Poetry | ‘Odd Hour Woman’ & ‘Rehab’ by Kankana Basu | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Odd Hour Woman

Between the crevice
of mid morning
and the pressing weight
of noon
I shall gently place
my languor

Between the white noise
of a bustling city
and the voices
in my head,
I shall quietly balance
fragile silences

On the shivering cusp
of tea-time
and post-tea soliloquy,
I shall drop,
a sliver of angst

Amidst the swiftly fading
shards of light,
I shall sit back
and contemplate,
in a leisurely manner,
the nature
of nothingness

Between the fall of dusk
and the meditative eruption
of stars
I shall try
and sneak a sip
of forbidden elixirs




Shingled beach sloping down
to still waters, pewter coloured,
and a leaden sky
that promises nothing,
absolutely nothing.
Corkscrew memory
that turns constantly upon itself,
that persisting sense of familiarity,
I’ve been here before.

No bird song, no delicious prick
of pretty sea-shells underfoot,
strange sort of geography, this,
belonging neither here nor there.
Squint around for a better look
the light is of a silver-gray variety,
you will notice,
it spells neither morning nor dusk
I have a hunch, just a ghost of a hunch
I’ve visited this nameless land before.

Skeletal branches of dead mangroves
creep out of the waterscape stealthily
gliding closer with swift malevolence
Beware, beware.
I must row my canoe gently
weaving my way between them
they are carnivorous, I’m told
and can eat one whole and alive.
The horizon has disappeared suddenly,
merging into my private seas
I must be careful
there is always the fear
of toppling off the globe
if one rows too fast,
or too far

Who says I’m drifting down
turbulent uncharted waters?
I’m no adventurer.
There are a few figures
crouched and hooded
offering things from the banks,
pills, I think, in their gnarled palms,
candy, toffee, marshmallows
they whisper hoarsely
or boiled sweets?
Nah, I know better
than to stretch my hand and accept
their offerings
trick pills I know those to be,
tickets to another place
where dreams and desires collide
where time and space plummet
down unimaginable spirals.
The colour wheel can spin fast, so fast,
in that land
that all the colours could mix to make white,
black is not a colour,
they informed me very kindly,
it is the absence of colour.
I haven’t told the doctor yet
that my soul is all black
an unredeemable charcoal black.
Get away from me, you twisted men
peddlers of enchanted pills
I munch on peppermints these days,
lettuce leaves and rosemary
my days of munching magic mushrooms
are over,
at least for now
I don’t dare disobey the doctors
who loom around me like specters,
get away from me
you haggard bent men
I’ve been there, done that,
all of it

Doc, dear doc, says
that the pineal gland calcifies
due to the stresses
of a materialistic
addiction-bound life.
Decalcify it, boy,
he orders,
decalcify instantly.

I shall think clean thoughts
queue up dutifully for enema
get my colon cleansed
along with my soul,
when thoughts, words and emotions
are in perfect alignment once again
I might walk the night, as before,
in the company of twisted friends


Kankana Basu is a Mumbai based writer. Her work includes two collections of short stories: Vinegar Sunday (Indialog Publishers) and Lamplight: Paranormal Stories from the Hinterlands (Pan Macmillan)Her novel Cappuccino Dusk (HarperCollins India) was Long Listed for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize and a stand-alone short story, Graveyard Shift, was included in The Pleasure Principle: The Amaryllis Book of Erotic Stories (Amaryllis Publishers). She reviews books and writes human interest stories for The Asian Age, The Sunday Hindu and The New Indian Express, and also assists in the Bengali-to-English and cinematic translation of the works of her grandfather, the late Bengali writer, Saradindu Bandopadhyay (creator of the bhandralok detective, Byomkesh Bakshi). 

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