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Bairagi Kainla (b. 1939)
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A Drunk Man's Speech to the Street After Midnight (Mateko Mancheko Bhashan: Madhyaratpachiko Sadaksita)

When I emerge from the wine shop,
long after midnight has passed,
cockerels crow their welcome
from every coop and perch,


flapping their wings in rebellion.
My very breath, drenched in alcohol fumes,
is a great storm in this atmosphere,
this lifelessness, this system.
Grand mansions line the street,
weakness hides in their foundations:
now now now—they will soon collapse!

All my steps are earthquakes today,
volcanoes erupt in each sensation;
how have I lived to such an age
in these cramped and crumbling houses,
too small for a single stride?
I am saddened:
even now they sleep, self-defeated men,
tangled together like worms
in the pestilent houses of the earth,
and do they sleep so late?

Today I am more immense than the world,
my breath is shut in by the ground of this street,
I stamp all over the road.
People say I am drunk—"Keep left"—
people say we should keep to the verge,
but people should walk all over this street,
as many as it can contain,
the police pick up all who keep to the verge,
saying, "This one's drunk, and that one, too!"[2]

At the head of each bed in the rooms
of sky-kissing mansion and tower,
all through each night they burn:
blue, blue bulbs, the eyes of owls.
Here the owls' eyes watch through the night:
who are they waiting for, who will be ambushed?

Faceless men drag by
on legs of darkness,
all night long they walk this street,
their heads hanging low from their shoulders,
their heads full of letters and papers,
their hearts full of the office clock's hands,
their lives machine parts, soon obsolete.

And so the street is shrunken today:
who steals its corners and verges?


Who tears life in chunks from its sides?
Why is the street more narrow each night?
"Tear up this road and widen it!..."
The witless policeman stands on the curb,
prepared to arrest me for these words,
for I am drunk!
But when the wine pervades my heart,
I feel I am full of such vastness,
the street is too narrow for me.

May the engineers hear me,
the leaders, the teachers, the poets,
may each second of history attend
to my speech, broadcast from the pavement
beside the main post office:
A man walks upon you,
he is too great for you, he commands you:
crack and split and widen yourselves,
rupture and tear down those buildings
which encroach upon your borders,
further, further with each historic moment,
rend and crack the pavements:
they are like history's naked pages,
inscribed with flattering lineages
of the Kotparva's victors and the ruling family;[3] split them from head to heart.
We should be allowed to stand here
on the feet of Columbus,
a revolution should walk here,
its head held high.
So I order you: Streets!
Crack and tear yourselves apart,
if potholes appear, I will fill them
with goodwill soaked in wine,
I will cover them with my immensity.
For otherwise I will not fit in,
otherwise, at nine 'o'clock, when it's time for school,
how will the little boy's mother and I
send him to school from this place
if the road cannot hold the sole of one foot?

Oh life, already flat on your back,
constantly trampled by hundreds of boots,
continually tortured by the wheels of cars,


oh streets, confined by the mists of inertia,
bounded by signboards and poles,
fragmented and fractured by turnings and bends
—a thousand splinters of the valor
of the universal emperor.

Oh sixty thousand cursed sons of Sagar,[4] advancing to conquer the world,
driving a horse to sacrifice,
I pour the heavenly Ganga's waters
from the firmament of a bottle,
down over you with the faith of Bhagirath,[5] onto your foreheads, eyes and chests.
Drink this wine which I pour on the street,
bottle by bottle, drop after drop,
revive and arise, my fathers,
you sixty thousand cursed sons of Sagar!

And now wipe the mist with a Himalayan fist,
from the horizon's gummy eyes,
and look with me for the first time:
as far as we can see, all around,
there is a battleground for victory
and a radiant light for life.
(c. 1963; from Kainla 1974; also included in Sajha Kavita 1967, Adhunik Nepali Kavita 1971, and Nepali Kavita Sangraha [1973] 1988, vol. 2)

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Bairagi Kainla (b. 1939)
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