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.