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

Deeptesh Sen

My Friend’s Professor

 

My friend’s professor is a thorough gentleman.

 

I have heard he never misses the early morning lecture

at half past eight.

 

He arranges his textbooks with geometric precision,

dusts off the morning from his blazer

with careful nonchalance

 

and with cold affection

launches a tirade on patriarchy.

 

Four hours later,

the morning growing old,

Beauvoir, Kristeva and hooks

lead the long march on the whiteboard.

 

My friend’s professor is a thorough gentleman.

 

So he spends his evenings at the CCD

sipping his latte and using the free WiFi

to scroll through Facebook

 

The evening azaan throws up dark shadows

that slowly stumble into the café

and occupy the empty chairs. My friend’s professor

hotly debates #MeToo with them

 

his support uncompromising

as they shield meaning from the silences

and dwell over the politics of adjectives –

woman or female?

 

At half past nine,

the shadows stumble out

in an ideological daze

and melt into the hunger of the metropolis.

 

My friend’s professor is a thorough gentleman.

 

Without his partner, he supports his daughter

and even allows her to live her own life.

 

His daughter — he had told her once,

when she was little and afraid of ghosts,

that there are no monsters in the closet

but only wronged humans waiting to come out.

 

My friend’s professor is a thorough gentleman.

 

At night, he explains to his daughter

the true meaning of empowerment

 

and in a moment of flickering urgency,

drops his trousers and quietly says:

Come to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Is Coming

 

It always feels strange when October comes.

I sometimes sit observing the fireflies trapped

in the ritual of light, their wings vacillating like

drowned speech before an abrupt ending. I try

to shield meaning from the silences that greet me

with sharp derision. Outside a thin girl pretends

to feed her neighbour’s cat, stealing casual glances

at my bedroom window. Like a strained afterthought,

her subversion crafts an island in the air

amidst the Hindustani classical that wades in with the

shrill whistle of the pressure-cooker from the kitchen.

Mother walks in, the wholeness of her face buried

within the trace of a batik shawl, closes the window

with allegorical sweetness and says,

“Winter is coming.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ritual

 

The tragedy of the afternoon

takes a turn for the worse

as the doctor enters the room.

 

With practised indifference,

he asks the bleeding woman to relax,

lie down softly on the table

and slowly spread her legs.

 

Women in flowing, white robes

throw a magic circle around her,

repeating again and again

the same prayer in her sleep:

 

May the little one find a place in heaven, they sang,

may her blood purge her sins of seven births.

Rest in peace. Amen.

 

Between her legs

a soft world trembles asleep,

but nimble fingers with conviction

don’t fail to find a way through.

 

And round and round

the women dance in her sleep,

their chanting rising —

 

May the little one find a place in heaven,

may her blood purge her sins of seven births.

 

The scalpel and scissors seep through

the wild, rhythmic incantations

and the soft skin of the evening

peeling away beneath her layers of sleep.

 

Through her legs they at last find

the unformed head,

or a part of it;

 

and with somewhat of a satisfactory smile,

the weapons of healing pull out the remainder

with a triumphant gesture!

 

A sinner, a fleshball, they sang

that would’ve blossomed into a woman,

to have fed and bled and grown heavy

on her father’s fortunes every day!

 

We stopped the danger, Hail Mary!

they sang,

and plucked the fruit

before her story began.

 

And round and round

the women dance in her sleep

drawing the circles of birth and death,

 

as the key slowly turns in the lock

and the footsteps carrying blood on the scalpel

leave the room.

 

Bathe the body with herbs and oil,

fumigate the wounds with incense sticks

and offer her as a sacrifice to the Gods

in atonement for sins of her seven births.

 

Round and round

all through the night

the women dance in her sleep.

 

May the little one find a place in heaven,

may her blood purge her sins of seven births.

 

Prayers wearing thin,

the woman softly groans

as she turns in her sleep.

 

Someone throws open the curtains

and lets the morning flood in.

 

 

About the poet

Deeptesh Sen is currently pursuing his PhD in English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He is also a journalist of the Times of India. His book of poems titled House of Song was published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata in 2017. His poetry has been published in The Statesman, Kolkata, the Journal of Poetry Society, India, the Stare’s Nest and the Crab Fat Literary Magazine. He blogs at www.deeptesh.net.

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Published by The Alternative.