Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry

Bidyut Bhusan Jena

You Grow Like Trees

As fog patterns the path 
to the cremation ground, 
you fall as water droplets 
along the track of my vision,
now restless, now still like the
waters of the ancestral pond.

November, the month of
gnawing emptiness, teases the
rusted strings of one's being
by bringing you from across
the paddy fields of memory. 

As the mango trees look on,
you escape the chanting of
the family priest and as waters
return to the eyes that you 
had lent me years ago.

And silently flows Kharasua with
the songs of this patch of land 
where you all grow like trees. 






The Bicycle 

The bicycle still leans against the mossy wall under
the village end old asvattha, with deflated tyres,
rusted body, bent rims, lost spokes and silent bell.
It leans against the mossy wall half buried in sand.

I go there, when the day softens into dusk;
when the birds return to the asvattha with the day's dirge
on their tired wings that hide the residue of the conversation 
between the paddy field and the farmer whose son died from snakebite.

After the rain bathes the bicycle, the tender leaves of asvattha
play with it all day long with the frogs under its drip-drop. 
Go there in summer and you’ll see goats, dogs and cows rubbing 
themselves against the bicycle and resting under the asvattha.

When crickets turn the nights into a prehistoric song,
the pages of the village’s story book are turned. 
The tyres inflate, the rims stand straight, the
spokes find their holes in the dark and the music 
of the bell calls up songs of forgotten pyres.

Don’t be in a hurry to pay it a visit, for the
bicycle will be there for many a season to come.
Except the wind, the sun, the rain, the tender leaves
of asvattha, frogs, goats, dogs, cows and the village bull,
no one else can ever touch it, for they say its owner has been 
guarding it even years after he came under a stray truck.



Creation Myth

A separate sky is being woven for you
with a separate sun stitched to it;
a separate sea with 
horizons on all its sides.

Just listen to me and wait on your
frozen boat for some more ages.

After all his world-wily ways,
a weary traveller is on his way
through the forest of this night
across which you wait on your
frozen boat on the cursed sea. 

With the touch of his feet will
melt away the burden of your years;
and the ageing ice of your sea.

Believe me, for I have heard it all
in uninterrupted prophecies. 







The other night the molten moon
dropped through the chinks in the thatch.

In another era,
mother had told him that
the moon was his uncle. 

Years have elapsed since his uncle
was placed on pyre on a moonlit night, and
his mother did not return from across the river –
an undulating stretch, where the moon reigned;
and the storm had withered the leaves of
of the old banyan, through which
he had seen the moon of that night.

While collecting the moondrops 
in his cracked earthen pan,
he saw uncle in it for the first time and
wished mother was there to see him too.

Too much thinking numbed his senses;
and the beggar fell asleep hungry,
with the pan of molten moon by his side. 




A Photograph 

Those moments melted away like the
cubes of ice in a glass of Old Monk.

Like perfume in the air,
the smoke of their cigarettes was lost in the
ghazals of Mehdi Hassan that lay brooding
in the region between longing and loss.

And after the pitter-patter,
on the window was the residue
of the evening’s rain. 

Some moments are woven like memories.
Some friendships are preserved like pain. 


Hampi - I

You must become Hampi
before you decide to visit it.
Or else it would elude you.

You may devour history books;
or listen to its stories from many a mouth,
yet Hampi would forever remain a mystery. 

No one can tell you how to,
but you must become Hampi yourself.
Or just begin an unplanned journey to it,
and somewhere on the way you will become it.

You mustn’t carry a road-map with you 
or hire a competent guide.
Hampi will direct you to it 
by whispering a time into your being – 
a different order of time, which is. 


She Does Not Interpret

Carrying the baby inside,
the mother-cat walks the day. 
But you can't see.

She knows the nests of the sparrows,
the shoal of fish under the limpid waters,
the baby mangoes falling into the pond and
the summer breeze in the bamboo clump.

But you can't see.

And when the night arrives hiding behind
the mango and tamarind trees,
she patiently sits on half-walls covered with 
years of moss, looking at the moon.

But you can't see,
for you interpret;
and she doesn't.




Packets of Insecurity

You stood across the
rain of fourteen years. 

Opening the door wide 
you let me into your
dilapidated ancestral house. 

Nothing much had changed.

The painting by Van Gogh
still adorned the cracked wall
next to the photograph of 
your late parents. 

The curls still played with
the mole under your right ear.
You still wore bindi of the
same colour and liked tea
with an extra spoon of sugar.

The rain and the pattern of
our breathing assured me that 
the years gone by in the scheme 
of things meant nothing.

We were not the banks of
a boatless river after all. 

After dinner when you offered
me as libation to the brooding rain,
from the corner of my eyes I 
saw the used packets of insecurity
in your old trash can. 





About the poet

Bidyut Bhusan Jena writes in English and Odia – his mother tongue. Some of his poems and other writings have earlier been published in various literary magazines, journals and newspapers like Rock Pebbles, Muse India, The Hans India, The Eastern Times and The Sambad. His first book of poems, Pages (2019) has been published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata. He is from a village by the river Kharasrota (fondly, Kharasua) in Odisha. 

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Published by The Alternative.