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from I, Lalla - Poems of Lal Ded

translated from the Kashmiri by Ranjit Hoskote

I locked the doors of my body,

trapping the thief of life and held my breath.

Chaining him in my heart's dark cave,

I stripped off his skin with the whip of Om.

    A thousand times at least I asked my Guru

to give Nothingness a name.

Then I gave up. What name can you give

to the source from which all names have sprung?

Whoever chants Shiva's name as he walks the Swan's Way,

planting trees with no thought of the fruit,

he's won the grace of the Teacher

who is first among the Gods.

I can't believe this happened to me!

I made a mess of everything, no shore in sight.

A klutz of a mason plastered my ceiling to the floor.

Serves me right: it's time I got to know myself.

Trapping the Thief


"Perform good deeds and observe spiritual discipline. Fool, listen with gratitude.

Lovers fasten your sandals. The fool's youth slipped away unnoticed."