Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry
Haggard and raggedy, he is the child of sorrow
Persevering through rainstorms and tyrant sunshine
Taking languid steps he empties every hope of a smile
Picks a meal or two from garbage cans
Waiting in street corners he strums the guitar
Festivals impart the helping hands.
Street dogs look up to him
Not so much for rescue as for leading
They work together innocuously and sleep under derelict roofs.
He's your vermin you throw food at
Even the pavements aren't free and you needn't be anywhere on earth.
AT BTW, Dighalipukhuri (May '17)
"What was it we read the day before we parted?"
they came and they went, like brief envelopes drenched in neon light
parting with their night clubs and parties, for slam poetry and soft music
indistinct shadows in the lounge, their faces the colour of cigarette smoke
discussing in whispers when the itinerary would unfold
away from the din and bustle of waiting taxis and uncertain jobs
of the world where language behaves ordinarily
like linear railway tracks
(in the absence of metaphors speech is a cesspool of letters)
and without any pause, a lilting voice of the past
donning a checkered shirt with full beard uttered in a sort of a yawn
"we were schoolmates, remember..."
i caught the sound waves and became stiff at his casual words
spoken without fondness or nostalgia
very briefly, we halted our minds on the past balcony of school life
and gracefully separated and settled down inside the cafeteria
filled with the aroma of coffee and perfume
plunging into rendezvous with strangers
well-accustomed to the nuances of city chats
(which don't have to mean anything)
clutters of virtual correspondence drowned in information exchange
then, the recitations began
mostly by girls discussing heartbreaks, the music of inspiration, feminist agenda,
the angst of rape, hopes and disappointments, something about flowers i cannot recall
against the mellow spring rain and cameras;
i recited too, sitting on the platform,
trying to connect organically to the listeners
like an inert familiar dream
of disjointed images about loss and longing
apart from much else that was taut about life
which kept growing inside my head like a lonely tumour
reminding me of poetry not recited today
but in another world another time.
The Dry Wipe
On paper thirsty for fluid
I spell out to my students with impatient brushes
Watercolours often behaved as an old man staggering uphill.
Excitedly in a rush to please,
They dip their sable brushes in water
As clear and transparent as glass wiped dry.
Seconds before the tips reach their sheets' grainy surface
I advice them as a wet-blanket with clear intention
They do not want too much water-
Unless they feel adept at controlling bloated paper.
And I think, as they look confused and disappointed
About years of trying my hand at perfecting
My painting, keeping you compressed and folded
In every fearful cloud or tree or mountain I drew;
Feeling, too little or too much control of those colours
Could mean your absence-
As visible as amateur art.
I see my students won't learn a thing or two today
Their sketches are smudgy and puffy,
They are too new to be comfortable with strokes
That won't always work with a dry wipe
Gathered in hindsight.
For several years we buttoned our skies
But the horizon
collapsed quietly, anyway.
I picked up the clouds
You dispersed through the storm.
Inside the brickless house
I watched my solitude pantomime me
While the river broke the dykes gorged upon all your gifts.
Outside in our forgotten village by the stream's ends
Storks have caught death easily
With skeletal fishermen I still row recklessly
Catch sullied fish carelessly
Return home, gamble with darkness and tread not towards dangerous hope.
You were the one who never believed in timetables
See how far you have gone.
Do you recall dreaming untiringly?
Across waterlogged bridges and infested marshes?
Do you cringe thinking about dying paddy fields and jaundiced eyes?
Perhaps dull sky-high apartments fare better than rich poverty
Gifted by your clients after hours of intercourse
I don't see how you've gone.
About the poet
Kaustabh Kashyap occasionally pens poems, short stories and articles for publication. His poems have appeared in VAYAVYA, a tri-annual online journal, short-stories in The Bengaluru bi-monthly Reading Hour and The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Assam. He also contributes articles on contemporary issues for The Assam Tribune. He is a NET-JRF awardee in English Literature and plans to pursue research in the field of disability studies. He currently resides in his hometown Guwahati, Assam.