The Blue-Eyed Blackbird

by Mohan Rana

Is it right to speak of myself?
This will do:
I am a blue-eyed blackbird
My wings know all directions
My flight has touched the colour of the sky
When soaring aloft I've glimpsed the darkness beyond
I've tracked drying rivers and swelling deserts
I've been singed in burning forests
I've kissed anguish as it melts in the rain
I've seen a woman give birth in a tree beseiged by flood
I've changed my body so many times
and yet I am always a blue-eyed blackbird

People in flight from war, in hiding,
climbing steep slopes, stop when they see me
Stunned they are so high, so far,
even though I live in their hearts
In the deep lines of their faces
countries are shattered and rebuilt
They buy new locks, news keys to new heavens
What did Boabdil think when he handed the keys
of the Alhambra to Isabella,
whispering, 'Here are the keys to paradise'?

This endless flight with no day and no night
when the sun sets and rises at once
Longitude is locked in my eyes
Reading the diary of a poet's dreams
lost in fog, I fall
merging with the earth's dust
a blue-eyed blackbird is born again

Arrows, now guns, are aimed at me
I have no fear
My blood will mingle with the crimson of autumn
I'll take flight from another country
Another direction
Casting life from your words
I am not of this world
Is it right to speak more of myself?
This will do

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 poem was a real pleasure to translate because it's so powerful. Its images are direct and immediate and we all felt very touched by the poet's vision.

The title in Hindi means 'Saying Something' which (after much discussion) we translated as 'Speaking of Myself'. But then, in email correspondence with Mohan Rana, Sarah asked what he thought about calling the poem 'The Blue-Eyed Blackbird' and he wrote back agreeing with the suggestion. What do you think?

Mohan also wrote that an Australian friend had told him about a real blue-eyed blackbird, called the satin bower bird. Mohan said that, when he wrote the poem, he had no idea that a blackbird with blue eyes actually existed! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Satinbowerbirdmale.jpg

Comments

  1. June 23rd, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Norbert Hirschhorn says:

    It does look like the kind of bird one would put one's trust in!