Jayanta Mahapatra

22 October 1928 - / Cuttack / India

The Vase

The strong south wind hits our faces again,
it's October;
sunsets are fiery red
and the waters of wells are clear already-
there we are, under the mango tree,
in the old house, amid the drift of things,
the vase on the bookcase
with shadows of swifts reeling round it,
and we don't know whether we are alone any more.

But each day
we watch the swifts come and go,
watch the still-slender, teasing whore
who shuffles down the crowded road and finds out
that the middle-aged man surreptitiously following her
is only listening to the slowing sounds
of his own heart; and we sit and long
for the child who left in 'seventy-three,
and behave like our bitch that catches a scent
and sniffs about in the air.

We look around today and the day after tomorrow,
remembering those who caught us like irrigation-canals
across the dry nights in the distant countryside,
and remembering, suddenly, someone
who once envied us and our bodies
so impudent, glistening with rain.

Ah, this voice I hear now,
what answer do I owe you?
The tree trembles in the wind,
the house where we once made love
now weakens at the knees. And all the time
that gathered into those moments
fills the grave of the vast vase with dust.
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