Hrishikesh Srinivas

The Ferryman
a translation of Émile Verhaeren’s poem ‘Le passeur d’eau’ from Les Villages illusoires

The ferryman,
            hands at the oars
Against the tide           
                                    so very long,
a green reed    
            between the teeth                     heaved on.

            But she who hailed him,
                                                            Out there
                                                beyond the waves,
                                    Always further on, there
                        beyond the waves
            Amidst mists
fell back.

The windows with their eyes
And the clock faces of towers on the bank
Watched him toil and persist
Torso in two plied
Muscles in spasm.

A sudden oar’s breaking
            The current’s for the taking,
                        In gravid waves, toward the ocean.

            She out there who
                                                hailed him
                                                            In the mists and in the wind
                                                seemed to him
                                    To twist
                        her arms dearer
            At his getting
no nearer.

The ferryman with
            remaining oar
Went at his work so
His whole body cracked with
            the graft
His heart shook with
            fever and terror.

In a swift blow the rudder’s breaking
                        The current’s for the taking,
                                                Doleful tail rag, toward the ocean.

The windows on the river est.,
Like wide and febrile eyes
And the clock faces of towers, old wives
Thousands on thousands on the riverbanks upright
Were stubbornly set on
This loggerhead, in his wanton
Prolonging of his mad quest.

            She out there
                                                who hailed him
                                                            In the mists cried,
                                                cried to him
                                    Her head
                        frighteningly prone
            To the exp-
anse unknown.

The ferryman, as if made of bronze
            In the white storm stemmed
With the single oar between his hands
            Beat on the tides, bit at the tides, even then.
His old imagined instances
            Lit up the distances
Whence still came her cries
            Pitiful, beneath cold skies. 

The remaining oar’s breaking
                                    The current’s for the taking,
                                                                        Like stover, toward the ocean.

The ferryman, arms down, worn
            on his seat collapsed forlorn,
haunches torn in futile labor.
                                    A jolt hit his vessel adrift
He saw behind him the bank’s lift:
            he hadn’t left               the shore.

The windows and the clock tower dials
With their wide, unsullied eyes
Took note of his plight of passion
                                    But the wily old ferryman
Kept, till God knows when,
            The reed between his teeth                  ever green.

The Fountain
a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Vergers poem 26 ‘La Fontaine’

one lesson
I only want the                         that’s yours,
Fountain, who back                 onto yourself falls, —
precarious waters
That of                                                             to whom befalls
This heavenly                          toward earthly life

As much as                              myriad murmur
None would begin to                                                   serve me exemplar;
oh light column                        of the temple
   itself                                                                            of its own
Destroying                                                                                                       nature.

In your                         how flexes
Each water flume         ending its dance.
How I find myself                   a pupil, amanuensis
To your            nuance

But what more than your song sets me on you
Is that moment of silence in delirium
When at night              across             your liquid move
Your own return passes, breath taken.

Hrishikesh Srinivas hails from Sydney, Australia. He enjoys reading and writing poetry, with poems having appeared or forthcoming in UNSWeetened Literary Journal, Hemingway's Playpen, Otoliths and Mantis. He was awarded the Dorothea Mackellar National Poetry Award in 2011 and the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Youth Award in 2013, also being included in the 'Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape and Memory in Eltham' 2016 exhibition catalogue. He is currently a graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford University, USA.
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