Six Poems by Mathura aka Margus Lattik in Translation





Translated from Estonian 

Winter Light

to Rabindranath Tagore


In old age then

to turn to painting

with other loves fulfilled


to gild the blackish

crimson scripts of river sunsets

stillness on the verandah


colour—blindness for a brush

there is finally

that next first touch


the unclaimed kindness 

of a companion 

past wisdom and skill


all realization  

is a feather of darkness

winter’s own harvest


First published in:

"Entering the Landscape / 走進風景". Translated by Ilmar Lehtpere and William Lau. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2019.


Written at Chair Poet in Residence, Kolkata, January 2019.


Pencil & Ink


Let these lines extend 

downwards

naturally


like the roots of a banyan

in the street where you live

in the shade of 

strange branches

by the side of a river


throw a stone in the water

and its story will end


throw a stone in the water

and the ripples will tell you

a name 


as scribbles on the paper 

multiply, 


their wake will let a face 

emerge 


that you’ll recognize as yours— 

or hers


Essence. Charcoal


Father, if this is your city, 

then it is my home, and my homage to you 

is to walk its streets and markets 

barefoot—

come twilight, stand by the alleyways

and beg the passers—by for alms,

read the daily headlines

as the secret scripts of by—gone ages.


Crowds teeming at the riverside, 

I see them thank and, father, 

I am there, looking at the ragged children

look me in the eye, as if to ask,

‘Is there a pretense here, an expectation 

from a world designed to perish?’


Rubble teeming at the riverside, 

petals strewn upon the water—

an overtone in all of our shouts and struggles,

tenderness in spikes and thorns?

Father, be this an offering, a prayer,

will you share the ropes with me?


A hand full of pain, an eye full of fire—

a lifeline to grasp.


A Tollygunge Abstraction


All pales unto a standstill,

as you paint the winter’s canvas

with a dry brush


ochre still the surer side of things,

set against

transluscent backgrounds—


there is a gate


to scrape the surface

with a palette knife,

draw invisible designs 


and realize 

what can only be realized 

all at once—


there is a gate


a piebald butterfly, no uniform measure


Shree Jagannath Express


Dusty light—

the streets of Kolkata, that Empire’s pearl

and a suburb of twenty—million,

fill with dusty light, almost breathable

dust that makes the eyes sore.


You take a ‘cheap’ taxi

to drive along the avenues and alleys,

you roll past a dust—covered statue

of the Mahatma, the Great One.


Soon you’ll see that ships on the Howra

are grey, as are the bridges on it,

as are the houses on the swollen banks of the river.

The ads, however, are ingenious and grand,

you can go on reading them for ages.

Cars do not stop stopping,

blowing their horns. Afternoon

is in full swing—full standstill,

that is.


Rapidly, the sun scorches

your bleak Northener’s skin

while you stroll along in the smog

in front of a railway station;

you walk on, next to lost labourers

in torn and greasy clothing—

the labourers who have never left

the quarter of their quarter.


With a few overripe bananas

bought over a creaky counter,

you walk hestitatingly

to where blots of oil spot

the sleepers and the train platforms,

to where Tagore is on sale at

a biscuit stand.


People of the strangest sorts

take your name and country

and the purpose of your visit,

while the lock—sellers pay no attention,

likewise the shrill shriekers

of ‘Kaafi, Chaai!


Finally a long dingy train rolls up,

its windows steeled and grated,

a rotten sweet stench

still persistent in the air,

you climb up to your carriage

with no marked destination.


And while your taxi takes off,

heading back to the ‘centre’,

you begin your journey

into a world beyond this one.


First published in:

"Kohalolu" ("Presence"). Allikaäärne, 2006. 

First published in English:

"Presence and other poems". Translated by Ilmar Lehtpere and Sadie Murphy. Allikaäärne, 2010. 


An Echo of A Stone


This is a place

where a stone once lay


heaved from the sea

of your grief


lent by the barnacles

of sorrow


yet this place

has nothing to miss now


a mouth is an ear

a hand is a poem


there is still a way 

of looking without looking back


for every stone can be

a mirror stone


an echo of love

a world in the making


Part of the forthcoming collection

"Lahusolek“ ("Separation"). Allikaäärne, 2021. 


Written at Chair Poet in Residence, Kolkata, January 2019.

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