Century-end Prayer

Let the arctic birds,
friendly with polar winds,
have an easy time of it, Lord,
for the next hundred years.
I don’t even know
if there are any arctic birds.
I am as ignorant
about bird-life near the Poles
as birds are about good and evil.
I wish my ignorance could also be
equated with innocence.

But my prayers are not hooked
to some mariner’s compass;
and when I start walking down
with my back to the Pole Star,
I lead my prayers by the hand.
And here in warm-rain country
let the rhinoceros
trundle through mire
and the next millennium
and the next.
May the beaver and the porcupine
burrow their way
to their underground haven
and may the elephant shed his tusks
so that we don’t shed his blood.

And a small skylight prayer, Lord:
may the sparrow know glass
from the crisp air outside.

by Keki N. Daruwalla

© Keki N. Daruwalla, 2008

Keki N. Daruwalla is one of India’s leading English-language writers. Born in 1937 in Lahore, Daruwalla has published nine volumes of poetry. ‘Century-end Prayer’ comes from The Glass-Blower: Selected Poems, a book published by Arc in 2008 and which collects poems from all of the poet’s previous collections. Keki Daruwalla has won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia. His Collected Poems: 1970-2005 appeared from Penguin India in 2006. He is also the author of three volumes of short stories, a novella, two collections of poetry for children and, more recently, the travelogue Riding the Himalayas (2006). Daruwalla is also well-known as a writer on international affairs, having served in both the Indian Police Service and in a number of positions within the civil service, including Special Assistant to the Prime Minister. He was part of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the Zimbabwe elections in 1980, and at the time of his retirement was Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in India. For more information about Daruwalla, click here or here. You can listen to him reading his work here.

Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, click here.

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