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Words Without Borders is an inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winner!
from the April 2015 issue

Ploughing the Fields of Snow

Morning comes with a denuded wind
empty of cock-crow
and summons of temple bells.

Sleep dissolves
into the alarm clock’s rebuke
yet eyelids droop
over eyes refusing to open
hands outstretch to meet love’s touch
and fall into emptiness.
I reach the window, a walking corpse,
draw the curtains.
The city, sparkling, unfolds.

Toronto, like a courtesan,
casts off her dark cloak
and shows off her seductive contours
clothed in white undergarments.

The Sun god sits shyly
like a morning lamp at the bedstead
while Lake Ontario lies unmoving,
caught in love’s languor.

You, Sun, are a wanderer in the arctic winter.
I, a roaming beggar, journeyed across a long sorrow
chased by war weapons.
Who drove you here to become a refugee, too?

I wash, drink a cup of hot tea
and step into the street
into the battle frenzy of a snow-storm

Many days have passed since I escaped from war
and made my long journey
yet the shadow of war still follows me
close at heel.

Pine trees dripping ice
show their teeth
watching me lurch dangerously.

At the waste ground near the street corner
the old white woman
who delights in feeding the birds
smiles at me and says hello.

Predatory birds screech, pecking at their food
pigeons walk their pretty walk.
And among them, the common crows of my homeland
call out to their own.

Squeezed and spat out
by the machine
my body recovers in the evening.
Crowds of children swarm
in the waste ground at the street corner—

copper and gold-haired children
black-eyed, curly-headed children
yellow-skinned and slit-eyed children
fish-eyed Ethiopian children.
Among them our children,
holding their hands, laughing.

And in the midst of Toronto city
sparkling, as if covered in glow-worms,
the CN building towers.

© 2000 by Thirumavalavan. Translation ©2015 by Lakshmi Holmström. All rights reserved.

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