Poems by K Satchidanandan

Gandhi and Poetry

One day a lean poem
reached Gandhi’s ashram
to have a glimpse of the man.
Gandhi spinning away
his thread towards Ram
took no notice of the poem
waiting at his door,
ashamed at not being a bhajan.
The poem now cleared his throat
And Gandhi glanced at him sideways
through those glasses that had seen hell.
“Have you ever spun thread?” he asked,
“Ever pulled a scavenger’s cart?
Ever stood in the smoke of
An early morning kitchen?
Have you ever starved?”

The poem said: “I was born in the woods,
in a hunter’s mouth.
A fisherman brought me up
in a cottage.
Yet I knew no work, I only sing.
First I sang in the courts:
then I was plump and handsome
but am on the streets now,
half-starved.”

“That’s better,” Gandhi said
with a sly smile. “But you must give up this habit
of speaking in Sanskrit at times.
Go to the fields. Listen to
The peasants’ speech.”

The poem turned into a grain
and lay waiting in the fields
for the tiller to come
and upturn the virgin soil
moist with new rain.

Stammer

Stammer is no handicap.
It is a mode of speech.

Stammer is the silence that falls
between the word and its meaning,
just as lameness is the
silence that falls between
the word and the deed.

Did stammer precede language
or succeed it ?
Is it only a dialect or a
language itself ? These questions
make linguists stammer.

Each time we stammer
we are offering a sacrifice
to the God of Meanings.

When a whole people stammer
stammer becomes their mother tongue:
as it is with us now.

God too must have stammered
when He created Man.
That is why all the words of man
carry different meanings.
That is why everything he utters
from his prayers to his commands
stammers,
like poetry.

A Man with a Door

A man walks with a door
along the city street;
he is looking for its house.

He has dreamt
of his woman, children and friends
coming in through the door.
Now he sees a whole world
passing through this door
of his never-built house:
men, vehicles, trees,
beasts, birds, everything.

And the door, its dream
rising above the earth,
longs to be the golden door of heaven;
imagines clouds, rainbows,
demons, fairies and saints
passing through it.

But it is the owner of hell
who awaits the door.
Now it just yearns
to be its tree, full of foliage
swaying in the breeze,
just to provide some shade
to its homeless hauler.

A man walks with a door
along the city street
a star walks with him.

The Mad

The mad have no caste
nor religion.They transcend
gender, live outside
ideologies. We do not deserve
their innocence.

Their language is not of dreams
but of another reality. Their love
is moonlight.It overflows
on the full moon day.

Looking up they see
gods we have never heard of. They are
shaking their wings when
we fancy they are
shrugging their shoulders. They hold
even flies have souls
and the green god of grasshoppers
leaps up on thin legs.

At times they see trees bleed,hear
lions roaring from the streets.At times
they watch Heaven gleaming
in a kitten’s eyes,just as
we do. But they alone can hear
ants sing in a chorus.

While patting the air
they are taming a cyclone
over the Mediteranean.With
their heavy tread,they stop
a volcano from erupting.

They have another measure
of time.Our century is
their second.Twenty seconds,
and they reach Christ; six more,
they are with the Buddha.
In a single day,they reach
the big bang at the beginning.
They go on walkng restless for,
their earth is boiling still.

The mad are not
mad like us.

[Translated by Poet]

K. Sachidanandan is an Indian poet and critic writing in Malayalam and English. A pioneer of modern poetry in Malayalam, a bilingual critic,playwright, editor, literary columnist and translator, he is the former Editor of Indian Literature journal and the former Secretary of Sahitya Akademi.