Bali both night and day, whose body was full of grievous wounds, whose chest would burn due to anxiety always, The Lord made that very Sugreev the King of the Monkeys! SreeRamji is extremely compassionate in nature.

*

Jaanathu as Prabhu pariharahaim/Kahe na bipati jaal nar parahim//

Puni Sugreevahi leenh bolayi/Bahu prakaar nripneethi sikhayi//

Those who do not seek the protection of such a Lord (those who let go of such a Lord), it is but obvious that they will get trapped in the illusionary traps of this mortal world. Lord Ram called Sugreev to his side and taught him the various wise principles of Ruling (Art of ruling).

*

Kah Prabhu sunu Sugreev hareesa/ Pur na jaavu das chaari bareesa//

Gat greesham barsha ritu aayi/ Rahihavu nikat sail par chhaayi//

Then the Lord said-Hey King of the monkeys, Sugreev! I shall not be returning to my home for the next fourteen years. The summer has passed and the rains have begun. I shall reside in the mountain nearby.

*

Angad sahit karahu tumh raaju/ Santat hridayam dharehu mam kaaju//

Jab Sugreev bhavan phiri aaye/Ramu Prabhashan giri par chhaye//

You rule the kingdom along with Angad. Keep my work in your heart at all time. When Sugreevji returned to his abode, the Lord went to the mountain called Prabharshan and took up residence there.

*

Doha:

Pradhamahim  devanah giri guha rakhevu ruchir banaayi/

Ram kripanidhi kacchu din bas karahinge aayi//

The Gods had already made a cave  in that mountain  beautifully suitable for the Lord’s rest. They had known that SreeRamji would be staying for a few days therein.

 

*

Kishkindha Kanda-14 Ab Nadh Kari Karuna

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Ab nadh kari karuna bilokahu dehu jo bar magahu//

Jehim joni janmau karma bas tah Ram pad anuragavu//

Yeh tanay mam sam binay bal kalyanprad prabhu lijiye/

Gahi bah sur nar nah aapan das Angad kijiye//

Hey Lord! Take compassion on me and grant me a boon that I seek . In whichever womb that I shall be born again, grace me with eternal devotion to Your feet!  Hey Lord of plentiful grace! Here is my son Angad: equal to me in strength and character. Accept him as your own protege. Lord of men and gods!  Embrace him, and make him your devoted servant.

*

Doha:

Ram charan drid preeti kari Bali keenh tanu tyag/

Suman mal jimi kand te girat na jaanayi naag//

As effortlessly as a flower garland slips off the neck of an elephant, Bali’s life spirit became wholly attached to the Lord and he relinquished his mortal body.

*

Ram Bali nij dham padava/ Nagar log sab byakul dhava//

Nana bidhi bilaap kar Tara/ Choote kes na deh sambhaala//

Sriramji send Bali to Param Dham: The abode of Vishnu. All the citizens, hearing news of their Raja’s demise, raced towards the spot. Queen Tara, was wailing desperately; her hair was loose and her body was trembling…( She was not in control of her own senses due to her intense grief)

*

Tara bikal dekhi Raghuraya/ Deenh gyan hari leenhi maya//

Chiti jal paavak gagan sameera/ Panch rachit ati adham sareera//

Seeing the grief of Tara, Sriramji guided her with wise words and helped her to overcome her ignorance. ( The Lord pointed out the illusionary nature of the universe)

He said: This extremely vulnerable body has been made from five elements- earth,water,fire,sky and air.

*

Pragat so tanu tav aagem sova/ Jeev nitya kehi lagi tumh rova//

Upja gyan charan tab laagi/Leenhesi param bhagati bar maagi//

The body  (of Bali) is seemingly sleeping in front of you but his soul is eternal. So what are you wailing for? When Tara’s inner eyes opened, she cast herself onto the Lord’s feet and prayed for unending devotion to the Lord.

*

Uma daru joshit ki naayi/ Sabahi nachavat Ramu gosayi//

Tab Sugreevahi aayasu deenha/ Mritak karma bidhivat sab keenha//

Lord Shiv says: Hey Uma! See how the Lord makes everyone dance like a puppet!

Afterwards, SreeRamji ordered Sugreev to conduct all rites of death of his brother Bali.

*

 

Heralding The New Year With Light

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http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/books/books-highlights-of-2018

And yes! In the fiction list for 2018, you find K R Meera’s novel, published by Penguin.

‘The Unseeing Idol of Light’

Translated by Yours Truly.

I remember reading aloud the first paragraph in  translation to my brother in December 2015. It was  one of the toughest phases of my life.

He smiled and said that it was beautiful. He also said that I would overcome the challenges.

From my side, this translation is dedicated to my  beloved brother.

Thank you. Both your predictions came true. It turned into a beautiful book. And yes, the darkness went away.

May glorious, lovely light spread out in all our lives.

May words thrive and flourish.

May we constantly improve in character and outlook, generosity and perspective.

May we learn to look at life anew, this New Year.

****

A Garland of Anecdotes…

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‘When in doubt, follow your nose’. That was Gandalf speaking, not me.

Introducing a child to the marvellous world of Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, M.R.James  and their ilk is an adventure in itself.  One is amazed at how much joy is out there, if only one reaches out!

True to all children, my young daughter sniffed haughtily when I suggested that we watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.’ I have seen Legolas already. I also remember orcs and dwarfs,’ she said, remembering ‘The Hobbit’ series.  Besides, whatever Amma suggests, should be treated first with a sniff.

True to all mothers, I ignored her upturned nose royally, and played the movie. Fifteen minutes into it, she snuggled closer. When the bed time came, she protested that it was unfair: she had to go to bed when the Nazgul chief – The witch king of Angmar- had just stabbed Frodo with his evil blade. I grinned and extended the bed time allowance till Frodo reached Rivendell safe.

Suffice to say that by this week, she knows everything about everybody in the Tolkien trilogy. My next attempt is to get her read the original. Her sister has taken the tome with her to University, so little girl waits patiently for the Return of the Book.

Meanwhile I got her ‘ The Hobbit’.

**

I am charmed by the quality of authenticity in people. Human beings who remain grounded in spite of what this worldly life had showered them with- both good and bad and all in between.

So this brilliant editor offers to read through my translation of vernacular poetry and give his feedback. He is kind enough to appreciate the few lines that I quote to him. I reflect on the quality of humility that binds both him and the original writer of the poetry.

In a few months’  time, we will see a poetry book in English take shape: thanks to a Bengali editor who gave feedback to poems that were originally written in Malayalam. It shall be published in Hindi heart-land.

A garland made of languages. The bridge to accessing human thoughts and becoming better versions of ourselves.

**

 

A View From Within

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It started with a birthday gift. A book of poetry in my mother tongue. Today, I am part of another journey because of it.An anthology – a collection of selected writings that have been translated into English- is now taking form. I hope it gives joy and serenity to the readers when published.

Another wonderful translation project of a novel is taking off. The title and blurb are being discussed. The excitement of another intellectual adventure is giving me wings! The edits will begin soon. The searching for words : which will capture nuances, accommodate different reading sensibilities, transcend language barriers, convey scalpel sharp emotions, and yet remain unique!

Answering the intelligent questions of multiple editors, defending the choice of phrase or giving way gracefully, listening to the concerns of the author as her beloved child enters into a different world( Will she stumble? Will she float? Will she walk and run at ease into the readers’ heart?)….these are the challenges known only to a translator. Sometimes I reflect that being mother to two daughters- strong, self willed, opposite as chalk and cheese- has prepared me for this role. You should have no ego when it comes to this assignment. You just let the words flow through you, with a silent prayer.

My friends often ask me about how I find time to do my  translation assignments.  My answer is simple. It gives me joy, so I find the time. It energises me, so I often run to it. It is incredibly fulfilling, so it is worth the effort.

Actually, if you sit before a 200 paged novel and dream of translating it at one go, it will never happen. But if you decide to take one paragraph at a time, and one page at a time….then the mind becomes confident. It is all about our perception after all.

‘So, why don’t you write your own books?’  I grin and say that I translate better than I write! Believe me, I have tried both. The  reviews and the award long/shortlists came faster with the former!

Besides, have you ever tried to get inside another’s head? It is akin to a Psychologist’s job! And so, I translate! 😀

***

Poems of Pain : Prof VeeranKutty ( Translation from Malayalam)

  1.  Your Life

The plant that has grown

Over your burial site,

Is resplendent with flowers!

I cannot believe

That you went back

With so many love- secrets.

**

2. Forgetfulness

The Secret which I kept

For your ears

Was lifted away by the breeze.

Wonder on which branch

It has kept it dangling!

In what fire has it got scorched?

Where is the earth,

Which has buried it deep?

What was the secret

That I had kept for

Your ears?

Well, now it seems

You will have to remind me

Of it

Yourself.

**

3. Confrontation

I cannot bear to look

At that emptiness

That was left behind,

When you went away.

How am I supposed

To confront

The void

Which is growing

To your proportions

Over there?

**

4. Unspoken

I might die

In the contraction and dilation

Caused

By the word

That you left unspoken-

Even when  life

Was  being snuffed out of you.

**

5. Loveless

Without love,

The body becomes

The most unyielding tree

Ever.

Though the lips may struggle to sculpt,

It simply does not oblige:

Refuses to transform into an idol.

**