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 Caravan, Planet (The Welsh Internationalist) and Prairie Schooner; and anthologies: Ten: The New Indian Poets, (Nirala Publications, 2013), Gossamer (Kindle, 2016) and 40 under 40: An 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.