Two poems by Ranjit Hoskote

Picture credit: Jurgen Brocan

 

Ranjit Hoskote’s The Atlas of Lost Beliefs was published by Arc in April and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Summer 2020.

 


 

    Letters from Ugarit

 

Fire saved these words
cut into clay
corded sounds of desert and surf
      gouged into flesh

Father look      the enemy’s ships
      the Sea People
            my cities torched

These words saved no one
                not sender not receiver

My country burning
                my chariots lost
Words that did not carry
            across the numb sand

Your messenger saw
      our threshing floors charred
      our vineyards ripped up from their roots

Messenger, we could have been howling on the moon’s far side

With His barbed whip
Marduk cut down my guardian angel
He broke my shield
He drove me from my house

No one heard
      no one cried when they heard

these baked sounds other hands would draw and fit
into tamer moulds
alpu betu gamu
            ox house camel

recording barrels and bales Marduk pull me from the river
      listing sails and hulls
Marduk let this cloud pass

sounds that have rung
through every changing trembling shape
      even when the reed breaks the ink fades
and there is no moon

Save these words

 
 

    Hawk

 

Caught up on the wave of the past a hawk skirls back
ripping the seamed and sutured scar of our passage
      its wings are lined
with scripts
            no one can read but everyone brawls over
            in this city of howling dogs and whinnying saints
the blood that spurts under its claws
    is common
             the sort you could smell anywhere
             the sort you can smell everywhere
suffer us all
             dear God of many names
to come together and feed
                                              ourselves to that insatiable beak

 
 

Ranjit Hoskote

About Ranjit Hoskote

Ranjit Hoskote is a poet and independent curator based in Bombay. His seven collections of poetry include 'Vanishing Acts' (2006), 'Central Tim'e (2014), 'Jonahwhale' (2018), and, most recently, 'The Atlas of Lost Beliefs' (2020), published by Arc in the UK. His translation of a celebrated 14th-century Kashmiri woman mystic’s poetry has appeared as 'I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded' (2011). Hoskote curated India’s first-ever national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, under the title 'Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode' (2011). He has been honoured, by the Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters), with the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award and the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award. Hoskote’s poems have been translated into German, Hindi, Marathi, Irish Gaelic, Swedish, Spanish, and Arabic.