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To a rag-and-bone boy

May 27th, 2010 by admin

In someone's shed

in someone else's arms

the boy has slept;

he gets up at dawn, kicks the laggard beside him,

hangs a bag over his shoulder,

and out he goes into lanes and filthy alleys.


He comes to a corporation dump,

stands with clasped hands as if discovering a treasure,

turns on himself and wades in;

his hands sift

as if removing a tiny piece of severed intestine

with a doctor's eye.


Among the broken glass there,

the plastic bottles,

the torn rubber condoms,

the old papers he lifts

where some housewife has wrapped a sickening red tampon –

below all that, something brings a smile:

a torn and patched two-rupee note.


Here and there, once pretty broken dolls

may kindle a light in his mind,

finding marbles can push him

into playfulness.


Like this broken eggshells may cut his feet,

he may thrust his hand into the pocket of old shorts

and touch a blunt blade

and the gush of spurting blood

will further squeeze his sapless frame.


Without parents, he has company,

though an orphan he is well satisfied!

What remains in cans emptied by rich men's children

or bottles thrown away by their fathers becomes holy water.

Leftovers sticking to leaf plates become prasad.

Opening his mouth for a bidi stub,

he leaves for the next lane.


Standing where he should not stand,

sitting where he should not sit,

scratching his sores

when flies and insects swarm round him,

shuffling and searching his precious collection

piece by piece again and again,

surrendering it for a few coins to the broker,

at last he throws himself down in someone else's shed,

someone else's child.


This week, The Shared Mirror is featuring poems by the Kannada Poet Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy. 'To a rag-and-bone boy' is one of the 41 poems translated by the British born Spanish poet, Rowena Hill. The Spanish versions have been published by the Venezuelan Govt. In her foreword she describes the poet's sensibilities thus:

A poet such as Chinnaswamy, whose mind is a constant source of images of all kinds and who has an unusual facility for playing with the sounds of his resonant language, will never allow himself to become a poet of pure lyricism and personal feeling. So that the subjects of his poems, which may sometimes seem even too crude, are the poverty of the untouchable peasants and the discriminations practiced against them in the villages, or their exploitation, often literally criminal, by “caste” people, or the suffering of mothers watching their children go hungry. Shit, rags, filth, are often centre stage in the poems.


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