Dilip Chitre n 1938 in Baroda, India. Studied in Mumbai. After graduating in 1959, taught English for three years in Ethiopia, returning to Mumbai in 1963, worked as a journalist, columnist, commentator, editor. Was Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA from 1975 to 1977, Back in India, made films, painted, roamed around. Now live in Pune, Maharashtra for the last 25 years. Published 30 books in all, 5 in German translation, Won many prizes, honours, and awards. Travelled all over Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa.
The Ninth Breakfast: Astrological Forecast
Sometimes a mere sausage portends,
Waiter, the coming shadow
Of Saturn. Sad days begin
Insignificantly. But sinister days
Foretell their ways. The innocent sausage in one’s plate
Grows into a cobra. And one knows
That the tables have begun
On a Saturday you never
Get horseshoes for breakfast.
But a severe exhortation
In the morning’s editorial
On the duties of a citizen.
Here, where the cows are sacred,
And pigs taboo, a starving mob
Glares at your subversive sausage
Whose shape, moreover, is an implicit
Insult to Shiva’s phallus,
And you choke because you know
Is another man’s breakfast.
No thanks. I’ll only have tea and toast.
Absence From Myself
I am emptying my shelves and my drawers
I cannot cope with their contents
Any longer. They connect with a past
That hardly seems mine though known to me.
The shelves contain books, of course,
And some of them go a long way
Into a memory not exactly my own
Where my treacherous roots lie
Into humanity’s favourite myths.
The drawers contain documents, notes,
Unfinished manuscripts, faded photographs,
Letters, memorabilia, and possessions
That could be called mere fetishes.
Alternatively, one could call it heritage.
My father’s dead and my only son died too
Within just a short span separating them
And I would be someone sandwiched
Between them—a piece of living history
Between two dead ends.
I am the one that has endured and survived
Two ends of history and the emptiness
Of shelves and drawers and largely
Unwritten books, abandoned poems,
Unfinished paintings, unrealised films,
Spaces more empty than filled,
Occupied and left.
Spaces, spaces, spaces.
Time leaves no detail untouched
And time takes all details away.
My ancestor’s gone and so is my successor.
That leaves me no space but
Here and now, no room to negotiate,
Not even an edge to fall off from.
I am exquisitely here and now
And where I never before was
Nor ever will be.
Moreover, this is not an end.
From Moscow To Leningrad (1980)
From Moscow to Leningrad
I was travelling through a three-dimensional notebook
The notebook had mile after mile of snow
The notebook had railway tracks
Close to my chest there was a broken
Anthill the size of a woman
Close to my chest were eighteen she-cobras
Close to my chest was powdered turmeric
My body flung northwards
Pointed to the Pole
Whose sins were washed out by that journey
Whose wounds bled away in that journey
There were characters written in the notebook
Spreading like fire through the snow
In the shape of a spark.
Underneath the Chandeliers Hung by Stalin
Underneath the chandeliers hung by Stalin
People swarm to buy bread
And at a distance stand the churches of Christ
Detached and compassionate
Underneath this Russian snow there could be
Several flowering plants of poetry
Countless thorny solitudes
The bones of former citizens
On the Way to Petrograd/Leningrad
(—for Irina )
Time turns to ice
Boots fall into a vanishing line
The grief of black living eyes
Lies hidden in the groin
Ointment on a tender spot
Graft on an alien branch
In the closed car of a train
The ice of coals shovelled into
A couple of hours of intimacy
The rail track is refreshed by
Wheels speeding over it
From Moscow to Leningrad
You commit adultery and it’s a torture
And this Express goes
Right up to Finland
Towards the land of White Nights
The tall ghost of Peter the Great
The solid buildings of the navy
The palaces, the squares, the canals,
The innocent eyes of Mandelstam
Pushkin’s love affair
Dostoevsky’s vigil in terror
And the European masterpieces
In the Hermitage
Before the Revolution and after
All this is eternal
The Great War and the great peace
The pleading breasts
Of a starved woman
Her thighs gone awry
Vodka dripping over her shoulders and body
And as a frightened sparrow hits a wall in its search for a window in the dark
Her breath enters my nostrils and my mouth as she gasps for air
I do not dare to write a poem
On all this
Our own relatives will become the angels of death
To exile us into Siberia