Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry
No Time to Grieve
and just about the time of quarantined quiet, through the window mesh
cracks a cry and that rings the bell. House no.162 patient zero passed away
handing over the baton to his young son and his 92 plus mother,
the carriers have no time to grieve. Between the sheets
in separate containers, folding fading memories,
cloistered from where and when their journey
began somewhere in early1928
the grandmother suffers from amnesia, sparing her of the pain
of coming back to an evacuated edifice.
It is an owlish hour. Past midnight, Baldev Kaka mows the lawn
as he sets free a long dayro to an ailing air.
It’s peak summer night, “this is the time to work. Daytime is aplenty
while munching on thepla, rotla, receiving news of deaths
from neighbourhood, guzzling chaas. This is the recent routine.” He says.
The tears have no place to flow into. We emptied the rivers,
emptied its innards, emptied our hearts
emptied the fishbone of our story.
 Gujarati folk song
On One of the Walls
Here we are in a man-made riverfront. The river abhors us. Soon we’ll
see it make the walled city its own. (Majority hope for.) Soon, we shall
see a recycled film: of shoddy jobs with shabby babus in lead roles.
“Lies in the making” reads
a graffiti of lime on one of the walls.
These are the shush times and everything must be seen only to be forgiven.
I can see bottlenecked violence even in the eyes of school-going children, forget adults
forget the soaring temperature, forget where they are, forget if they are migrants. Hunger,
reminds them: they are human.
Why does it always need to be pronounced, always loud,
always to thump the desks, doors, walls, pelt stones to the point of becoming a rebel,
just our scream to reach where it must, I am no less a human?
Line of a devotional song deafens me: “with follies and fineness, all are humans
say, who judges whom?” It’s Monday morning, the city and the cemetery look like identical
twins. Through a dusting hour, a herd of blue bull run across an otherwise busy highway
the bull and the bear sunburned, hang over round the corner. Remedy, reads a hoarding
is in social distancing. Fear like our finger nails chugs along.
Maa, I think of you and shamelessly confess- the distance devours me.
As I say this, instantly, mosses from train tracks clear up, colour green
in all shades usher in, cranes fly in and out of fenland,
flutes and drum begin to inveigle me. Seeing you
was another lifetime, it seems.
The neem tree behind me, solemnly registers
transaction of words: official, unofficial
the latter endearing: all those away
now near, is a selfless amigo. What we have
today are the pickled moments, protected from Indian Summer.
The world is going bald
with a strong smell of burning fleshes, fallen hair
fly around with forsaken leaves.
Time hibernates. The nights intoxicate
the poets and the night guard alike
how one sickness stunts the world,
how all of us
now get together
mourn for the silverfish swallowed days, we spent
ruminating on saturated schedules
less worthwhile. We no more
need to sing the blue
for the vanishing,
we have been sentenced to such sequence.
another crescent night. And the comforter
smells of henna, the phony roses, a diamond brooch, some pashmina silk robes
arranged at random in verses, he keeps promising he’d write someday.
natal night lies robbed of the fragrance, her own. Easy, on her creamy back
she stealthily walks past with grace, into the textured waning hour. Touch her
he sees her ablate and cascade into thin air. Snow fresh prayer.
flesh-ossein tale, fish-tail braid opening, making way for
mystery lust high, between no whisper and perspiry minerals
water lily wells forth in waterbed rehearsing for the split. Another bilawal breaks in.
Tonight, squeezed and sweaty bodies man my dream. It is bustling with
small townsfolk- distant, places- remote.
Unsettled brawls fill the space,
they need no well-laid table to fight around. I see all of them
sheltered by their highly connected past: their native ancestral home
their aunts, uncles, grandparents, physicians, musicians, unread poets
held together in one bulky noise.
It is about the glut of people;
like the pigeons
collecting the strewn grains in the Shahibaug enclosure
I fear a lathi charge,
tell’em father, we are knocked
by an obligatory parasite; villages, cities, towns bleached
averting anecdotal growth
tell them to sever their childhood fights, right now, right here
in the barren courtyard
now home to serpents and their preys alike.
The annual cocoon time is back again,
my eyes wide open, washed by sweat salt
wiped off a hurriedly aborted dream.
In no time soon, the birth of a day will spawn fictitious chronicles
and the memories of those strangers in my dream will seep into the bone-dry earth.
Nests in My Ponytail
In middle of the night, the four quarters of the universe shrink
from one wall to another, impish noun bares its fang. I cannot see
how stars saltate from one corner to another, like the lizards.
I used to in my early childhood. I have not spoken of my fear since then,
but they have made nests in my ponytail.
Sometimes, telling a story gets monotonous as the murmur of a baked forest
in a hot summer noon. Sound of the sterile wind
passing by dry twigs
means less a life.
sixteen summers buckled under the saffron mill, sixteen more to add or subtract,
is it the last?
You were always a newborn nefelibata
waiting for some cotton clouds to bloom
in the little leftover space, around the cottage
you wanted the door to open out into a lawn of vanishing daisies
You thought someday you could
turn it into your meadows of love.
You managed a muse nearby,
and through sophic stare you thought
you took consent.
In years to come, you only made notes
the sun stretched long, short, disappeared;
the clouds made of letters were where they have been,
in plain sheet of paper.
You barely cough out the lump
with each beedi you smoked
to lighten the air, one by one every letter took to their heels
to reach where they must. The pyre never stopped steaming.
You like a lad of ten and ten, waited for years
for the right tools. You were never getting old
never wearied of holding up tragedies.
The valley was yours. The weeds it’s wilderness around
So many stories untold stay secured in the under-eye brown fats.
But all you could do
was to slit the orange embers from the funeral pyres
keep a watch on all
who sneaked out, hissing, breathing the last time
escape into the broiling ghats where bodies meet bodies
and share a hearty laugh.
In these many years
with many summers, many, many winters on your heavier side
daydreaming chándal, you have come to attend the dead well.
About the poet
Purabi Bhattacharya is from Shillong, North -East India and two books young both of which have been published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata, India. She debuted in the year 2015 with Call Me followed by her second collection Sand Column in the year 2019. She now works out of Gandhinagar, Guwahati and Shillong, India. Her poetry, articles, reviews appear both in print, online journals and elsewhere. She also remains an English enthusiast faculty.