The Broken Road – Nabanita Kanungo


Illustration – Aarushi Periwal

The dead forest wears an old silence along the broken road;

light plays quietly in summer-green leaves of a plantation.

No one knows of missing bodies until the stench of hunger

escapes once in a while from the segun’s dark realms.


I remember the dripping tongue of the Paris-returned

climate-change expert at the sight of acres of mature teak.

I would have made a killing if these hills were mine!


Ah! These hills, where earth turns wearily in meagre plots,

coaxed into paltry water-gourds, flat-beans and yam

for a quarter-stomach-full of rice;

where the emaciated face of women in the lightning-struck tree

can barely hold life strapped to their roots like a sick, infected baby;

this hungry, rainless void, with its town’s rapacious market

and a hundred defunct offices crumbling into endless night,


where scrawny children fade before their time in a blur,

smiling as they wave towards passing autos;

these hills, of the festival and farmhouse-allure

stifling cries of their clogged drains of night


where hope endures the dumb refrain of shadows

that do not remember when they died of silence;


where life staggers like an old drunk in the middle of nowhere,

cursing stones and wind, as a faraway god smiles

having arranged another crisis to sell his ware of blight.



Nabanita Kanungo is from Shillong. Her poems have appeared in CaravanPlanet (The Welsh Internationalist) and Prairie Schooner; and anthologies: Ten: The New Indian Poets, (Nirala Publications, 2013), Gossamer (Kindle, 2016) and 40 under 40An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016), besides various webzines. Her first book of poems: A Map of Ruins was published by Sahitya Akademi in 2014.