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

Sharmila Ray

Distances

 

Distances are blurred horizons

and carry smell of ruined hills.

Distances create distances of their own

and arrival or departure repose in a mausoleum.

Distances are worlds unto themselves where everything

is orchestrated into a mirage-symphony of images.

 

 

New Dawn

 

In retrospect our handshake that afternoon in February

was a wind tossed chocolate.

The interval between holding and letting go of your hand

was an unwritten work of fiction.

Lunch was laid around a small vase with sunflowers

and the distance between two chairs was insignificant.

The flowers were stretching to touch your eyelids

and I mastered enough self confidence

to make the dictionary of everydayness normal…

 

Tonight I stare at the pink moon trying to visualize the

space beyond seven heavens, quarantined in my flat.

Like papa Plato I prefer introspection.

In between I wash my hands a hundred times.

In between the memory of our entwined fingers pops up.

It seems surreal like Magritte’s painting.

 

I don’t want to imagine that our next handshake will be bone dry

accompanied by drops of sanitizer. Fragile fingertips trembling,

our gloved hands hardly registering the warmth.

 The facemask will bar the flowers stretching to touch

your eyelids.

 

In the meantime, I am looking at Matisse’s painting-le bonheure de vivre,

hydrated by cadmium and intense unmodulated colours.

Let the interval between isolation and anticipation turn to invisible plaited bond.

And when the Universe stops raining tears

the sky azure-lilac,

we shall hold hands again

once again we will hold hands

once again…

 

 

15.15 Tube from Park Street …

 

15.15 pm- Tube from Park Street

stealthily moving among mute coldness and 

moist shadows.

She was on that train.

 

16.15 pm- Among pillow and bathing darkness,

hungry bodies spilling at the core and 

she the heart of the blessed bed.

 

It was nothing but a falling autumn leaf.

It was nothing but a dent in the mattress.

It was nothing really,

maybe, gold and chalcedony

or perhaps the unfurnished light

of late September…

 

12 midnight-Yet it seems just now.

 

 

Stones of Gwalior Fort

 

Once here, the stones half defaced by lichen now,

were witness to stories of death and resurrection.

Now covered in darkness and tree roots, they are

drunk with absence and shadows of transient things.

Assorted storylines are embedded in their pores awaiting 

a perceptible traveler.

 

One day, perhaps, the stones will speak 

emerging from bleeding night

luminous with sprouted new leaves.

 

 

Open Letter to My Dear City


 

My dear city,

 in which name shall I call you

Kalikata, Calcutta or Kolkata?

You must be laughing, because Kalikata was never a city

and Kolkata a new name.

What you are is what was Calcutta.

History remembers you against wind and indifference.

In the purple-pink of the evening you saw your cosmopolitanism

going down earth-chutes and third rate settlements cropping

on your foreskin jamming your pores with concrete all in the

name of politics and vote bank.

 

But I love you

I want to count the moles on your face and

breathe deeply the honey-mint of your breath.

 

Should I invent a new language?

Tracing a line from your forehead down to your lips

and then to your heart which is now warm and cruel

like the enigma of oxymoron, I want to nestle there-

 sweet poison, corked and carefully preserved.

Can you see the dark and then sudden shafts of light?

Can you live again those poems and metaphors

that haunts the fold of our flesh?

 

There is no answer.

Silence.

My language turns to hieroglyphs.

Time whitewashes coat after coat

For me, dear Calcutta let you be a thin line

between dreaming and waking.

Yours…

 

 

Nib

 

Under  the shade of a lamp the black gold pen looks at its nib

aware that it has locked centuries of magic alphabets

 whose DNA lingers inside dried ink.

Seen retrospectively, cities, towns, events, accidents, names, numbers,

movements, gestures, stories, myths, are all words grafted

on relentless time.

The nib dreams, extending and linking to other infinite nibs.

 

Flirting with Euripides in Athens or Camus in absinthe scented Tipasa, 

remaining alone with Calvino in impossible landscapes and meditating

 with Tagore, it is conscious of the powers of gods and demons 

in whose shadow cities bloom and men make history.

 

Without saying a word, it forms words, mysteriously outliving

the mortal body.

 

 

Home

 

I do not care for the many discourses on home. But I do feel home is where mother is. Home is where you want to rush after a hectic day. Home is a niche an embrace, a dialogue with the self where there is no censor no hidden eye. Home is a lover waiting for your return, in silence creating a small universe for you. 

    Home is inside and all around us. The moment you enter the threshold it dissolves the metal in your soul and like a prophet you turn water into wine burden into lightness. All proper nouns loose meaning. You follow the song your heart sings, a soundless melody while your oneness makes all things shimmer and you become a pilgrim of art.

   Travelling long distances across continents and oceans, deep sleep and insomnia, home is a space awaiting its messiah. A place where you stand like a god, cry like a child, desire like a lover, bathe in the radiance of Orion to be aligned with the beauty of the lotus.

   Home is where darkness leaps from the window sill to let in the bird of light. The ovulation of warmth creates cozy corners while ancestors from dusty albums smile As street lamps come to life in the evening and light from the sky dims, one realises home is a single flickering glow within us.

 

 

 

 

About the poet

Dr.Sharmila Ray is a poet and non-fiction essayist, writing in English and anthologized and featured in India and abroad. Her poems, short stories and non-fictional essays have appeared in various national and international magazines and journals. She is an Associate Professor of the Department of History at City College, Kolkata. She has authored nine books of poetry, co-edited an anthology of Indian poets writing in English and American poets-Bridging Continents. She was on the English Board of Sahitya Akademi. She conducted poetry workshops organized by British Council, Poetry Society of India, Sahitya Akademi.. She has been reading her poems in India and abroad.. Her poems have been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Slovene, Hebrew and Spanish. She has taken part in International Poetry festivals.

      She has received awards for poetry from Green Tara Initiatives, 2018, from All India Qaumi Ekta Manch, 2019 and from Ethos Journal 2019.

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Published by The Alternative.