our land today

(translation of Gopalakrishna Adiga’s ಇಂದು ನಮ್ಮೀ ನಾಡು)

hoist up the tree, son, whose roots are dead
let the branches be as is;
boil some tea with dry leaves, drink
as the lump in your throat chokes you up.

make a bed for the tree and water it, if sadness
stops you, let the boiling tears
pour here; let the sweets
of Satan bake inside.

line up the bulbs, hang a rainbow
of swinging lights on every branch;
stick a bunch of paper flowers, put on
the perfume and play the record.

the shade’s gone, branches hollow, don’t complain;
you prefer shade to the gold plating?
this tree is ancient, dear: what’s better than
its branches to hang and die?

the headless torso swings to the western wind –
what an echo, what a fake dance!
our divine tree refuses the dirty water of its land,
but thrives on the nectar from the land of dreams!

no birds fly here? parrots, hens
cuckoos, sparrows, crows or owls?
beat the cuckoo at hand, kill it; when dead
stuff it with hay and line them all on a branch!

gold plate the rotting bark; get the
tree’s bygone stories carved on it;
“Here was the cool shade, fresh leaves flowers fruits
the singing cuckoo, the abode of parrots!

the ruler’s weapon cared here, the war conch
thundered and the wheels turned;
teachers, hermits, sacred seats in
monastic huts or whatever adorned right here”

hoist the flag of “was here”s, son, you don’t
need the heartache of “what’s now”.
you have the tree, the tree with gold,
mind you, it also has a bed! water it!

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