Three Poems

01 April, 2014

ABOUT THE POEMS Questions about language, humanity and poetry itself are always knocking against one another in the poems of Hemant Divate. The lyric speaker in these poems knows that when we think about life, it is also language that thinks through us (or languages that think separately and cumulatively through us), and the kind of language we use reveals who we are just as surely as that which we seek to address in language. A very representative linguistic quandary (and secret regret) of the bilingual Indian—perfectly adept at thinking across languages but often self-conscious about the vernacular side of his linguistic nature—is beautifully teased out in Divate’s ‘What Happened To The Language?’ A poet’s task is also to make new images, and Divate imagines an exceptionally good one for the nature of the lyric poem when he compares it to a set of teeth in which morsels from life are stuck.

'What Happened To The Language' and other poems by Hemant Divate

translated from Marathi by Mustansir Dalvi

What Happened To The Language?

What happened to the language

of the boy sucking on a sugarcane stick?

What happened to his language, this vagabond,

rolling an old tyre all over his village?

What happened to the everyday tongue

of this little boy, playing thabu and marbles?

What happened to the language of the child

who loved surparambya, gilli–danda, lagori,

tops, mummy–daddy, doctor–doctor?

What happened to this free bird

who blew his whistle lustily during the jatra?

This brawling boy, who played appa–rappi

and cricket with a ball of rags? What happened?

The same boy, who spoke with his own friends later,

self-conscious of his obviously ghati tongue.

What happened to his language?


The Fresh, Juicy Meat of a Poem

A moment from life is stuck

between the teeth

of a poem.

It lingers in the interstices,

like scraps of meat

leftover, after chewing

on a chicken lollipop,

no different

from the space between two words

filled with the fresh, juicy meat of a poem.

Tell Me When My Number Is Called

So I was pushed

through some kind of machine.

A software was loaded into me, automatically.

How much space is left in my brain?

The reading says zero.

The technician said:

there’s no space in your brain for humanity,

all mind-space is completely full,

the brain has decayed through disuse,

whatever drive you open

is stuffed with brands.

Brand names, logos, and advertisements,

all nestle snugly into each other.

Naturally, you have lost

all awareness about life

In order to load some humanity back into you

shock treatment is necessary.

In this netherworld, I stand last in line

waiting for my number.

My number is the one after Yours.

Tell me when my number is called.

Hemant Divate is a well-known Marathi poet ( and the head of the Mumbai-based independent publishing house Poetrywala. The poems in this issue are taken from his new book, Struggles with Imagined Gods.