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from the June 2017 issue

I Will Not Sing

I will not sing—
                  I will sing today no rose song, no song of the nightingale,
                                    No song of the iris, no hyacinth song,
                                                      No song to ravish nor song intoxicated
                                                                        Not languor’s sweet, slow songs—
                  Not the least song—
I will not sing—
Not when the dust cloud of war skins the iris for its hue—
                  When the thunder of guns tears out the tongue from the nightingale—
                                    When I hear the clamor and clatter of chains, here
Where there were hyacinths—and the diseased eye of lightning is webbed-closed, 
                  And mountains recoil
Back onto their haunches; when black-death gathers close
                  Cloud tops to embrace—
I will not sing—
                                   For now warlord and the bureaucrat stand girt-about
                 With an eye on my Kashmir.

I will not sing—
                  I will sing today no song of Nishat or Shalimar, no annealed song of waters
                                    Engraving terraced gardens, no bower songs of bedded flowers;  
                                                      No soft songs flush or sweetly fresh, not green dew songs
                                                                        Nor songs gentle and growing—not the least song—

I will not sing—
                  Not the least song—
                                    Not today—not when here is no place
Where the day’s white-seething pan of light is not set, poised to distress,
                  Setting shake, spilling from quavering vessels what life there was yet
                                    To blight my garden waking—
                                                      So the rose holds its breath, and
The tulip its brand; quick rivers stall their song and keening koels shake
                  In their palpitating hearts,
                                                      Where throbbing song is stilled—all fearing,
A wild starling idly sinks into the quiet of its unsettled perch. 

I will not sing
                                    For now warlord and the bureaucrat stand girt-about
                  With an eye on my Kashmir.

 

I will not sing—
                  I will sing no song today of incipience, no late songs favoring the spring
                                    of first friends, the fevers willed, of new love and wildness in longing;
                                                      I will stage no song to effloresce red and yellow, with tender crests
                                                                        Of the blue and green stuff growing—not the least song—

I will not sing—
                  No such song—not today—

 

Translation © 2017 by Sonam Kachru. All rights reserved.

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