Book Excerpt: Two city poems from ‘Like Earth to Stars’ by H.S. Shiva Prakash

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‘Like Earth to Stars’: Forthcoming from Poetrywala, Mumbai

Heracleion and the City of Shiva Prakash

Thank you, archaeologists, for excavating
the great ancient city
of Heracleion,
hidden in the depths of the Mediterranean
for one thousand and two hundred years.

Our stone children,
gods and goddesses,
still lie there
dreamy-eyed and smiling
though heads and limbs are broken
and eroded by sea salt.

Why did this city drown?
Experts reason:
It stood on the foundation of sand
that could not bear and support
its ever increasing weight of buildings
and statues of gods and people,
poor sand gave way…

But a lot of the city’s glory still survives poignantly
hidden in water and surrounded by unmindful fish
waiting to be discovered and admired…

My heart too is a city
bursting with palaces, temples and gardens
I built for you.

So many pilgrims and merchants come here day and night
and most settle down
as they cannot say goodbye to a city so exquisite,
because of you and my art
but, alas, I have built all this
on the foundation of wet sands
of your ever dwindling faith in me.

So the City of Shiva Prakash too will collapse
due to a great error of the builder:
He never thought of the strength
of the foundation.

But,
once it goes under the sands of the ever-changing world
will someone discover its wonders
when neither of us will be around?

The River in Between

I cannot reach you, O my beloved city…
I cannot see you prone leisurely
and being stroked by golden sunbeams…
I cannot reach your ballet theatre
where winged dreams dance in abandon…
I cannot enter your ancient university
and its library full of precious wisdom.
I cannot stand and watch people moving in and out
of your toy-like trams.
O my beloved city,
where dreams make love to memories
in the confluence of water and sunlight
on a perfect summer afternoon,
the river between us has risen in flood
drowning the bridge,
the only link between you and me.
The river is still rising
threatening to drown you completely
O city of my dreams…

**

About the book:

Like Earth to Stars is Shiva Prakash’s second collection of poems in English forthcoming from Poetrywala, Mumbai. The first, In Other Words, was also published by Poetrywala. It presents his poems written between 2008 and 2014. The book has some of his most mature poems and exhibits his finest creative abilities. Deceptively simple, these poems are a confluence of a variety of subjects and styles. They bear witness to one of the most creative minds of our times mediating with and meditating upon the immediate, the ephemeral, and the perennial.

 

Poet, playwright and translator, H S Shiva Prakash (born 1954) began his writing career when ‘navya’, the modernist literary movement was dominant in Kannada. From writing in Kannada, he eventually became a bilingual poet and a translator across multiple languages. He teaches English at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Shiva Prakash has nine collections of poems, fifteen plays, and several other books to his credit in Kannada. His works have been widely translated into French, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, German, Polish, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. He has translated Kannada vachana literature into English.

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