A Letter

By Amrita Pritam 1919–2005 Amrita Pritam

Translated from the Punjabi by D.H. Tracy & Mohan Tracy Read the translator's notes

Me—a book in the attic.
Maybe some covenant or hymnal.
Or a chapter from the Kama Sutra,
or a spell for intimate afflictions.
But then it seems I am none of these.
(If I were, someone would have read me.)

Apparently at an assembly of revolutionaries
they passed a resolution,
and I am a longhand copy of it.
It has the police’s stamp on it
and was never successfully enforced.
It is preserved only for the sake of procedure.

And now only some sparrows come,
straw in their beaks,
and sit on my body
and worry about the next generation.
(How wonderful to worry about the next generation!)
Sparrows have wings on them,
but resolutions have no wings
(or resolutions have no second generation).

Sometimes I think to catch the scent—
what lies in my future?
Worry makes my binding come off.
Whenever I try to smell,
just some fumes of bird shit.
O my earth, your future!
Me—your current state.

Source: Poetry (June 2011).

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Poet Amrita Pritam 1919–2005

POET’S REGION Asia, South

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse