SICKBED 5, by RABINDRANATH TAGORE
November 4, 1940
Under this vast universe
pain’s mill wheel rotates,
grinds planets and stars to powder.
Sparks flash, scatter
suffering on every side,
ash-webs from annihilated worlds
permeating in an instant.
In the mills of oppression,
in cells of luminous consciousness,
pikes and knives clank,
The tiny human body—
infinite, its power to face pain.
In the assembly of creation and annihilation,
this small vessel of blood
offered to the Tantric circle
reels, drunken, rapturous.
The clay cup of the body fills
with incoherent blood, floods with tears.
Every moment unfolds unending
worth to consciousness, invincible.
The body’s pain-hallowed fire,
the offering sacrificed to ascetic acts of stars,
Such enduring vigor,
compassion without fear,
indifference to death,
such triumphant processions:
assemblies trampling beds of flame
to find pain’s limits—
on a fevered, unnamed pilgrimage,
together, from path to path,
penetrating caves of fire, to find care’s origins,
provisions of unending love.
First Published in The Kenyon Review, Volume 23 #2