Jayanta Mahapatra

22 October 1928 - / Cuttack / India

Deaths in Orissa

Faces of tree-bark and grief
hang against God's hand in the world
that cannot lift itself up to help.
In the corners of women's eyes
the rainbow breaks against the sunrise.

Nothing but the paddy's twisted throat
exposed on the crippled bleak earth,
nothing but impotence in lowered eyes,
nothing but the tightening of the muscles
in Bhagyabati's neck which her outcaste mother
would herself have liked to throttle to death,
nothing but the cries of shriveled women
cracking against the bloodied altar of Man,
nothing but the moment of fear
when they need a God who can do them some good.

Oh I am a poet who barks like a dog.
Open the window, I say, so I can breathe.
Let not my memory be like a tiger in ambush.
But there is this dangerously alive body
and only a baton or knife can tear it apart.
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