Featured Writer K. Satchidanandan: One Poem

The Girl of Thirteen

The girl of thirteen
is not the boy of thirteen.
She has died drowning in nightmares
until she forgot her butterflies.
She has passed through caverns of darkness
leaving the lullabies behind.

The girl of thirteen is forty-three.
She knows a bad touch from a good one
She knows it’s not wrong
to tell a lie in order to survive.
She knows how to fight a war,
with teeth or with songs.
You see only the rose on her body;
but it’s full of thorns

The girl of thirteen can fly.
She doesn’t want to leave the sun
and books just for men.
Her swing circles the moon
and moves from melancholy to madness.
She doesn’t dream of the prince
as you seem to think.

The girl of thirteen has her feet
in the netherworld even as she
touches the rainbow.
One day, sword in her hand, she
will come riding a white horse.
Listening to the hooves echo in the clouds
you will know, the tenth avatar in the puranas prophesy is a woman.

-K. Satchidanandan (സച്ചിദാനന്ദന്‍)
translated from Malayalam by the poet


പതിമൂന്നു വയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടി

പതിമൂന്നുവയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടി
പതിമൂന്നുവയസ്സുള്ള ആണ്‍കുട്ടിയല്ല.
പൂമ്പാറ്റകളെ മറക്കുവോളം അവള്‍
ദുസ്വപ്നങ്ങളില്‍ മുങ്ങി മരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്
താരാട്ടുകളെ പിന്നിലാക്കി അവള്‍
ഇരുട്ടിന്റെ ഗുഹകളിലൂടെ കടന്നുപോയിട്ടുണ്ട്

പതിമൂന്നുവയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയ്ക്ക്
നാല്‍പ്പത്തിമൂന്നു വയസ്സുണ്ട്
അവള്‍ക്കു നല്ല സ്പര്‍ശവും
ചീത്ത സ്പര്‍ശവും തിരിച്ചറിയാം
അതിജീവനത്തിനായി നുണപറയുന്നത്
തെറ്റല്ലെന്ന് അവള്‍ക്കറിയാം
അവള്‍ക്കു യുദ്ധം ചെയ്യാനറിയാം,
പല്ലുകൊണ്ടും പാട്ടുകൊണ്ടും.
നിങ്ങള്‍ അവളുടെ ഉടലിലെ
പനിനീര്‍മാത്രം കാണുന്നു,
പക്ഷെ അതില്‍ നിറയെ മുള്ളുകളുണ്ട്‌.

പതിമൂന്നുവയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയ്ക്ക്
പറക്കാനാവും, അവള്‍
സൂര്യനെയും പുസ്തകങ്ങളെയും
പുരുഷനുമാത്രമായി വിട്ടു കൊടുക്കില്ല
അവളുടെ ഊഞ്ഞാല്‍ ചന്ദ്രനെച്ചുറ്റി
വിഷാദത്തില്‍നിന്ന് ഉന്മാദത്തിലേയ്ക്കാടുന്നു
അവള്‍ നിങ്ങള്‍ കരുതും പോലെ
രാജകുമാരനെ കിനാക്കാണുന്നില്ല

പതിമൂന്നുവയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടി
പാതാളത്തില്‍ കാല്‍ കുത്തി നിന്ന്
മഴവില്ലുകളെ സ്പര്‍ശിക്കുന്നു
ഒരു ദിവസം അവള്‍ വെളുത്ത കുതിരപ്പുറത്ത്‌
വാളുമായി പ്രത്യക്ഷപ്പെടും.
മേഘങ്ങളില്‍ കുളമ്പടികള്‍ കേള്‍ക്കുമ്പോള്‍
നിങ്ങളറിയും, പുരാണങ്ങളില്‍ പറയുന്ന പത്താമത്തെ അവതാരം പെണ്ണാണെന്ന്.

-K. Satchidanandan (സച്ചിദാനന്ദന്‍)

Rochford Street Review are proud to republish K. Satchidanandan’s poem, ‘The Girl of Thirteen’ (‘പതിമൂന്നു വയസ്സുള്ള പെണ്‍കുട്ടി’), in both English and Malayalam, with the full permission of the author. The Malayalam original, ‘Pathimoonnu Vayassulla Penkutti’, was first published in the Mathrubhumi Weekly, Calicut, Kerala, 2-8 July 2017. The English translation, ‘The Girl of Thirteen’, was first published in The Indian Quarterly, 5th Anniversary Issue, October -December 2017.


! K.Satchidanandan സച്ചിദാനന്ദന്‍ photo by Shikha Malavya

K. Satchidanandan (സച്ചിദാനന്ദന്‍). photograph by Shikha Malavya

K. Satchidanandan (സച്ചിദാനന്ദന്‍) is an award winning, bilingual, Indian poet, playwright, editor, literary columnist, and translator who writes in Malayalam and English. He is perhaps the most translated, contemporary, Indian poet with twenty-six collections of poetry published in nineteen different languages. In addition to all the major Indian languages, such as Tamil, Bengali and Hindi, Satchidanandan’s poetry has been translated into Chinese, English, Irish, Arabic, French, German, and Italian. K. Satchidanandan’s While I Write: New and Selected Poems was published by HarperCollins in 2011. Poetrywala, Mumbai, released his most recent book, The Missing Rib, in 2016. Three volumes of his collected poems, and four volumes of his collected translations of poetry, were published in 2006 and 2015, respectively. K. Satchidanandan writes poetry in Malayalam, the Indian language of Kerala, and prose in both Malayalam and English. He has published more than twenty collections of poetry, as well as several books of travel, plays and criticism, including five books in English on Indian literature. He has participated in many Literary Festivals and Book Fairs around the world. He has represented India in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Sarajevo, Moscow, Rotterdam, Beijing, Shanghai, Damascus, Dubai, Delhi, Mumbai, Lahore, Medellin, Caracas, Lima, and Havana. He was a professor of English, and later, the chief executive of the Sahitya Akademi, the Indian National Academy of Literature. He was the Director of the School of Translation Studies at Indira Gandhi Open University, Delhi, and the National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. K. Satchidanandan is a Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, the State Academy of Literature. He has won thirty-four literary awards, including the National Akademi award, the World Poetry Peace Prize from the UAE, the India-Poland Friendship Medal, and the Dante Medal from Ravenna. He received a Knighthood from the Government of Italy and was in the Ladbroke final shortlist of Nobel Prize for Literature probables in 2011.


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About Zalehah Turner

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based poet, photographer, cultural journalist, and Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review (RSR). Zalehah regularly contributes articles and interviews on poetry, art, film, and new media for RSR and the UTS magazine, Vertigo. Zalehah’s poetry was projected onto the Federation Square Wall in Melbourne as part of the Overload Poetry Festivals, 2008 and 2009; exhibited at Mark and Remark ,107 Projects, Redfern in 2013; and displayed in Alice Springs and Moruya thanks to Australian Poetry Café poets, Laurie May and Janette Dadd respectively. Her poems have been published in Writing Laboratory (2013), Sotto (2013), Social Alternatives (2016), Vertigo (2016, 2017), UTS’s The Empathy Poems Project (2017) and Rochford Street Review (2017). She co-judged the New Shoots Poetry Prizes 2016 alongside, Tamryn Bennett, Artistic Director of The Red Room Company, and published the winning and highly commended poems. Zalehah is currently working on an intermedia poetry collection entitled, 'Critical condition', focused on the interstitial threshold between life and death in medical crises based on personal experience. Zalehah holds a BA in Communication with a major in writing and cultural studies from the University of Technology, Sydney where she continues to pursue pushing the boundaries of multimedia poetry in Honours (Communication- Creative Writing).

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