By Katti Padma Rao
On the banks of the Godavari
where my mother hung me
from a tamarind tree
and went to lift soil,
the calls of the crows
that gathered around my wail
are my music gurus

The hills
around Nagarjuna Sagar,
where my father died
while building the dam,
which consoled me
are the gurus who taught me courage.

The blood that spilled,
when my mother
who went into the forest
to collect firewood
was caught in thorns,
is the colour
in my eyes.
The angry sorrow
that flowed from our eyes,
when my mother and I
who had gone for harvest jobs
to East Godavari
left our bags
and my brother in the station
and returned
and saw
his decapitated body
on the tracks,
is my lesson in aesthetics.

My mother's shout,
which lifted me up,
when I stepped
on the hot tar
being poured
on the trunk road,
is my heart's voice.
The scene
that I saw,
on the shores of Bhimli
when I went
after I heard
that my brother
who'd gone fishing
in the sea
was caught
in a storm,
is the form
in my eyes.

Black crow
Black hill
Black tar
Black ocean
are my signs
Black reign
is my destination.

Naren Bedide's translation of Katti Padma Rao's Telugu poem 'avarNam' ( from the collection of Dalit poetry
'padunekkina pAta'). The original post first appeared in The Shared Mirror on July 16, 2010. It can be read here

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