'Twenty Restrictions' by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
Twenty Restrictions, Jim Davis-Rosenthal, 1999.



My Body, a City
K. Satchidanandan


My body, a city,
My eyes, its cantonments.
In them the eternal vigilance of observing sentries.
A railway station between my ears—
There the unceasing tumult of crowds
That wait for a mate or a prey
and fall asleep, tired:
folks who always miss their trains,
orphaned thoughts gone astray,
memories lost between the chiming of bells
and the whistles of the wagons,
fire-filled dreams that pant and wait
for their green signals.

My veins are rivers, noisy with anklets,
my nerves, wires that carry music and light.
My entrails are streets busy with traffic.

The four chambers of my heart:
one, a prison, black with the solitude of the dead
one a church, white with the sterility of prayers,
one a hospital red with the groans of the sick
and the odours of medicines,
one, a courtroom blue with its prolonged trails
and dispassionate judgements.

How shall I describe
the port of my nose
where smells unfold their sails,
the untiring mills of my teeth
that grind the hardest of pains
the market of my tongue
full of noises and flavours
the observatory of my skin that records
the change of seasons in its language of signs,
the garden of my hairs where the sun never rises
the towers of my legs brimming with still dances,
the office of my hands peopled with files and clerks,
the sleepless factories of my gland
and the busy junctions of my joints?

In this city are the cries of birth
and the groans of death,
the temptings of the pimp
and the gospels of the saint,
the bargaining of the merchant
and the detachment of the monk
caged forests and chained springs,
clouds that rain at a touch
and cuckoos concealed in mothers of pearl,
the wounds of departures
and the wonders of arrivals,
the inns of kisses
and the zoos of emotions.

When you burn this body
You are burning a city.
When you bury this body
You are burying a people.





Translated from the Malayalam by the poet. This poem was originally published in India.

Text © 1995, 1999 by K. Satchidanandan
"My Body, a City" first appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Volume 1, Number 3. The work appears here by permission of the author.

Original Graphic Image, "Twenty Restrictions" © 1999 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal

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