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"Freedom" by Jayanta Mahapatra



At times, as I watch,

it seems as though my country’s body

floats down somewhere on the river.

Left alone, I grow into

a half-disembodied bamboo,

its lower part sunk

into itself on the bank.

Here, old widows and dying men

cherish their freedom,

bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.

While children scream

with this desire for freedom

to transform the world

without even laying hands on it.

In my blindness, at times I fear

I’d wander back to either of them.

In order for me not to lose face,

it is necessary for me to be alone.

Not to meet the woman and her child

in that remote village in the hills

who never had even a little rice

for their one daily meal these fifty years.

And not to see the uncaught, bloodied light

of sunsets cling to the tall white columns

of Parliament House.

In the new temple man has built nearby,

the priest is the one who knows freedom,

while God hides in the dark like an alien.

And each day I keep looking for the light

shadows find excuses to keep.

Trying to find the only freedom I know,

the freedom of the body when it’s alone.

The freedom of the silent shale, the moonless coal,

the beds of streams of the sleeping god.

I keep the ashes away,

try not to wear them on my forehead.

~Jayanta Mahapatra

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