In the Jungle Night a Bird Calls

In the jungle night a strange bird calls

Followed by a guard’s tripping shoe sounds

A patrol flashlight beams here and there

From the cells come the shoutings of a madman

I lie immobile listening to the slipping away

Of my entire youth as it floats by

Jailings and diseases have killed in the bud

O how many burgeons that seek their way out.


My Mother

My mother on anniversaries or festival days

Is wont to put her hands together and pray for a long time

Her old saffron dress has somewhat faded

But I would see her take out for the occasion

My life being full of suffering and injustice

Mother always has to pray for me

A son who has seen a number of jail terms

Causing tears to flow in streams on Mother’s cheeks.

Sitting next to her, I find myself so small

Next to this great vast love of my mother.

Mother, I only have one real wish

And that is, never to be far away from you!

Now each time that you sit in prayer

For your sick prisoner son in the deep jungle

The old, fading saffron dress you wear

Must be soaked with tears unending! [1963]

A Letter from Home

A long while now we haven’t received word

From you, Mother and I are very concerned.

Let me tell you briefly the situation at home:

Your mother is now almost purblind

Her movements are confined to the house

As for me I feel almost senile

My legs shake whenever I move about

I have to think a few times before I can finish addressing an envelope.

We both wish you were home to help us

Thinking about you, both of us would cry

Not knowing whether you are still at the old camp

Or you may have been moved elsewhere.

Your mother still keeps up with her prayers

Praying that you be well, without illnesses …

When you receive this letter you should try

To write home, both of us wish to hear from you.

O it was your youth and lack of wisdom

That led you to think wrongly and complain

You should sincerely repent now

If you wish the Party to be lenient and forgive you

Only then can we hope to see you again

Before we would be gone for good!

We don’t know what else to say

Except counseling you in earnest to keep your health

You are still young

You must live on, my son!

Mother and I are still confident that Heaven

Would not harm an honest soul.

The other day I went to the post office

To send you my pair of socks

But the Rimifon that you asked for

We’ll have to wait till my next quarterly pension check

Before I can send it to you, for your illness.

In closing, I wish that you struggle well

Be first in labour and compete to beautify your camp.

Mum and Dad [1967]

Little One

Little one, you have one arm tattooed: Social reject

And the other … Hatred unending

O mankind, can you ever suspect such a thing?

An eight-year old prison inmate!

Yet on my prison trail which for years I have walked

I have met thousands like him! [1971]

They Exiled Me

They exiled me to the heart of the jungle

Wishing to fertilise the manioc with my remains

I turned into an expert hunter

And came out full of snake wisdom and rhino fierceness.

They sank me in the ocean

Wishing that I would remain in the depths

I became a deep sea diver

And came up covered with scintillating pearls.

They squeezed me into the dirt

Hoping that I would become mire

I turned instead into a miner

And brought up stores of the most precious metal

No diamond or gold, though

The kind to adorn women’s baubles

But uranium with which to manufacture the atom bomb.