219/1 AJC Bose Road, Kolkata

He swears he will not poke
the past again;
his niece knows that just around
any corner of the street,
he will.
He is a raconteur,
yet to be exorcised of gilded memory.
The morning was spent scouring
College Street for Bangladeshi poetry,
sipping coconut-water at Park Street
and he seemed passionate
until they refused to let him enter
the hallowed gates of his college,
cordoned off for the Chief Minister’s visit.
He tried his obsolete charms
on the gate keeper
to coax his way ‘just once’
into that sacred place.
The girl whisked him off
before things got ugly.
What the bloody hell would she know
about what I feel for this place?

*

They will knock you down
and pass by not caring two hoots.

A faraway scooter in a clear road
cripples him.
At sixty-seven,
he could’ve only been
painfully right in his opinions;
yet all the training this city gave him
in Physics and youth,
can’t help him calculate the stretch
to the other side of crossings now,
the blurry fraction of a world
between motion and stillness,
confused breath
between green lights
and death.

It has been years since
spring deserted his steps,
and years it has taken him
to bring himself
to this.

It’s a merger again.
The girl walks ahead.
He frantically calls out to her
to return
but she has reached
that pavement
skirting a hostel,
its voices so alive—
boys’ windows opening
to the girls’ wing,
Russian journals,
die-hard drunks, Marx,
heroic tea-stalls.

He persists
on his side of the road,
gesticulating wildly,
calling her back.
People watch
without noticing anything.
At last he walks
to what he must see
again.

*

The sun has set.
He has been here
for some days now,
stationed at his brother’s.
It’s a wedding house
and already he has begun
vexing guests
with his grumpy restlessness,
his hair-splitting complaints
about the city,
the prospect of having to start
a conversation
about the fish market,
the day’s parliamentary proceedings.

This twilight
will not
locate his absence;
tell him
where, for what
he drowned longing
in the stars;
he will return
to that house
purged of how
and why
he stood dumbstruck
for ages
in those five minutes at
219/1,
AJC Bose Road,
Kolkata-17.

 

Door

There’s that ripe sun
slanting through the door
and it seems autumn belongs
to the hills alone.
In the body’s anxiety,
a lost time
and sparrows in the morning
like a hint of breath.
In the languid air,
a flurry of impending snow
shutting things down in preparation
for no time
or too much of it, perhaps.
I travel back
to my uncle’s sunset-eyes
in a train
speeding into night
through bronze rice-fields,
the silence of his harvest
whispering the way
to new metaphors for the end;

I reach the spot
under the cherries
where my love took me off
and put on another,
old enough for him.
How old does one have to be
to love or die?
At home, my father
is touching seventy;
it’s a bright, sunny day,
the kind on which he’d like to have
his thin crown dyed with spring.
With trembling hands
he picks the brush
smeared with the grey,
sweet ammonia-smelling,
lie.

Caught in the same mirror,
we smile
at each other,
defeated by what waits.
My mother saunters
across the garden,
already a dervish leaf, spreading
quilts on the huddled shoulders
of chairs
to keep our illusions warm.
In a blink, both fade
away behind the theatre
of my eyes.

And I know a dream
for what it is;
things go
like flowers and
demolitions
under time-lapse cameras.
Forward, backward,
implosion, explosion,
beginning, end—
it doesn’t matter which way
the reel moves,
I always reach that place
where nothing happened
except that I arrived
from the faraway womb,
smelling of dust,
life’s small tinkle in the stars,
one with those
already bird,
rain,
earth
or tree.

 

Nabanita Kanungo

Nabanita Kanungo

Nabanita Kanungo is from Shillong, Meghalaya. Her poems have appeared in print and online journals such as Caravan, Planet (The Welsh Internationalist), Prairie Schooner, Kindle, Indian Literature, The Bombay Review, Museindia, Café Dissensus and The Tribe, among others. Her work has also been anthologised in Ten: The New Indian Poets, (Nirala Publications, 2013), Gossamer: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry (Kindle, 2015) and 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). A Map of Ruins, her first book of poems, was published by Sahitya Akademi in 2014.

 

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