Mangalesh Dabral - Torchlight

Back when I was a child
my father once brought home a torch
the patterns on its glass somewhat like headlights of today’s cars
It was the first machine of light in our parts
as its beam fell, like a miracle night parted into two.

One morning a granny from the neighbourhood appeared at the door
—Son, give me a little fire from this machine to light my stove.
Father smiled—Auntie, this has no fire, just the light
We switch it on only in the dark night to make
the rugged mountain paths visible.
Oh—the grandma said—how good it would be if there were some fire too
as night falls I worry for making the fire in the morning.
Father fell silent for a long moment.

After all these years that light from the torch
the granny’s demand of fire and father’s helplessness keep returning
like a poem in the irony of our time.