Deep in the Stillness

by Amrita Bharati

He threw me away
like a clod of earth.
He didn't know
I was a thing with a soul.
He didn't know
I was alive.

He kept on throwing me
like a clod of earth
out of his way -
onto that neglected path
that happened to be mine.
And so I kept travelling
along my own way.
Each time some fragment broke off -
some infatuation, some addiction to happiness,
some earthly hope,
some dream squandered on man.
Each time some fragment of my being
would break off.
And now it was my turn.
The world was already left behind -
like a desert in a sandstorm,
like an ocean in a hurricane,
like a desolate city.
Man, step by step descending,
was already left behind.
And now it was my turn.
Standing on the last patch of earth
I gathered myself into a whole thing
and hurled myself into the stillness.
This was my silence -
pervasive and expansive.
Now the world was either a dream
or a sea-flower
imagined at the end of the ocean.
Deep in the stillness.
Only the sound of my footsteps.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Lucy Rosenstein

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

This deceptively simple translation - like all deceptively simple poems - took a considerable amount of time and care to produce. If you compare our final workshop version to the literal version supplied by Lucy Rosenstein, you'll see that not a great deal appears to have changed. And yet it's those tiny details we altered that - as always - make all the difference.

What I hope we've managed to do is to bring Amrita Bharati's remarkable, quiet and powerful vision into focus. The six lines of the opening stanza (there are only two), although they're never repeated, have the quality of a refrain: they define the poem, its themes and its objectives. You know from the very fact that the mere 'clod of earth' is actually speaking to you that 'he' has failed: despite being discarded and despised, she is 'alive' and she is 'a thing with soul' - the very uncomfortableness of that phrasing a clear indictment of 'him', revealing the depth of his ignorance and contempt in his mistreatment - and misjudgement - of her.

What's remakable about this poem is the way in which the speaker transfigures 'his' abuse into her salvation. He repeatedly throws her away, and yet, as a result 'I kept travelling / along my own way', until at the end of the poem she is able to inhabit 'my own silence / pervasive and expansive.'

Sarah Maguire

Comments

  1. January 2nd, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Sanjeev Kumar says:

    I like........Amrita Bharti poets.....

               Sannate se dur tak.....

  2. November 8th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Fawzi says:

    This poem is beautiful, and the translation is wonderful.

  3. November 11th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    s reed says:

    Some of my students thought she was writing about rejecting God, not about a relationship.  This is a very powerful poem.