Sitting at the Bar

This is my quick attempt at translating a Tamil poem titled “Tequila” by Leena Manimekalai from a monthly magazine “Vikatan Thadam”. I liked it very much since it was simple and conveyed a strong feeling, beautifully. My translation is mostly word-by-word but I hope it passes the message across. Here it goes.

There, at every bar, is a man
staring blank through his half-drunk glass
and in that glass floats everything

The untold lust, betrayal of love,
the partings that are never complete,
the sex that has just been had,
the promises that had to be kept
and all those yearnings stacking up to mock at him
a pang
he shuddered, shaking the table
leaving the glass to dance and settle
spilling drops around
he passionately licked off the drops from his fingers
and sat there turning a deaf ear
to the cacophony of the crowd and everything else
he seemed to have nothing to do with them

the busboy was clearing the tables
and the server went around refilling the glasses
and returning the faces that his patrons had lost
as he moves from one table to another
over their forehead, the sides of the eyes, the cheeks
were their handprints misplaced by the liquor

Filled with failures, guilt
mercy, complaints,
pride, beauty,
the youth that has returned,
tears, celebrations, and stories
the entire bar floated
slowly like a fully-loaded coracle on a summer lake

Someone is giving and someone else is receiving
and then someone else is bearing it all
Everyone had their home under their own sky
without any shadows of friendship

There in a corner is a couple kissing
I cannot keep watching it anymore
I am thirsty
here is an empty chair
please come sit near me
I have so much to fill your glass with
a lot of words soaked in the drink
but are stronger than the drink itself
they are the secrets known to all
yet listen carefully
I shall say them all out while I am sober
before I am lost into whining
please show me some love

Original Tamil version

Tequila - Vikatan Thadam

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