Letter to Mother, from Hell

by Navakanta Barua

Mother, I am in hell. Its not so bad. 
Love is loose change, 
Sucking the bones of making a living.
Life is quite a plump dog,
The dog does not remember the road
The great journey. 

Oho, my mistake- no one here forgets anything.
Its just that one feels afraid to think. 
That’s why, with soft, heavy,trivial and big talk
We keep kicking the eternal rolling stone.
But then, without this babble,
Its difficult to live in hell.

The earth’s memories are doled out in little pieces, 
To hell’s whole citizens. There’s a ban on love. 
If you are thirsty, there’s booze,
Tea and lemonade, but you won’t find
Cool water. If you send some in a bottle,
It might perhaps look like medicine.

If you see a spring somewhere, and go towards it, 
A love from earth comes and hangs a ‘NO’ sign.
You know, mother, 
The spring is all earth, the border, of the earth
You live in, the earth apparently
Does not want to trade with hell.

What to do, mother, 
I could just manage to smuggle out 
This secret letter.
If you can, do come forward, a little,
I too will get out of my hell
To the heart of that spring. 

There, in that river island, 
You will remove the earth’s tired air,
The closed road from earth.
I too may flee dark emotions, my deep blue thirst. 
Else, perhaps, I will have to stay
Without alternative, in this hell

Sucking trinkets of love, and making a living.
Just that, mom, 
Don’t give me solace, 
That its only the mind that’s hell.  
Only then, would I be, truly helpless. 
My mind. That’s something that’s still mine.  

Translated by Amlanjyoti Goswami

Click here to read the original Assamese poem.

Navakanta Barua (b.1926-d.2002) was a noted Assamese poet, novelist and translator.

Amlanjyoti Goswami‘s new collection of poetry is Vital Signs (Poetrywala). His earlier collection River Wedding (Poetrywala) was widely reviewed. His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies around the world. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee, his poems have also appeared on street walls in Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg, an e-gallery in Brighton and buses in Philadelphia. He has reviewed poetry for Modern Poetry in Translation and has read in various places, including New York, Delhi and Boston. He grew up in Guwahati and lives in Delhi.

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