Poems by Arif Raja from India

Επιμέλεια: Εύα Πετροπούλου Λιανού

When I feel I am losing my communication with myself, I start writing poems. Poetry is not only a commotion outside my existence but also a commotion inside me, because losing communication with myself means losing communication with the world around me. In this wide world, to say that I also exist, to record my presence, my only medium is poetry or poems – Arif Raja

Arif Raja is a premier Kannada poet. He was born in Arakera village, located in Raichur district of Karnataka, India. He has published five collections of poems so far: Saitanana Pravadi (A Prophet of Satan, 2006), Jangama Phakeerana Jolige (The Satchel of a Mendicant Faqir, 2009) and Benkige Todisida Batte (A Raiment for Fire, 2013) Nakshatra Moha (Star Infatuation, 2017) and Ede Halina Pali (The Turn of Breastfeeding, 2022). Arif Raja has been awarded many awards including the Yuva Puraskara of Indian Academy of Letters-2012. His poems have been translated to various languages including English, Persian, Albanian and Spanish. The process is on to publish his poems translated to English under the title ‘I am a Public Lavatory’.
Mo. No.: + 91 9019893784

Cover Pages of Arif Raja’s Poetry Collections:
The Satchel of a Mendicant Faqir, 2009
A Raiment for Fire, 2013
Star Infatuation, 2017
The Turn of Breastfeeding, 2022


Each time you blink,
my heart’s lamp
is put out and rekindled

Who should keep a watch
to ensure
that you don’t slip into sleep?

A time has come
for your mother
to bear you again
in her womb.

The border wars may end soon,
please wait, my child.

This is a fragrant
why should anyone sing
lullabies here?

Translated by: Kamalakar Kadave


In front of my eyes
Dances a star
Like a crane

Crossing towns and cities
Wandering through forests,
Its eyes set always on me,
It follows me
Like a pet cat

I want to name after her
The star that follows me at sundown

Suddenly afraid,
I remember the innocent eyes
Of a baby dumped
In the dung heap
Of the dark night

I look up
At the sky—
A cradle of a million stars,
Orphaned, all of them

Is it a dream forgotten
From a life long ago?
It follows me
Wherever I go
A lone star
Like an orphaned child

Translated by: H S SHIVAPRAKASH


Death also sleeps
With you in your bed
Don’t wake it up

Like a star light years away
At times the dream
In the guise of the day
And comes
Looking for you

Good to wait
Till then

Translated by: H S SHIVAPRAKASH


That star~
my heart~
Has been beating
I don’t know since when

The moonlight
– my blood~
Has still been flowing
In my body

Have the whispers
Somebody spoke
Reached me
Releasing knots of air?

The silence
Hidden behind which rock
Is oozing through my eyes?

Who lit up the lamp
That is in our name
And let it float
In eternity?

I bow down
To the power of that will
Strong enough
To impregnate through looks

I know
No gospel

All I know is the language of
A kiss
A mouthful
A time

Translated by: H S SHIVAPRAKASH


Darkness was born before I was,
It was called death.

Light was born before I was,
It was revered as the sun.

Love was born before I was,
It was worshipped as the earth.

My tears were born before I was,
It was called a poem.

Translation: Manu V Deva Devan


Back then, we fed on dirt.
Our parents didn’t stop us.
We’ve now stopped our kids
From eating dirt.

One day,
They’ll cast us into the dirt for sure.

Translation: Manu V Deva Devan


Buddha means:
A bottomless watercan;
Filled up and emptied
Every second

Buddha means:
The severed head of a goat
in the slaughterhouse
The image of the helpless butcher
imprisoned in its eyes…



Twice a day, invariably, she goes for a shower.
She rises in the midnight out of the blue
To wear her lip balm.
She looks again;
There’s something she calls to her mind—
Helplessness, anxiety, protest, disease.
She stares, again and again, at the mirror in the eyes,
Flashes a variety of colours—
Deep red, rose, ash blue—
And wears her lip balm.

Her endless bath also occurs
In much the same way, day after day,
Like the last rites of bathing the earth,
Like the storm that makes an abrupt landfall.
Every season is grateful like today’s breath.
They’re for today; they won’t last forever.

Translation: Manu V Deva Devan


That cry resonates now too.

As the signs of the baby’s old age
That turns the lisps of alphabet upon a slate
Into the first howl of Mankind.
That cry is a cry now too
Manifest in the white kerchief
In the marching feet, in a procession

One may
Advise Dad
Or ask Mom;
May challenge God!

Have been born with the fire of civilisation.
How many floods and storms has it survived!
Like an enigma winging forth from an enigma.
That cry can be heard now too.

That cry
Seems to
Like a bird’s dropping hidden in the seed
Of an ancient tree that will shake the mansion.

I recollect the weeping face
With a million eyes
Before the tender spectral babe that cries upon its stomach
Nascent upon this universe
Would homeless, wandering, lose itself.

The meditation of crying
Prepares for yet another dawn
Like the smear of dry and fading graffiti
Turned paste from burnt nights.

God is supreme.
He often secrets gifts
Unbeknownst to us even in this daily ordinariness.
He bestows ears
To a few at least to audition that cry.

Translation: Ravichandra P Chittampalli


Like a crane
rendered flightless
in bewilderment
at a noisily busy city square,
another madman
has arrived in the city
on this hot afternoon.

His soul,
a cute rabbit out of its haven,
preyed by vicious street dogs,
stands alone,
enacts many others,
and returns to self,
listening to its own inner voice
that keeps collapsing within. 

Perhaps the citizens
of this city
do not know that
the nightly beings
emerging in the mid of the night
from the city’s graves
get the earliest signs
of the arrival of the damned angels,
flying in from nameless places.

Perhaps the citizens
of this city
also do not know
what befell the other poet of this world
who went out with a fig to welcome
the mad man
expelled from heaven

Translation: Kamalakar Kadave


Che Guevara has become
A picture on the young boy’s T-shirt

On the shirt of the juvenile one
Who captures vulgar films in his hand
And goes screwing with his fist
Who sips beer in the pub every evening
Thinking of the girls who didn’t come his way
Who sends countless applications for government jobs
And tries his luck in the examinations

Che Guevara, with his military cap and burning cigar in his twisted mouth,
Che Guevara, who strikes slogans into the skies with his hammer-like right-hand fist
Che Guevara, who roars, addressing thousands of rivers of struggle
Is now a black and white portrait
On the teen-age boy’s T-shirt.

What was in the diseased bosom of the romantic rebel
Who scaled mighty trees and mountains
To capture eagles with his nets?
In his eyes was the streak found in Neruda’s last poems…

I remember the guerilla guru
Who went hunting with his comrades
With a rifle on his shoulders to liberate Bolivia
Being hunted down in the thick jungle like a wild boar
And his body being kept in a school
In the village for the public to pay homage
Fans arriving in queues who hold their nose
And walk away as soon as they approach the body

None has the guts
to look into the eyes of a tiger
lying with his eyes open

Translated by: Manu V Deva Devan