Gurcharan Rampuri translated by Amritjit Singh and Judy Ray
Gurcharan Rampuri (born 1929) has been writing poetry in Punjabi for six decades. Author of ten volumes of poetry, he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1964. He has won many awards, and his poems have been translated into many languages, including Russian, Hindi, Gujarati, and English. His Collected Poems appeared in India in 2001. Many of his lyrical poems have been set to music and sung by well-known singers such as Surinder Kaur and Jagjit Zirvi. He has won numerous awards in both India and Canada, including the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Punjabi Writers Forum of Vancouver, as well as the 2009 Achievement Award for Contributions to Punjabi Literature from the University of British Columbia.
Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English at Ohio University, is a freelance writer, editor, translator, and book reviewer. He has authored and co-edited well over a dozen books, including The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance; Indian Literature in English, 1827-1979: An Information Guide; India: An Anthology of Contemporary Writing; Conversations with Ralph Ellison; Postcolonial Theory and the United States; The Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman; and Interviews with Edward W. Said
Judy Ray grew up on a farm in Sussex, England, and has lived in Uganda, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she is a volunteer ESL teacher. Her books and chapbooks include Pebble Rings, Pigeons in the Chandeliers, The Jaipur Sketchbook, Tokens, Tangents, Fishing in Green Waters, and To Fly without Wings. With poet David Ray, she has edited Fathers: A Collection of Poems (St. Martin’s, 1997).
Love smiles when it stumbles.
A star shines throughout its fall.
It takes an age to numb just one pain.
The next moment awakens another hundred.
How can one sleep when longing for the absent one,
And who will sleep on the night of love?
Sadness is my only companion.
Who would befriend me in my melancholy?
The peacocks cry even as they dance.
The swan sings even as it dies.
Beauty yearns for love
as surely as the moon goes around the earth.
One thought contains the universe.
The moon illumines a dewdrop.
I have just burned your letters.
Look, I have bathed in the fire!
Through this pilgrimage to the grave of love
I have revived forgotten pains.
The smooth dark night of your hair –
my fingers have caressed its lush shadows.
I have spent a tearful night
and the dawn is red-eyed.
I have consoled my weeping heart
by imagining scenes of intimacy.
The stars want an encore
though I am done telling my tale.
Life is both sorrow and music,
and I just sang your song.
To light up a glimpse of you in my dreams
I extinguish my own lamp.
Songs, Promises, Tears, Hopes
have won over my estranged lover.
Lies, lies, lies all the time, repeated
until they become today’s truth.
A lie sits in the seat of power,
lies are armed with daggers,
lies have many followers.
The platform sure is crowded, in thick fog,
with the confused old holy man in command at the center.
A deafening racket blasts all around
and dark clouds of ruthless death
overshadow the skies.
Brutality, rage, fear and helplessness prevail,
but we cannot escape the need for food.
The terrifying abyss of need has deepened.
Death lies in ambush at every corner.
There is someone walking toward me,
but I don’t know if he is friend or foe.
Should I trust his smile, or is it poison?
I will not make eye contact with him,
weighed down as I am by guilt
of sins I didn’t commit.
These cheats and cowardly braggarts
keep on throwing dust in the people’s eyes,
leading them on with deceitful, well-rehearsed lies.
Professional politicians on the one hand
and the ruling elite on the other,
together they have built their empire of lies.
Yesterday’s friends are today’s foes.
Even a brother has a sinister look about him.
Now he accuses with stinging words.
Blood relationships are meaningless.
Today, venomous arrows, daggers, poniards, lances
are plunged into the hearts of one’s own.
Yesterday’s enemies are in close embrace today.
With wounds from the sword healed,
these sycophants ignore the poison of hate in their hearts
as they dance to the pipes of self-interest,
kiss and lick each other.
Labels pinned on one person yesterday
are now used for another.
Those who were called corrupt
are now held to be virtuous.
It is easy to line up arguments
to justify any good or bad deeds.
Since the dead will not return,
who will want to lose today’s profit for their sake?
In pursuing a dream of ideals,
who will ignore the weight of power?
Who will sacrifice national interests
and ignore the lines that divide communities?
Who can beat these sharp villains in glib debate?
So what if they commit awful deeds?
Yesterday was bearing
a dream called Today.
Revolutionary fervor for the dream
powered a restless sleep.
The enchanting dream
smiled like a golden dawn.
The cursed mother committed
a horrendous crime, killed the newborn dream.
Then with a wild laugh
she went alone and buried the baby.
Yesterday bore Today,
but Today also had a dream which the mother killed.
Now the stunned, murderous soul
stares at the empty space.