01 July, 2015

ABOUT THEM POEM A poem is often obliged to align itself to the physical or emotional rhythms of its subject. When that subject is an ancient city, practically a civilisation, as in Kedarnath Singh’s ‘Banaras,’ the task of sonic and semantic representation is especially challenging. The lyric speaker floats through space and time, searching for details that reveal the pulse of the city. His Banaras is something that anyone who has been to the city will recognise, but there also emerges from the verse—slowly, very slowly—a Banaras of imagination and memory.


by Kedarnath Singh
translated from Hindi by HS Komalesha

Like a flash,
with no hint, no warning
spring visits the city;
and when it does, I’ve seen,
a whirlwind of dust kicks up
from the lanes of
Lahartara and Madvadeel
and the tongue of this grand old city 
starts clicking

That which is living
shakes up and starts wiggling,
and that which is not
shoots up and begins sprouting;
people move towards Dashashvamedh
to find the last stone on the ghat;
meanwhile, things turn misty,
in the eyes of monkeys sitting on stairs
there’s some strange warmth;
and the bowls of beggars
exude a strange glow of emptiness.