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

Purabi Bhattacharya

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

 one hopes

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[1] to an ailing air.

It’s peak summer night, “this is the time to work. Daytime is aplenty

of nothingness

while munching on thepla, rotla, receiving news of deaths

from neighbourhood, guzzling chaas[2]. 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.

 

 

 

[1] Gujarati folk song

[2] buttermilk

 

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.

 

 

Forsaken Leaves

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

every sunset

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 Ode

 

aromatic

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.

 

 

 

nude

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.

 

 

 

fresh

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.

 

 

Barren Courtyard

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,

or

is it the last?

 

 

 

Nefelibata

 

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

 your love-children.

 

 

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.

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Published by The Alternative.