This row is not a row, from mouth to belly—-
a long opening of the mouth,
the city, the slum
and the far-off hamlets stand in the queue.
Over the head is the sun from all directions—
the security, the hungry laughter
is the only support for the exerted legs.
The mouths stuffed with the handkerchief and key
gulping the saliva, the hungry kids dance in the eyes
the mother and wife are helpless.
The time I reached with a plate, your vessel was empty
it’s half a day for you,
but this is as usual for me every day
I feel like piercing through your stomach
with the nails to pull off the morsels to scatter
every bit of your false conceit and pride.
But then, my time passes seeing the lathi
in the hands of the police;
while thinking of snatching, the chest
tremors and the hands get soaked in sweat.
From morning 6 a.m. to evening 5 p.m.
is my duty every day,
I stand with one stomach accumulating
the hunger of the entire family
you’ve drawn a circle, aha, would it have
only been the pancake?
It was written during the pandemic when the poor in India was dying of hunger
Subrat Barik holds a degree in English Literature and a diploma in teaching. He writes in Odia
and his writings appear in various Odia journals. He grew up in Kalahandi of Odisha in India. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated from the Odia by Pitambar Naik
Pitambar Naik is an advertising professional. He’s a former editor/nonfiction reader for Mud
Season Review and Minute Magazine. His work appears or is forthcoming in The Notre Dame
Review, Packingtown Review, Ghost City Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Indian
Quarterly and elsewhere. He has a collection of poetry: The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal). He
grew up in Odisha and lives in Bangalore, India.