All, Or Nothing At All

by Bibhu Padhi (May 2014)

I keep looking at the neem tree

in front of this rented house.

How proud it appears

this harsh summer evening!

Phosphorescent, its leaves

thin, glowing, almost translucent

against the street’s sodium light.

And then, just a little farther away

there is another figure--

its dry branches speechless, still,

fighting against nothing, proving

nothing, but only perhaps

a small friendship with me

and all those whom I love

and therefore call mine.

As I begin to feel where

inside me, I feel its

bare pain, it implores me

not to watch it straight,

but only sideways, from an angle

that hurts nothing, pities

no one, hates nothing--

not even another’s pride.

It only waits for another

shake of greens, and asks me

in a voice that silence alone

can give, to lean on it  whenever

I’ve even a minute’s time,

as if the very touch of this

middle-age skin were sufficient

for its further life--

when no one is around,

except the night, its dark,

confidential, womb-like privacy.

To dream of nothing except

that invisible seed

which so carefully encloses

its heartwood life, as it

longs for another time,

a quickening of new leaves,

and of course, encloses too

this sleep-denied,

daydreaming, pain-tired me.




Bibhu Padhi's eighth book of poems, Magic Ritual, was published earlier this year. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, the most recent being THE HARPERCOLLINS BOOK OF ENGLISH POETRY (2012). He lives in Bhubaneswar, India.


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