Thursday Poem


The stranger seated beside me has dozed off
His body has slackened, head resting on my shoulder
How helpless he is, lost in his own sleep.

His hands are lush with silvery hair
The breeze has a lock curled up on his oily brow
Small creases lie by the eyes, which if he smiles
Might wrinkle around his narrow gaze
At home, he could make himself more snug
Knees up and head reclining on his left shoulder
His drooping lips quiver
As though his mother is oiling his hair.

There's a blister on his fingertip
Is his voice like a greying whisker of hair
Or like the trace of a worn-out collar
Against the fading print of his shirt
Mellting with age?
How he must have trembled as a child
On his first errand to a shop –
What thoughts crowd his lonely mind
When he lights the evening lamps?

One sandal has slipped down from his toe
The nails are growing thick and fast
His tired limbs sprawled in different directions
A giant wing guards his defenseless sleep
The breath from his heaving chest
Is enough to keep the world warm.

by Jayant Kaikini

from Neelimale
publisher: Patrike Prakashana, Bangalore, 1997
translation: Jayanth Kodkani