“”[Half the night passes]” by Bhartrihari, translated by Andrew Schelling


Half the night passes
on a far-off
lonely porch
legs and arms tangled in pleasure.
What a thirst the madhuca wine
gives me.
She pours autumn rainwater
out of a small clay jar,
her arms tremble like
evening creepers.
Moonlight shatters against the spout.
It’s a bad luck man
who never gets to drink
like this.
The madhuca (bassia latifolia) or honey tree. Its flowers fermented with molasses produce a rich wine.


Two Bhartriharis are known to India. One was a mystical grammarian who wrote an important linguistic treatise, the Vākyapadīya. The other Bhartrihari, a poet, left between two hundred and seven hundred poems. A Chinese Buddhist pilgrim to 7th century India, I-Tsing, noted the name Bhartrihari in his travel Journals. He heard that grammarian and poet were the same man.

Andrew Schelling is a poet and translator, wilderness advocate, and student of persecuted languages. He has published twenty books and lives in the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion, where he teaches at Naropa University.