Translated from the Telugu to the English by K Purushotham
Avva, my mother—
she’s not a wick-lamp, safe in wall’s ledge
she’s the sun went astray in the rug of the sky,
she’s a famine in the stretched out phallu
of the mother-earth.
Avva, she is a timeless full-moon,
she’s an embodiment of struggle without dawn
her head, like an empty-grain in the mortar,
rebels against the pestle.
The rising sun at the cockcrow
warms itself in avva’s eyes
she sweeps the stars of the dawn, and
smears dung-water on the front-yard
waking and feeding us, she leaves for work
neither the cow in the forest nor the calf at home
longs for each other.
Avva quite often falls in the furnace of
ayya, father’s anger because of bad meals,
a granule of sand or a hair in meals
or to grab her wages for drinking.
Avva, she is like a served-plate for us all
having become seeds in furrows,
she sprouts as green crops
planting and weeding in knee-deep paddy fields
ceaselessly working even after dusk
that’s my avva!
It’s my avva, who blew songs into the village,
while working the ridges in paddy fields
when avva gets at work, her sweat
turns into a fountain in the desert-sink
she’s an incessant flame in the mud-stove.
I can’t remember sweet memories of
clinging to avva’s waist
I never heard her sing me lullabies
or tell tales feeding me baby-food with
her hardened hands that formed soot.
I had no occasions of napping in her lap, yawning.
The memories of my screech for food,
holding a dented bowl in the hands
are still fresh.
My avva, she’s a drumbeat on the broken drum
teaching the earth to bloom and to give fruit,
becoming leather for cheppulu.
Hers is like the agony of a top to
escape the string of the landlords.
Though she fed mother-earth with her breast,
the lords kept her at a distance from the yield.
My avva, she’s a course-slab at the doorway that
heaped sorrow as a stack of history
tightening the phallu round her waist,
my avva is a question,
flashing a sickle in her hand.
May the languages be doomed! They never accessed
the brinks where my avva wandered.
Original: mA avva, dukkAlni dunni pOsukunna tokkudubanda
Joopaka Subhadra and K Purushotham
Avva’s Stack of Grief | మావ్వ, దుక్కాల్ని దున్ని పోసుకున్న తొక్కుడు బండ
1 October 2016