Sujata Bhatt

Ars Poetica with Poppies and Birds

You might think 
       that’s how translation works:
you start with poppies
and end up with birds.
Or you start with birds
and end up with poppies.


You might feel
that night after night
your book dreams itself into being.


One day, the book says
       it wants to be painted - 
not written.

The next day, the book claims
         to be a garden.
If you disagree
       it will sulk.
Soon it will make new demands on you:
‘Bring me some golden poppies
                     from California,’ it says.

And then: ‘I want to see
those rare white poppies from the Alps - 
some might even be pale yellow.
I’ve heard they’re as rare as a white tiger.
Go, have a look,’ it says.

Just when you think you have what it needs
the book will say, ‘Now I want you to find
            the rarest of the rare,
     the most difficult to grow - 
a blue poppy from the Himalayas.
Go on,’ it will urge you.

By now you might have guessed:
the book simply wants you to go away
so it can become a garden for birds.