Bruised, but not Broken (poems)

-Challapalli Swarooparani 

12. Muddy Hands

With the music of washed vessels.
She wakes up the house.

When the early cockcrows
Piercing through thick darkness
She lights the hut
Feeds the children grains of rice.

She arrives in the fields, porridge-vessel in hand
The landlord welcomes her with abuses.

As she delicately transplants paddy
Bent from her waist and in knee-deep mud
Her stomach rumbles, sets up a horrific dance
For a handful of rice-grains and chilly.

She continues to sprinkle fertilisers
Unmindful of the child who swings in
A makeshift cradle hung on the branch of a tree.

A lovely girl
Neither raised dear nor fussed over plays
In the muddy pond
Her mother’s mud-spattered hands are busy
Pulling at weeds.

Nothing to cook with
She lives her days out in distress
The rice heap
Glitters like gold
Like her skin, whose colour it swallows, makes its own.

As she receives wages for
Bringing forth flowers of gold
Through the labour of her hands,
Her femininity mocks her.

Her husband waits
To drink her sweat like arrack.
She perches in the net
With hopes of filling her children’s bellies
With her two-rupees-a-day wages.

Sucked dry by the sun, rain-soaked
Beaten by husband in the evenings
Getting pregnant year after year
Her body that once glowed
Like marigold
Turns pale
A leafless, wilted twig.

Innocent daughter
Lustreless, and drifting down a canal of tears
Smouldering fire-wood
The setting sun ―
As she carries the cross of hunger
And makes her way through the stones of life.

(Telugu: “Mattichetulu”, translated by Prof. K. Purushottam, Dept of English, Kakatiya University and published in Mankenapoovu, an anthology of poems by the author, 2005.)


(To be continued-)

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