Before the garbage heap in the street
A hungry woman waits.
Turning her back
On the parting day’s sullen face,
Clutching at her sinking wages,
A bundle of fodder
Wrenched out of the earth
Balanced on her head,
She waits.
Late into the night
In her pitch black hut
Guarding a cold meal
She waits.

The stones her hands broke up,
The furrows of tears
She cast her seeds into,
The team that groaned
As hand-to-mouth carts lurched,
Generations that staggered and fell,
Sons who never came back,
Clans that vanished in the wild,
Treacherous pathways that turned into quicksand,
Full barns,
Empty hovels,
A goddess shrunken into an old crone.

On the hedge
The child was nursed with tears.
Hopes went to rot in the ditches like coconut husk
And returned beaten and baked by the sun.
Rushing feet crushed the handful of rice
Spilt from the beggar’s cupped hands.
The parched throat cracked up
Before the battle for water was won.

This battered woman,
My flesh and blood,
My mother.
She waits for the light that went out to return,
For a handful of rice untainted with blood,
For a piece of land untainted with greed.

Translator's Note: Kandathi is the poet’s mother's real name.