When Will It Rain

drums and gongs call it dawn
as if it might rain today

the sun hasn't reached the lotuses yet, their petals
are still curled up, the screwpine, jasmine, and chameli
and the blossoms on the fruit tree haven't opened their eyes

the herd came running
the conch will blow soon, someone says
someone else says, today's the beginning of the end
they've taken pots of parched rice, plain and sweet
and hung them from tattered towels over their shoulders

everyone's ready—the children, though nestled
in their mothers' saris, may not really be safe
the bird's vision may be imperfect, but it knows exactly
which is the plant, the leaves, and which is the succulent mouse

nearby, laments have grown louder—it's coming
who doesn't know the connection between festivals and death
there's nothing new to say about that—a chunk of father's arm
will fall to the ground—some will be scared when they see
grass sprouting from the wound again

waterlogged clouds aren't supposed to know these things
no one will come running or rowing a boat
against the current, absentminded, indifferent
water, they say, lacks the slightest trace of lust

this is how poetry teaches, scattering puns everywhere
or surrounding us with a steady dazzle of lightning
but then the sky is blank, as if someone had shaken out
an immaculate winding cloth from the east

to the northwest—still, the festival keeps going, the sticks
have struck the drums, the world has been roused, uncoiling
its great body, the sun opens its eyes, twin droplets of blood

somewhere an angry cloud is calling—listen

—translated by Carolyn B. Brown