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Men! Let's Free The Land From The Vultures
by Manjul

In the field
farmers are ploughing with oxen
To the length of the land the soil is turned
How surely they work planting their crops!
Enlivened by the farmers' vigor,
I feel the broad plains
joyfully spread their wings of a nine-colored bird

In the field
farmers barefooted are kneading the earth
To the length of the land the soil is turned
In jest with laughter splattered with mud
how enthralled they are!
From rooted depths song arises
I feel the broad plains rise on the sweet voiced mynahs'
lustrous outstretched wings

In the field
farmers are harvesting rice
beating rice on the smooth flat surface of the land
Heaped straw and rice where once the soil was turned!
At that time taken by the farmers' joy
to be singing and dancing in the moonlit night,
I feel the broad plains
celebrate the iridescent wings of a peacock
turning with happiness

In the fields
farmers are carrying heaps of rice to the landlord's house
Beneath that burden their faces sad and frustrated
Their children fear the haughty
whose sons and daughters shadow the length of the land
There and then borne by dusk's terrifying loneliness,
I feel the despised vultures' terrible claws
hook into the broad and open plain

Men! Let's free the land from the vultures

translated by Wayne Amtzis with the author

Sovereign Woman
On the poetry of Banira Giri

(from the Introduction to FROM THE LAKE, LOVE)

When a voice of assured affirmation anchors itself in an act of violation and violence as victim, the words "transformation" and "overcoming" can only approximate the writer's intention. In the poem "Wound", Banira Giri does more than raise a voice against rape and the personal wound the victim bears, she transforms through the powers of language and the inner strength of adversity overcome, the stigmata of violation into an emblem of power. "Wound"--already the softening occurs, the doubling of the act, the vowels, not the disavowal, the "V" for violation, like a flag waving in the wind, like something touched not with one lip but two. And so the tongue takes over: man misleads, sentences us; woman miraculizes, brings forth out of emptiness.. and we take note --of the images drawn through the eye of her affirmation. Creation borne out of memory. Where innocence is victimized, where rape follows upon avowals of friendship, where chance meeting where brute strength overwhelms, what remains is the ad infinitum of Violation, the signs of blood of "cruel intimacy.... spread on the gravel of the crossroads like an unclaimed corpse."

From the outset
your every thrust
blazed as fire,
tore through the skin as thorns do,
pierced as a blade,
appeared as the night of the dark moon
But these days
your every stroke,
a mere touch,
and as for my self
I've become
oven that contains the flame,
bush that raises up thorns,
sheath that holds the blade,
fangs for the cobra's deadly poison,
darkness of the night that swallows the moon

Only intensity of language and conciseness of imagery can assimilate what has happened. The stigmata of rape like an unhealing wound, like a brand claiming an animal is turned round not at the point of entry but from the deepest recesses of consciousness. It is there that woman triumphs. Man cannot go deep enough, he can not find her to claim her, for the vehicle of his claiming lacks depth, for it is always in retreat even as it attacks. Violation is all that he is. Wound is the source of her triumph, and in that triumph resistance cries out: you have done this to me, you will not do it again.

Wound! Maul and smother me
Lick with your slathering flames
Your force converted
for I'm hardened to it
Where your weapons of thrust and violation are stored,
I burrow and hide, grazed from all angles guns afire
Flameburst upon flameburst here and everywhere
But it is surely so, violator
Violation! tearing your ears, listen
Your armory will be emptied --I will not
your armory will be emptied --I will not

Giri's voice insistent in its climactic victory resounds with an insurgent force. In "From The Lake Love" the author works with an imagined act of violence. A high mountain lake is taken to be the body of a woman that all are drawn to and partake of in a ritual of rape and dismemberment. The aware reader recoils as she is drawn in. The woman of the lake in forced submission to the many gives herself to the one who fathoms to the depths her worth. Against a preconscious memory marked by collective violation, legend would have its readers overcome trauma within the amnesia of love and the cultural rites of marriage. Beneath the beauty of the language one asks: Is this not rape? Is this not violation? Is this what culture conceals?

a woman without compare...
immersed herself, emerging
her gentle comely form turned to gold
Then and there a gaggle of youths
grabbed her, tore her to pieces
and shared her among themselves
...among them a youthful hunter
...stole away with her heart.
...On full moon nights
in the dreamlike shimmering of Sarover
...transformed into white swans
murmuring their love talk,
...waiting for the wedding procession,
hand-woven leaves for the feast.

For Giri and for the culture she seeks to reclaim in her poetry, a crime more consequential than violation is abandonment. Within her writing the ideal of wholeness, of man and woman complementing and completing, of world and beings sustaining and surpassing, is seen as a given within nature and when seen well, when understood, is taken up and affirmed in human creation and in culture. In "Pashugayatri" she portrays the cultural loss when the task of sustaining has been abandoned.

in this holy land of Pashupati,
completely helpless, bereft and naked,
pitiful Bagmati... ...stagnant within
...only scars of memory...
the rush of her waters, an encrusted scab
... through the dry banks of her chest
(she) whispers the Pashugayatri mantra..
and she is shocked
"Ay ai, Men are men after all,
though they throw a flood of filth into the Bagmati,
though they make the Bagmati a River-Of-Sand
...who is she to have them listen...?"
She herself feels ashamed, troubled, sobs
In preparation to enter the underworld for ever,
seen by no one, for the last time,
stops for a moment during the still of night,
tries to wash the feet of Lord Pashupati, but cannot
Bagmati, of only a thin line, only a name,
breathless, weak, waterless, Bagmati
disheartened while trying to bid farewell to Pashupati
the whips of sand
chase her
the whips of sand
drive her out

In a world where culture mattered, where symbol embodied living force, the writing of Banira Giri would be recognized for its sustaining power, for its capacity to project enduring sources of creativity into a mode of awareness. At the heart of her enterprise the Sovereign Female reigns. Where it should be praised, it has been diminished; where it should be established, it is abandoned; where it should be protected it is assaulted. Unfortunately the power of her voice, the intensity of her language and her willingness to take up the forms of traditional culture and revitalize them from a more deeply realized source does not warn nor awaken those who will not hear it. Where man appropriates, woman creates; where creation itself is violated, what use is poetry?


Yes, All My Rivers Are Lahureys
by Purna Vaidya

For the tiniest refuge,
these rivers stir. Hastily running night and day
despite jungle and hills

Finding a place of rest
where their whole self can stay,
there, to calmly abide,
their restless waves asleep

But, in my land, (harbored and held
by mountains and icy peaks)
there is no place
           to remain

Cruel hills and steep
cliffs pushing down, allow no rest,
banishing all to the lowlands

Forced out of their native realm
for a foreign land

So, rubbing earthly dust onto their chests,
they leave their own place
exhausted in the ocean of sacrifice
for no end,
               for nothing at all

 The Restless Urge For Equality
by Purna Vaidya

The Newar poet Purna Bahadur Vaidya has written a remarkable collection of poems in Nepal Bhasa: LA LA KHA (WATER IS WATER: a collection of 84 poems refracted through water). These intently crafted poems written over a twenty-year period reflect a mind intimately involved with its own reflection as it is refracted and clarified through a single element in its manifest and various forms. The long-term commitment made to the art of poetry and to insight gained through repeated encounters with a single theme should stand as a guideline for writers. Vaidya's threefold commitment--to the language he writes in, the society he lives in and to the person he would become hones itself with and against necessity. Water when seen as an elemental force, when investigated in its own right, clarifies human endeavor. It is finally not nature Vaidya is concerned with, but human nature. The mirroring force of his poetry demands that one attend to and appreciate the details of living and not turn from the inevitability and power of necessary action, be it personal, political or social.

In "The Restless Urge For Equality" a description of a river flowing through land characterized as an ongoing encounter between the freeing force of nature and bounding enclosure of civilization resolves itself with a statement of self recognition that carries with it social acquiescence and political commitment. The relentless force of water is tempered by all that resists it, but it flows on, it tempers that which resists it, and it is that tempering, that leveling that draws it on.

The Restless Urge For Equality

Before moving water rounds itself
and rises ever so slightly
with an eye to sorting out where the land slopes
where depth lies
Encountered, the world gives it flow, direction, speed
As always water's intention is to fill and raise
Where boundaries create you & me
where between yours & mine walls rise --it revolts
Gathering strength it flows,
and wherever it flows
as day follows day walls collapse,
boundaries are dismissed
In the absence of boundaries and walls
we see wider land --where water calmly, naturally, moves on
This struggle tells me
that the character of the land is uneven
Tempered by the speed of the flow
my own innate desire
is the equality I seek

In LA LA KHA, Purna Bahadur Vaidya, avoiding the rhetoric of his contemporaries, can be read as the most unlikely of political poets and the most unassuming of spiritual ones, even as his exacting descriptions purifies the basis for poetic language in Nepal today. For he has identified in nature a force that cannot be denied; staying close to that force and recognizing its qualities, he has clarified his own vocation as a poet. Through understanding nature--not praising its majesty nor playing with its illusive forms--he has explored what it is to be human. Clear yet sensual; understated, yet political--underpinning commitment with a sure sense of what is and an intent to continue until limits are unbounded and privilege is undone--these water poems distill from Nepal Bhasa a fine and bracing liquor ready to be decanted. An elixir whose essence returns us to the source and whose qualities fortify us for what needs to be done.
From Seeing Water As Water. the JOURNAL OF NEPALI LITERATURE, ART AND CULTURE. 4.1 2001.


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