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H.S. Shivaprakash, translated from the Kannada by the poet

Baghdad: A Prayer


This moment;


Around midnight of February 4, 1991


When February 5 has not yet come into being
When the axes of twenty-eight pirates and robbers
Are hovering over
The head of a cock-and-hen thief
In the most civilized places of execution
Of the Middle-East;


When content with the Nobel Peace Prize,
Gorbachev snores aloud
On a double-cot;


O grant us


The fearless love of the Vietnamese mother,
A gun in one arm and an infant in the other,
Who goes on giving the suck to the infant
Even in this condition;




The imperturbable mind of Archimedes
Rapt in the lines and forms of geometry when
The sword of a Persian soldier was ripping through his side



Michelangelo’s colour-samadhi
The colours and forms of God’s creation
On the ceiling of the chapel
A sword hanging over his head


The unassailable longevity of stars
That dazzle in spite of intense heat;


The mysterious silence of Mother-Earth
Going round and round the oil-press,
Silent, amidst explosions;

Grant us these
O Primal Shakti
O Beginning less
Hidden in the nuclei of atoms
In every tiny particle of our throbbing flesh
Still, moving, closing up, opening out
In stellar distances.



When ships were moving to and fro
On the breast of the cool silent sleeping ocean
(The magic of the full-moon)
Who knew of
The underwater volcano
That lurked inside?
In the wings of Picasso’s Dove of Peace
Who knew
There lurked these bombers
To devastate the womb of the earth?

Who knew
Of war-gestures
Hidden in the put-on smile of peace-summits?

Who knew
Of the trees of slavedom in the seeds of freedom?

Of the hordes of darkness
Around a tiny flame?

Then, the unseeing blindness;
Now, the seeing blindness,
Tell me, O light:
Where was the middle-eye
Between the two blindnesses
Tell me, O Age, was there ever a day
Between two nights?

Next to the tomb of Akbar Shah Quadri Wali,
The unknown saint of Bangalore
Of the lineage of Sheikh Abdul Khadri Gilani,
The disciple of Sheikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi of Baghdad,
Kneeling down, I see myself praying
In the guise of a crumpled old man:

“Intercede for us, Baba,
I know
The bombers roaring above us

Were originally
Deathless birds of divine worlds.

But they changed thus in America,

Intercede for us, Baba
So that we too may sleep
Peacefully like you
Unshaken when one of the best of cities
Is about to explode;

So that we too wake up
Like you
When this exploding world
Plunges into the grave of silence;

Intercede for us, Baba,
Dipped in the pools of blood
The rose-mark on your heel
Has left its imprint
All over the desert

Intercede for us, Baba
So that we spot the bloody footprints of rose-marked heels;

Intercede, so that the world may be guided by them
In the deserts of Bangalore.”

Note: this poem was previously published in India in 2014 as a part of the collection In Other Words: Selected Poems 1975-2006, Poetrywala, an imprint Paperwall Media & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

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