Jayanta Mahapatra

22 October 1928 - / Cuttack / India


Years drift sluggishly through the air,
is a chanting, the long years, an incense.
Face upon face returns to the barbed horizons
of the foggy temple; here lies
a crumpled leaf, a filthy scarlet flower
out of placeless pasts, on the motionless stairs.
Old brassy bells
moulded by memories, dark, unfulfilled,
to make the year come back again
a recurring prayer.
The stairs seem endless,
and those peaks too, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri;
uncertain, impressive as gods.
I dare not go
into the dark, dank sanctum
where the myth shifts
swiftly from hand to hand, eye to eye.
The dried, sacrificed
flowers smile at me. I have become;
a diamond in my eye.
Vague grieving years pit against the distant peaks
like a dying butterfly
as a bearded, saffron-robed
man asks me, firmly:
Are you a Hindoo?
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