A Brief Orissa Winter, 2000

Jayanta Mahapatra

A puddle of fire by the roadside.
Warming hands of passersby.
Elsewhere, a schoolgirl gets ready for class,
flapping her wings like a bird
about to take flight.
Both people who live one or a hundred lives
rinse their bodies with the cool winter air.

No more do men go out onto the earth
to be close enough to the mountain’s quiet
and wait for an answer.
No more does anyone who tries to talk of love
defeat death with his certainties.

Already the ash has leapt out of the fire
that lit the darkness of a savage winter night,
and the ground beneath it
is ready once again with its mysteries.
The schoolgirl doesn’t want an answer;
she just wants someone to agree with her.
The sun is now low in the sky.
So much science, so my prayer,
and in this darkness that has invaded our lives
a bird whistles by, down the mountain
to where the clouds floated along,
floating past the way they always had.

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