The River of Time, Part III

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Pilgrims on the Ganges in Varanasi watching the evening prayer ceremony on Dev Diwali

I must have seen this river before,

Running its course since ages long gone;

Its banks, I sense, have many times watched

My different shapes and thoughts turn to naught;

/

How strange it is to stand on its banks

With a new face and memory lost,

Starting afresh while feeling as odd

As an old man in a little boy’s clothes;

/

I’m blessed to have such short memory:

To recall all would burden the mind

Too much for it to still soar when hope

Shines

Just out of reach, like the day’s first light!

/

Yet, if I see this river again,

I pray I may remember my selves –

All of them: men, and women, and ghosts,

So I could cease to hope, and instead, know

 

 

 

To Remember

You, for whose wrongs I live in torture,

I wish I knew your name, at least;

I’m not you wife, I’m not your daughter –

You are whose soul lives on through me;

/

My hands are mine, my hands are yours,

And there were thousands before us;

Our own hands shaped and broke the world

With them we clung on and let go;

/

My voice is mine, and yet at times

It speaks in tones and tongues unknown,

To people just like you, long gone,

Trying to make peace with their ghosts;

/

And with my eyes on quiet nights

I see not dreams but recollections;

That life was yours, but it is me

Who keeps its skeletons and treasures;

/

Paths which my feet sometimes tread on

I recognize, and feel exhausted:

I’ve walked on them as you before,

And just like me, you were so lost then;

/

As I depart, with him I’ll plead,

With him, who’ll take from me the burden

Of all the wisdom and the ignorance,

Of all the love and all the hurt,

/

I’ll plead that, at the very least,

By him my name may be remembered,

So he can call to me and ask me of my sins

For which he must atone forever

The Drought

To N. D. R.

Don’t be afraid, you will forget me;

This feeling, by name invoked,

Will wither gradually as distance separates us;

In a succession of white days of drought,

Time will turn into dust the soil,

And into ash the leaves;

/

You will not think of me forever

With the same yearning as today;

When you still saw but couldn’t reach me,

My image growing smaller, features blurring,

Until, frustrated and surprised, you realized

You hardly knew my face;

/

Don’t feel ashamed to let the strings,

Which still tie you to me,

Break, as all things do,

Or to agree with friends, who tell you

That I was nothing special –

It is absolutely true;

/

You can replace me with another,

My spark is not the only light;

Don’t be afraid, you will forget me

When the new spring’s rains feed

The seeds

Of all new life

The Guest from the Past

This place in my memory

Never was as I see it;

The words I hear echoing

Were by Time paraphrased;

/

The nostalgia I feel

Half-dreaming up, half-remembering

My past is but myself

Trying to make peace with me;

/

There were things that I treasured,

A few people, who loved me,

There was a house to call home

And a county – my own;

/

I’ve been running for years

From the routine some call happiness;

This nostalgia I feel

Is the gap between myself and me

Worthless

The devil of my very own,

Destroyer of all things I build,

With just one one word

To say to me,

“Worthless”,

/

Sat on the throne of my broken bones

Wearing the crown

Of my lifeless dreams,

Immovable like a love-less heart,

And truth-less;

/

I laughed – he bared his fangs and sneered:

“Worthless”, he said, and something died

Dimming the light, which tried to shine

In me, but ultimately failed,

Always;

/

I cried – he cupped his hands and drank

My pain, grinning, licking his lips;

“Worthless,” he sighed, “worthless and weak,”

And stamped my mind

With bite-shaped bruises;

/

He stole each kindness I’d been shown,

Made a reproach out of each word of praise,

Crushed every petal of each flower

I had been given,

Sharpening their thorns;

/

In every mirror which I passed

He painted vileness untold,

“Worthless,” they echoed, “wicked and worthless,”

“A demon, just like him,”

“A monster!”

/

And every victory of mine

He made feel like an ugly loss,

Screaming into my ears, “you’re worthless,

No matter what you f***ing do!”

“You’re worthless!”

/

For years I listened and agreed,

And on my knees before his throne

Believed the lies his voice would speak

Echoing cunningly

My ignorance;

/

“Enough,” I interrupt, today,

“I am no more the little girl

Into whose heart one night you slithered,

And in whose mind

You built your stronghold;”

/

“I am no monster, I’m no demon;

No matter what the blind see in me;

I am not worthless, I’m not weak;

For your lies and tricks

I’ve gown too big;”

/

“I’ll neither blame you nor forgive you

For the way that I have lived:

You came because I let you in, and beat me

For I let you beat me in each battle, but the war

You cannot win – such is the Nature’s law.”

/

 I rise, and pick up from the ground

My heart, my mind, my tears, my laughter;

And with the sword of gold I hold,

I slay the king of the hell I thought of

As me,

/

And for the first time ever,

Breathe in