Mask and the Word
And he [Roland Barthes] is continually drawn in his search for truth to what has not previously been revealed – the inside of the mask, the reverse side of all words.
John Berger, “Roland Barthes: Inside the Mask”, Landscapes (2016)
What’s behind the mask--
The soul wears so many faces.
The mask is real.
It is the face with ever changing features.
Behind it is the one
who’s behind everything.
Meaning is the face
Word the mask.
Word is meaning’s tongue.
It opens a window on to endless horizons—
the eye of God, all-seeing.
Two sides are the same of the same coin
Word is the planet earth in space
Spinning on its own meaning.
Word is the death mask.
Inside, life lies in eternal sleep.
Translated from the Punjabi by the author with Vanessa Gebbie
The boat upholstered with croc skin sped and slipped on sea waves
taking them from their hotel to the airport.
He carried in his bag Volpi cup
the trophy for the best performance
of a sex addict who spends much of the film naked.*
He took out a red undie, smelt it and showed it to his friend.
He was not acting and looked as if had a sleepless night.
After checking-in they rushed to Departure Gate 21.
Nobody noticed who he was
and what was in the bag of the naked man.
Venice, September 2011
*Michael Fassbender in Shame.
Amarjit Chandan (b. 1946, Nairobi) lives and works in London. He has published six collections of poetry, and five books of essays in Punjabi. Four of his books are also published in the Farsi script from Lahore, West Punjab. He has edited and translated over thirty anthologies of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction by, among others, Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Vallejo, Cardenal and John Berger in Punjabi. English versions of his poems have appeared in England in various collections, including Being Here (1995, 1999, 2005) and Sonata for Four Hands, prefaced by John Berger (2010). Chandan has received several awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Language Department, Government of the Punjab, India.