Poetry | ‘Abortion’ & 2 other poems | By Anindita Sarkar

While Anindita Sarkar’s bold pieces on abortion, bullying of a unique boy, and surviving health ordeals spoke of grit under the surface, in the core and kernel. The choice of her themes – riveting with knife-edged impact. 

Abortion 

A noxious odour filled the infirmary

 Dull walls with murals

Harping on alchemy. 

Exotic beasts in white apparels, 

Roamed about in similar fashion. 

Bevy of varied-aged women, 

Hand in hand, huddled together. 

One after another, 

They entered into the curtained space, 

Cut off from the mainland, 

A place of no unwanted intrusion and calmness. 

Forks, knives, blades decked out, 

Ready to perform an act, 

Women were doused to sleep 

To carry out the unabsolvable task. 

One had premature limbs, 

The other’s heart wasn’t formed, 

One had even developed genitals, 

Another was barely two centimetres long! 

Petals of the rarest beauty, 

Crushed to death. 

The women gave each other a blank stare, 

One was not solvent, 

The other was a young widow, 

One was regularly abused by her husband, 

Another was already encumbered

 with four children. 

A new visitor plodded in, 

This time a ten-year-old, 

 to murder her unborn.


The Bully

Dark-green, Purplish, or with a Black hue

Effeminate boys at my school

Were catcalled Avocadoes.

“There goes the pear-shaped fruit” 

Masculine boys nudged 

Each other with a bravado. 

“How did you master

 a dual identity?”

They curiously examined 

His limbs and elbows, 

As if he was of 

An idiosyncratic breed. 

Furrowed brows and 

Protruding eyes

Guzzled his edible pulp

Beneath his armadillo. 

They struck his bottom and 

Called him a Pillow-biter

As they chiseled through 

His succulent buttery flesh 

To satiate their perched tongues 

With a flavour. 

Peeled off from his rind, 

By the swashbuckling criminals

Tears wobbled down his eyes

As he left with that 

Unswerving sweet smile, 

Never to return.


Only I recovered 

It seemed like a battle I could never win. 

My body was punctured, fettered to the bed, 

The walls were painted in chartreuse green. 

I thrived on that bleached fluid 

From the drip embroidered on my vein. 

I fed my soul on the veridescent terrain 

Clearly discernible through the indigo-bordered casement. 

A monitor palimpsest-ing my pulse,

While the garish ray of the winter sun

Implanted innumerable kisses on my face of pallid complexion. 

Nurses in lavender tunics like Seraphs of Beriah 

Smoothly kept tiptoeing 

In the room anointed with a mordant fragrance. 

A lilac curtain splatted the long room into two, 

My roommate lied in her imperturbable stupor 

gaping at the silk-white frescoed ceiling.

We acknowledged the silence from dawn to dark

united by exchanging telepathic waves. 

We frittered the day listening to the mowing of cows

And nights doused to sleep the lullaby of nightjars. 

Slowly my body began to ameliorate

I conquered death and owe her revivification. 

As I was wheeled back home, 

On an olive wheelchair, memories sweet-bitter lingered, 

While she recoiled to her desolation like a wilted fuchsia flower.

Anindita Sarkar is an UGC Junior Research Fellow pursuing her MPhil from Jadavpur University, India. She is from Kolkata, West Bengal. A neophyte in creative writing, she has graduated from Scottish Church College and completed her Masters degree from the University of Calcutta in English Literature. She has also served as a Lecturer in GNIHM College, Kolkata.

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Poetry | ‘Articulate’ & 2 other poems | By Mihir Chitre

Mihir Chitre, whom we are publishing for the second time this issue, is as evocative as always; the years have only refined his poetry.

Articulate

How often have you won an argument

and lost a person? Think of your fury

when she says, “You just don’t get it,”

when you’re sure, after making a cogent argument,

that it’s her who doesn’t.

However, very often, it’s language that doesn’t.

In Mandarin, there is no tense.

You have only context to establish if you “love her”

or “loved her”, or if you were innocent or still are.

The more articulate you are, the less creatively you crawl

through the web of understanding.

In Archi, a verb can occur in over a million and a half forms,

but, I’m sure, there’s a woman up the Caucasus mountains,

who doesn’t know what to “do” when the cloud foaming a peak,

resembles her dead daughter. I can use “schadenfreude

in practically any sentence about Twitter, but

would it truly contain the pain of being a victim of it?

A syllable can have up to nine different meanings

in Cantonese that vary with the tone you say it in. Yet,

there are people in Hong Kong who lose their voice

when in the mood for love. Language is a city

in the civilization of communication. Being sophisticated

is not the same as being the best, and being the best

is not necessarily being the superset of all else.

There are things you can do every day in Tosh

or Alleppey or in the forest of Mahur that you never can

in Bombay. We often say more than we need to.

“Help,” we could simply say, and let the listener decide

if it’s “May I help you?” or “I need help.”

Imagine the agency of that choice –

helpless today, helpful tomorrow.

A “yes” is barely a yes when it comes

from someone you have power over. However,

a stooge of language would take it no differently

than the answer to “Would you like a million dollars?”

Someone once told me that if a person can speak,

without blinking an eye, on any subject, for more

than fifteen minutes, he knows nothing about it.

The ripple of understanding is concentric with,

but larger than, the ripple of language. Poetry

may be a linguistic high jump, but I’m not sure

the best poets communicate any “better” than a child,

finding his home. The fact that no feeling can ever be

perfectly articulated is both a limitation and the lustre

of co-existence.


Journeys

We’re an abstraction of the journeys

we make. Getting down at Amsterdam Centraal.

The first glimpse of Europe, after waiting for it

since you began waiting. It’s not the event itself

but the idea that is brilliant. The loaf of imagination

dipped in the tea of what you see.

Life, for most part, is guesswork. The thrill

of something living up to your expectation, at last.

The Ukrainian woman across the canal. Her projectile beauty,

masked in red. What you felt smoking sativa and drinking

at Brouwerij’t IJ while forgetting a world, is impossible

to tell with exactitude. Memory coupled with knowledge

is an asymptote to the original moment. What we have

is an abstraction, which moves as we move.

And yet we have stories to tell and some of them,

we believe, to be true. The truth is every story is fiction

to some degree. And the truth is that there is no truth

we will ever lay our hands on. I can tell you more

about Amsterdam and how I visited a city that thinks like me,

about the windmill that rotated periods of time and shuffled

the arcs of understanding. The bridges I crossed, the women

I passed, about cold beer, hot wine and the fishing line

at Volendam cutting into itself like greed. The cheese

and the wooden shoes at Marken and the hot chocolate

that fought alone, with great valour, against the cold, but

journeys can only be recounted, not relived. The old woman

smiling on the train, the number of her teeth intact,

the freckles on her cheek, summarising a continent.

All lost in the swarm of observations like the value of things.


Law

What’s the point where law parts ways

with justice? Your evening ritual in Amsterdam

can get you a life sentence in Singapore.

A Saturday well-spent in London

is felony in Saudi Arabia. In many countries,

a failed suicide attempt is punished

with a life worse than death. In many countries,

aiding a man, willing to terminate his suffering,

is abetment of murder. Most societies don’t agree

on an idea of wrong. Where law resigns,

the constitution is your conscience.

What is justice, after all, if not the balance

of an uplifted mind?

If you introspect without the inebriation

of culture, you’ll probably lament

for the man who was sentenced to 30 years

in a Turkish prison for an attempt to smuggle away

a kilogram of heroin, or a man who spent

half his life in the courtroom for sleeping

with a powerful man’s wife or a man

who was in exile for writing a book

that questioned a religion.

The purpose of law is to protect innocence,

but, often, it devises the end of it.

There are men who commit murder

after being incriminated for one.

In this world, sometimes, crime

follows punishment. Our sense of justice

is loaded with prejudice and weakens

in the cyclone of generalisations.

Every rule smothers its exception.

Mihir Chitre is the author of two books of poetry – Hyphenated (Sahitya Akaademi, 2014) and School of Age (Dhauli Books, 2019). His poems have featured in over 25 magazines including Nether, Indian Literature, Himal Southasian, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Cerebration, Vayavya etc. His work has also featured in anthologies such as Poetrywala’s 40 Under 40; Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing (Volume 4); Sahitya Akademi’s Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians. Chitre wonders what’s right about what’s left. Of late, he’s been particularly interested in the totalitarianism exhibited by some who call themselves liberals. His book: School of Age can be found here.

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Poetry | ‘Temple’ & ‘Dystopian’ | By Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poems might well be the gliding end to this bouquet of with poems like Dystopian and Temple, where he takes you to a philosophical quest and leaves you there – right at the cliff.

Temple

Deep inside a pine forest,

we sought the mountain.

Between Sohpet Bneng, our holy mountain,

the afternoon rays filtering through the trees,

and the rufescent pine floor,

we had our temple.

I worshipped you again and again.

I made myself humble before you again and again.

I surprised you again and again.

Birds called from everywhere.

Their variety astonished me;

their calls filled me with sadness.

Trees were laid low everywhere.

How long have they got before they go?

And how long have we got, Nameri?

Like them,

people like us, 

always live on borrowed time.

Everything else was silent.

We spoke in hushed tones.

You inspired me into a range of emotions.

When I bowed down before you—veneration.

When I cleaned your feet—fulfillment.

When I held you in my arms—enchantment.

When our bodies touched,

I expected the tremors of the flesh.

How would I know you would fill me with stillness?

Happiness stunned me.

I felt drugged and drowsy.

I closed my eyes, and I saw 

all were dreams; all were visions.

Not once did I tremble with desires.

Such a one as you, I have never come across.

We spoke of the dangers facing us,

our bleak and hopeless world.

I thought of Trump and Bolsonaro

and all the enemies of the earth.

We spoke of Corona and your leaving.

And you wondered why I bent my head

and would not show you my eyes.

All through the evening,

only the noodles you cooked for me;

only the hand that reached for mine;

only the fear you were losing

and the love igniting in your eyes;

bolstered my confidence,

as I faced the world,

increasingly dystopian.


Dystopian

We groan under the weight of Corona 

the disruptions it has brought 

the fear it has instilled in every heart 

the cruelties surging from that fear: 

villages driving people coming home 

into the jungles

cities forbidding people to leave

people with no place to stay 

with no money and no food 

people walking for hundreds of desperate miles

people driven to suicide. 

The selfishness and the greed 

lurk in every shop 

in every street. 

The lockdown is a cure worse than the sickness. 

The fear is worse than the plague.

We may all be free from Corona’s fatal touch 

for 41 days 

but how will those without the means

be free from hunger, disease, starvation

for 41 days? 

The fear of getting sick is making people die.

Thieves and murderers will stalk the nights.

The cure is worse than the sickness.

Oh, I hate it, that is true, Nameri

and the worst thing it has done to me 

is to take you away from me.

And I don’t even know 

when you will return 

or in what frame of mind.

The nights are pitiless

they stare at me

I stare at them

and neither of us will ever know relief 

until you set us free again.

The silence it has brought 

into the streets 

the silence it has brought 

into the engines of commerce: 

I love the clear skies I can now see 

even in the dirtiest of cities.

Change is possible

we may yet save the earth 

Corona has shown us that.

And it’s not even as monstrous 

as some things I have known. 

If you are a poet in love with easeful death 

you would also embrace it if it comes.

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih (Meghalaya, India) writes poems, drama and fiction in Khasi and English. His latest works include The Yearning of Seeds (HarperCollins), Time’s Barter: Haiku and Senryu (HarperCollins) and Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends (Penguin).

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Poetry | ‘Next time I’m on a train’ | By Sanjukta Ghoshal

There are a few who rhyme as well as Sanjukta Ghoshal, as she not only rhythms it, but has well-timed meaning with each of those lines. A difficult feat made to look as easy as her girl-next-door bio note – a clever deception I tell ya! 

Next time I’m on a train

Next time I’m on a train and I get a window seat,


I’ll not try to fit the engine’s sound into rhythmic beats.


Next time I’m on a train and the winds ruffle my hair,


I’ll not try to tell the balmy country breeze from the dirty city air.


Next time I’m on a train I’ll not think of munching snacks,


I won’t scramble for the leftovers with hands inside my bag.


Next time I’m on a train, I will not follow the tracks with my eyes,


And see them meet, and then separate, like a game of cats and mice.


For next time I’m on a train, I’ll always be reminded why


It ran over more than a dozen men, who did not wish to die.


Next time I’m on a train, I’m sure I’ll be able to hear


their muffled screams as the wheels pressed their lungs all loud and clear.


Next time I’m on a train, I’ll remember to say my prayers and be thankful,


that I don’t have to walk five hundred miles to reach home for food.


Next time I’m on a train, I’m sure to get panic attacks


what if the train derails with the wheels slipping from blood on the tracks?


Next time I’m on a train and I fall asleep dreaming of barbecued kebabs on a plate,


I’ll have a nightmare about those rotis roasting under the sun on the track.


Next time I’m on a train I’ll be thankful I’m on it and not under,


For I was lucky enough to be not born as a poor migrant worker.


Next time I’m on a train, I’ll remember that movie that had,


Something about death making more cents than life. (That’s sad!)


Who should we blame? The driver, for he failed to stop in time-


or the train, for it didn’t listen to its master and did not toe the line?


or the workers, why had they to fall asleep on the tracks?


Couldn’t the poor bastards just sleep on the roads, on mats?


Yes, it’s convenient to blame the poor and these were dead poor; these were the poor dead who took the blame;

Their kin wouldn’t have money to sue you for defamation, because they were never in any hall of fame!

Sanjukta Ghoshal is born, brought-up and living in Kolkata, India. Her profession is engineering, the last place where you’d expect to find poetry, but then, there’s poetry inside everyone and we only need something to trigger it. Her trigger was the universal episode – heartbreak. She’s been writing on and off since school, and more frequently now since there’s this collective compulsion to keep mum and toe the line in all fields of life, but a rebel needs to speak. While she likes to get lost in abstract poetry that paints a picture of another world, she find herself writing more about things that you can relate to yourself, or your best friend, or that seemingly innocent girl-next-door.  

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