Those thatched huts, which looked
like the prone earth’s pregnant belly,
had turned into ashen ground.
When dawn broke with the smoke rising,
the villagers rushed there in a throng.
These are sparrows, they said
These are children, they said.
Are these women? But
these are calves, they said.
They found the sacred remains
of all that was singed overnight –
except civilization’s creed.
Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the Tamil poem, Keezha Venmani by Gnanakoothan
Originally published in “India in Verse”, The Little Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6, New Delhi, 2011