Purna Vaidya's poems are translated from Nepal Bhasa, not Nepali, the national language of Nepal, but the language of the Newars, the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley.


“Water To the Brim Spills Everywhere,” “The Restless Urge For Equality,” “Mutual Quest” previously appeared in Manoa and “From The Patient's Bed” in Nimrod


Wayne's photos and poems in this issue

Winter 2002


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The introduction is an excerpt from an essay that recently appeared in The Journal of The Royal Nepal Academy

Purna Bahadur Vaidya

Purna Bahadur Vaidya, the Newar poet, has written a remarkable collection of poems in Nepal Bhasa: LA LA KHA (WATER IS WATER), a collection of 84 poems refracted through water). These intently crafted poems written over a twenty year period reflect a mind intimately involved with its own reflection as it is refracted and clarified through a single element in its manifest and various forms. Water is Vaidya's element. He sings water as Whitman sings the self. Like St. John Perse of France and Derek Walcott of the West Indies, two modern poets who have made water a voice and vehicle of their singing, Vaidya is drawn to water, but with the curiosity of an amateur naturalist and the sensibility of an innocent lover. Perse and Walcott praise the elemental and historical force of the Seas, and poets of all times have spoken metaphorically of water as they have of the other elements. Purna Vaidya speaks of water with the mirroring clarity of single moment and a single drop.

Following his lines, witnessing those moments, feeling with our own hands and seeing with our own eyes, we shift shape and shine, as water does, our consciousness refracted through these poems, yet as readers we stand apart. Were we simply drops of water, before undoing our separateness, we would be gone. Purna Vaidya recognizes our mutual dilemma. Out of the dialectics of his involvement with this singular and manifest element, he offers himself and us an inner dimension of experience to rely upon. What he expresses we share, and if we learn to look at the world as he does, we know what it is to feel revelation at hand in each moment of living.

Water Is Water

Water —
never blocks the light —
its ever moving skin
radiates; its single vision parsed into colors
explicates what's embodied
within light

That rainbow
water sketches on a blue slate
is a disquisition —
— what is and what is seen
borne forth in their fullness
by light

Me? — That very drop!
that attempts to write of light:
self emergent; the enlivened heat of it,
and the gentleness
resplendent on its surface
To express that
in the vastness outside itself

Water To The Brim Spills Everywhere

Water to the brim
     spills everywhere
With barely a whisper
rippling it flees
With a finger's touch
     it's ready to empty itself

As unexpressed desire
     held back by ripples of shame
as unbound youth
     ever eager to flow
at any time or place,
     brimming water spills

Before flowing
     it cannot decide
which way to go
     But, once it flows
retreat's not considered
     Unbounded by its origins
its nature embodies
     the pleasure of flowing

Topping the brim,
     it cannot stay
without moving

The Restless Urge For Equality

Before moving
water rounds itself and begins
to rise ever so slightly,
discerning where the land
slopes before it, where depth
lies. While the world
gives it flow, direction, speed,
as always, water's intention
is to fill and raise

Where boundaries create you and me,
where between yours and mine obstacles arise
it rebels

Gathering strength it flows,
and wherever it flows
as day follows day, walls collapse,
boundaries are overcome

In the absence of boundaries and obstacles
we see wider land Where water calmly, naturally,
moves on

This struggle reveals to me
that the character of the land is uneven
Tempered by the speed of the flow,
my own innate desire
     is the equality I seek

Mutual Quest

Unless I am as naked as water,
I cannot sense
its touch throughout
my body

I experience the warmth,
the pressure

Through touch
I know my own heat
given over

What holds me fears
being fire, and
I fear those icy claws

To meet somewhere between
that's our mutual quest, our meeting point

From the Patient's Bed

Clawtoothed solitude . . .
more time than needed.
Endless nights awaiting the dawn.
Stilled, I devour raw time.

What else to do
But cast the net of sleep
to snare dreams
Though I cannot awaken them,
though I sweat for trying.
I can't vivify what isn't.
How am I to get by without dream?
These unfulfilled desires,
this mirage.

Room full of time . . . of smoke
that slinks across the ceiling and leaks out
the window . . . water,
uselessly overflowing a rooftop tank.

This, all that's before me
to be drawn forth by the brush:
my irrepressible self portrait.
All I can do is erase the strokes as they fall,
an artist flailing against his element,
a child tearing a boon of a thousand rupees into pieces.
What feast is this? What child am I?
Time my solitary toy!

In the patient's bed, a midwife to time,
I want to hold on to a portion; infuse my words with it,
Thrust my hands into the mud of the paddy field,
planting what will bring forth
my feelings.
Like seeds that will sprout tomorrow,
my voice, enlivened in these few words,
makes itself known. Can't you see
how much time is tasted in these words! How much
life's colors are there to be seen!

Bodhi Tree

A broad banyan
at the pond's eastern corner stands
for thousands of years
nurturing, raising within this greenery,
an umbrella,
awaiting the Awakened one

Just glancing at the pond
it sees its image hanging upside down
Waves ripple through what can be seen,
hastening it to the bank. Still the banyan stands,
its image, heightened green
as in an inescapable

At any time, bulls
can come by, rubbing horns
against the tree at rest
in samadhi. Without reason,
with hooves to the earth,
they forcefully push against the Bodhi tree
breaking the ground where they stand
From branches doves flee——
a void that vomits the emptiness of fear
The tree's anxious, senseless
breath ceases

In this contrary weather
storm returns. Hail raps its head
Lightning raises its rod
beating the Bodhi tree without reason
Weather's anger through madness of storm
tossing it to and fro,
snapping fingers and hands
The tree bears these cruel acts,
bowing its head.
Everywhere violence pours down

Since that is so, the Bodhi tree
through love and kindness,
wants to secure a place, shady and green,
for the Buddha. That's why it bears all
with bent head,
never moving from that spot

When the winds tugs its hands,
the tree bends.
I hear weeping with the wind
How the sensible becomes senseless
Hands acting out absurdities
hew branches to burn
for their own meat—laden stew
From every spot where hands and fingers
were chopped through
I see some kind of white liquid
blood continually flowing

Cruelly, with human
blindness, how the hand and ax are raised
throughout its body, the Bodhi tree
like my own heart

Translations by
Wayne Amtzis Wayne Amtzis with the author