The Peregrine Muse

Poetry of Rati Saxena


Vilambit tal: Slow rhythm. In Indian music there are
two types of rhythms - drut (fast) and vilambit ( slow)

Ghotul: In the tribal community of Baster (India) Gotul is more
like pubs where youngsters meet and choose their life partners

Mahua: Is a sweet tiny flower turning into fruit which is used
for making wine in the tribal community

Palash and amaltas: Trees having beautiful flowers

Prakriti and Purush: According to Indian philosophy Prakiti ( Nature)
and Purush ( Supreme Power ) are the cause of this world

Yaksha and Yakshi: Mythological correctors

Holi: A festival in India that is celebrated by playing with colors


She composes the moon

       On the black stone platter

By giving shape to dreams

       Blown up and dancing on the fire.

The three-fourths of life

       Come down as a baked bread

On the platter of hunger

       Every time coming from the pan

She wonders whether she is

        Hunger or moon.

Every time the hunger

        Swallows her thoughts.

The Aesthetics of the Spider

Every net of a spider

Is a complete poem.

Every word comes with the saliva,

Keeps as much distance

As is necessary

To catch the moth of expression.

It has the tightness

That gives rhythm to the metre.

If the net is on a tree,

The dew will shine in the morning sunlight,

Like a simile of Kalidasa.

The net hanging in the corners of rooms,

Not beautiful like the post-modern,

Swallow the moths of Reality.

The spider’s yardstick for beauty is different.
Flashy, black moths
Lend charm to her taste.
But the wings of a butterfly
Taste bad and make her throw up.

The aesthetics of a spider
Are a challenge to man’s sense of beauty.

Our ancestors and we

Who says

Our ancestors took birth before we?

They take birth

     In dimples on small cheeks

     In milky smiles

     In the toes of the feet

     In the lines on the palms

They wake up

     In faded pictures

     In grandpa’s image of Gopal

     In the old walking stick left in the corner                    

     (that walk no more)


They keep coming in

     In our unknowingly changing habits   

     In our forgotten talks

     In the lines on our forehead

     In the wrinkles on our hands

They change into us

     In the habit of  our misery

     In the tears that soak in pain

     In our grumbling anger

     In our cursing of the present

We do not know

     When we shall change into our ancestors!

She is growing up

She says

“Mother, I am grown up.”

She stands on the right toe

takes a round

turns to earth

I look here and there

hide her in my arms

She says
“Mother, I am really grown up”
She catches a peace of cloud
stretched on her face
I am worried
covers her with red cunneri

She says
“I am grown up, mother,
look, the moon is sucking my breast”
I turn back quietly

Now I wish
her a child again

When a tree gets old

When a tree gets old
He starts his journey towards the past
earlier than the two-leaf sapling
earlier than the white-leaved plant, and
earlier than the pink-coloured sprout
His journey does not stop
even after reaching to the seed
He wants to reach the fruit
the harshness of the beak
which chomp the fruit
the sweet red tongue
the feathers and their flutter
the rain and heat, the grain
the atom

When he starts returning
his journey is not comfortable
Birds catch his fingers
clouds wedge in his feet
grass stands in the way
insects start rolling on the earth

A tree that is growing old
- will he ever return to the present?

Between one and twelve

For years and years
a clock was fixed
in the core of my heart
which caught the time
between one and twelve
crawling with one leg
running with the other

I was running with needles
staying with life
praying that
the needles should break
and time should spread on my palm
like pink Gulal

after so many years
the clock stopped abruptly
collecting the heart beats
stood quietly melancholically
the spider net of time had
rolled up and swallowed me
I shouted:
where is the rope of the hands
and where is my clock?

Time laughed at me
moved forward, leaving me behind.

The Absence of Colours, in the World of Colours

Long, long ago
Before the birth of the rainbow
In the city of colours
There was only one colour
Neither blue, nor yellow
Not even red or brown
Only one colour
Roaring like death
Deep like silence
Tent of fire
Tightened from here to there
Colourless colour

Eggs screeched into life
Life gave birth to children
Colours entered into the earth by crawling
Changing rocks into the earth
Some flew fluttering
Becoming the umbrella of the sky
Colours strengthened the backbone
Leaves sprouted on the backbone
Shadows took rest under trees
Dowsing with colours

Drops of light dripped down
Blossomed into flowers
Faces of colours started shining
Becoming colourful

The city of colours arose
Playing holi with colours
Forgetting the journey of crawling colours

Friends! In the story of colours
Those colours are not there
Which are really colours.

It was the smell of the sea

It was the sea of smell
Of bodies of light
Swimming in her
The nostrils flutter like fishes
In the sea.

That smell enters every hole of the body
Like small shells
And change it into seashells
The body becomes the sea of smell.

The hymn of slippers

The taste is very bitter, from tongue to throat
up to the intestines, bitterness everywhere
everything is bitter,
the toothpaste in the tube, the broken brush,
Till nightfall everything was fine,
a good sleep and endless dreams . . .
most of the dreams disappeared with night,
but this came with me till morning
stuck to my eyelids till the eyes opened.

There were a number of slippers and I was searching for mine,
A number of beautiful slippers but mine are missing.
There my flight is ready, here I have lost my slipper.
Why should I give up my journey because of slippers? I told myself
But a journey without slippers, that too by air, is out of the question.
How many steps can I climb?
These slippers are my feet, my legs and my knees
And my legs? Oh, they are only walking sticks
which cannot walk without slippers.

Slippers are my identity, they are my personality
They are my height, on which I can stand and touch the sky
They are my present and future
They are the beauty of my dress
If a jewel is missing, no one will notice
If the heel of a slipper is broken, the whole world will see.

My journey is about to start and I am in search of slippers;
My flight is ready; I am in search of slippers;
My future is weeping but I am in search of slippers.
Slippers are my Mantra, slippers are my Dharma.
Are they missing, or am I?

O Indra, Varun, Agni Dev!
All directions!
Earth and Sky!
I am searching for the slippers
Losing my self.

They are talking about globalization

Doors are banging
Approaching from inside
Doorsteps have left the line

The lungs of walls have filled
With so much air
All relationships are stuck
On the walls without even nails

The wind has made nests
In the holes of windows
There is no sound
Even of one another's breathing

They are talking of globalization
Here, home is shrinking

It does not matter to her

It is a long time
since I first met her,
she comes whenever she wants
spreading the sheet of sleep
lying down on her back
scattering her hair like dreams

Mostly in her dreams
there is a plant
with white ants on its roots
that crawl over my body

Whenever I come out of her dream
the roots of my body

I am afraid
of her, her dreams
and sleeping,
fear which keeps waking up
in her dreaming

It does not matter to her...
she comes in my dreams
scattering her hair

Wild friendship

A beautiful dream blossoms
in the wild black forest,
a sweet sleep smiles
on that dream
and the smell of sleep is
as wild as the jungle.

I could not become a friend
to this jungle until now.

when he plays the drum

when he takes the drum
the sea water
starts steaming

when he beats
on the drum
a big star falls down

when the drum
finds its tune
the earth forgets its way

it seldom happens
when his beloved
spreads her hair
in sun light

Only the earth

The Sun scratches and throws
the power from his body in photons,
in tiny atoms, towards the Universe

Not only the earth
but each planet gets
the golden dirt of the Sun’s body

On several of them
it spreads, becoming
golden mash

Only the Earth grows dreams
in golden energy
and throws them back;

While churning his own body
the Sun throws the energy,
receiving in return dreams of his share

Only from the Earth

Memories of greenery

The tree which stands
In the neighboring courtyard
sheds a few dry leaves every day
into the corner of my garden

With the leaves drop
memories of greenery,
the old songs of flowers and
the sweet smell of ripe jackfruit

The colours blossoming in my flowerpot
get covered by
dry and brown autumn,
cries from the spring;

Every time, I think
of cutting the hands of the trees,
removing their sheets of sadness
and waking up the
future colours --

But always remain silent.
How can I desert youth,
the memory of greenery
which exists with the colours

Children playing between incomplete houses

Between the incomplete houses
children play
unknowingly searching for their own homes

From the doorless window pane
they peep into the new world

On the unmade roof
they hang their own sky

Before entering the skin of the house
they try to fill the foundations
with laughter, in order to get home

My life in you

Whenever mines
pass under my foot soles
they start exploding
one by one

A beautiful dream
comes and sits on your eyebrows;
all my blasts
take wing in the sky as clouds

my grip with friendship loosens,
you take a small path, walk smiling
and the roots of my faith
turn green

When all my efforts to
untighten the knots of memory
get stuck somewhere,
you start rolling on sand
like a lovely sparrow;
my wings buzz in the vilambit tal

You keep your foot
from where my world falls down,
there also
I see my life in you,

my daughter-- Shalbha

The sea


I saw
him and the sea
that evening,
he was lolling in the sea
and the sea was overflowing in him

He saw
me and the sea
the sun was sinking in the sea
and I was sinking with him

We saw each other
and started sinking in each other


the sea is getting wet
in the rain,
like a desert child

the sea is getting wet
with her own tears
like a young woman
sitting on an island

the sea is getting wet
with the shower of love,
sobbing in pain
separated from her loved one

the sea is getting wet
in the first rain
after summer


the smell of the sea
is different from
the soil wet in the rain,
it has no relation
to the smell of a flower,
it doesn't know
the sharp taste of passion

the smell of the sea
doesn't enter into the nostrils
but enters into every pore
and gently touches,
and hypnotises

the smell of the sea
tells the oral story
of the sweat of fishermen,
the play of sea animals
and the legends of ships

Among the earth-coloured trees


She is a divine maid,
he is the ancient man;
she is Nature,
he is the lord of Nature.

She is walking on the dry leaves
under the trees;
he is holding her feet
on his chest.
Mahuas are falling
on the faces of both.

He changed into a white flower
and stuck in her hair,
she came down
as the sweetness of mahua on lips,
the dedication to life
in their embracing arms.
The jungle became ghotul, and ghotul changed
into the ancient jungle.

In the burning palash
the coolness of amaltas
breathes in grove after grove,
yellow, brown and dusty.
The earth removed her mantle
and covered the trees with it.

Thrilled was Prakriti,
ecstatic was Purush.
A resplendent vision
of the ancient world!


What is this place?
Who is this new Yaksha sitting with Yakshi,
and talking to clouds?

Is it heaven or earth?
Is it colour or sheer loveliness?
Unlimited is the sky,
sourness dipped in salt.

Silence is eloquent;
trees have started,
showing picture stories
with the help of wooden puppets.
See there, a tired, pregnant mother
holding her child on her knee,
a yellow parrot,
pecking at yellow leaves:
this is the tree of company
with red, red flowers.

There in the distance is a feast
for trees with yellow, brown and red leaves.
Emotions are cooking in the pot of the valley.
An invitation to death has been given, "Are you coming?"
in a sweet voice.
She started thinking,
"Come, come, O come"
and the string started breaking
unto the last thread;
but somebody is pulling back --
there is the urge to return.

There will be some Yaksha on the seashore.
What a strange union of death and beauty,
whether it is the Kerala sea
or the Chhattisgarh valley.


Poetry is not iron,
but cuts the iron.
In iron there is no poetry,
but the sharpness of iron.
The heart is connected
with the iron city,
weaving the nest with poetry.

Here are the trees,
the birds also,
chirping and fluttering.
Here there are clouds,
mango groves, neighbours
and their secret talks.
Sometimes the birds
build their nests on electric posts;
by saying "no" to the inviting branches
and scolding the coolness of shadows
they challenge the burning sun.
There is poetry in iron,
maybe something special.

The love of big black ants

One doesn’t know from where the big black ants
Spread on the floor like black stars on rainy evenings
Attacking their prey

They do not believe in
The line discipline of the red ants
Nor in their queen’s orders

They catch and swallow
Everything white
Like sugar, rice, moths

If they want to carry a big dead body
They are united like labour unions

They can live anywhere:
The wrinkled skin of trees
Houses of leaves
Roots of any thing.
Those whom they love
Change into them.
The trees they live on -
Not a single fruit can remain there
Nor bird live

Their kiss is
Sharper than their sting,
Which changes them into pieces

They are greater lovers than humans!

Would he like it?

Would he like
the smell of flowers,
he who repairs the gutters,
digging up the waste
in the stinking bubbles
and clouds of dirt?

Would it like
the taste of sweets,
the half-clothed childhood
that collects the negligence
from the heaps of insults
with plastic covers?

Would she like
the beauties of nature,
she, the mother of a baby
that keeps crying for
a piece of hunger?

Rati Saxena is a Hindi poet and Sanskrit scholar residing in Trivendrum, Kerala, India. She has published three collections of poetry and is well-known for her Malayalan translations of poetry and fiction. In 2000 she was awarded the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for translation and is also a recipient of the Indira Gandhi National Culture and Arts Fellowship. Rati edits and publishes KRITYA, an online bilingual (Hindi and English) poetry journal, and blogs here. She has an extensive web presence; you will find more of her poems in journals such as thanal online.