by an instant’s nakedness. the
drum-roll of mid-monsoon rain.
primal sound rumbles up from
Ramkinkar’s Santhal family. stillness, motion.
the primal touch of skin, the stretching of sun and moon. stars and soil.
evading the hunter’s net, the
fish in a splash of froth
diving deeper into the water.
the sparrow’s young pecking
food at her beak.
along the house wall, tangled in their desire for union.
suddenly, smiling teeth in the
from Joyonul’s paintings the
fragrance of rice paddies comes flying,
spreading color and air. overflowing the chest, a blood-tide of base
Padma’s terrible current. in every
field the cow’s breath-broken lowing.
painted Bengal’s sky, clouds,
all along the water, the
flying coastline. waves shaped like
space filled with atoms. atom and
space, bound in explosive embrace.
that dread dark of the tidal
in every blink, in every
hundredth of a dropping eyelid, a blessing.
an instant’s nakedness, release, frenzy, millions upon millions breaking
just one human kiss.
staying and resisting seek
a chestful of contentment
the girl’s tresses unloose themselves,
clothes fly away,
the flame-orange of her body comes the dawn,
the beckon of her enchanting smile the morning follows.
farmer with plough and yoke on his shoulder
the ridges of his field
daughters gone the sons gone the cows gone the land gone
their mother remains
the water, oh golden maiden, put your mind to the water
the pitcher winnow the grain wash the floor serve the rice
she’s used up her body, she can move no more
flesh comes off her bones, her eyes from her head, her hands from her arms
sunset this wounded woman’s shadow sticks to the mat.
farmer, shrinking within himself
the husk and ashes of his dreams, roasting all night in the vapors of his burnt
stuck to the pot of jaggery, the corpse of a dead ant
every instant, this possibility remains:
of one footfall, another footfall.
jump the fence of a particular simile, metaphor, or symbol
find some other unknown style, meter, or tempo.
of one poem, another poem.
of one touch, another touch,
the shadow of a sharpened knife, other comings and goings.
words, exhalations and inhalations, ardor and aversion, deception.
one kiss, the edge of another kiss.
one body, another’s red death in fire and decay.
you forgot everything
me, a dry broken
you, like an able
feeding it to the
watching it burn,
watching the cinders
you sighed with
you forgot everything
brushing the lap
of your courtyard
the coy branch of the
with the rocking of
the gentle air
they’d scatter on the
i couldn’t have known
or this pillage
would never have been
see that hawk flying
alone in the long sky
that one hawk alone, in
it the whole sky
a deserted field and
on its breast one man alone
one man alone, in his
breast a desolate field
the sunlight trembles
i’ll go on like this
with each other near
with each other far
away very very far away
over your face the
shadows of the sickly evening fall.
moist shadows; the
boat lies nestling the bank
unused forsaken in the
gentle cold the track across the field
the slow water its
thin lazy waves
breaking in the
evening a thin dim series slowing
the twilight deepening
in love joins its hands
in strong entreaty,
surrounds you in the memory of a kiss
fear clings to the
length of the body fear settles
eerily over your
face the shadows gradually fall
some light some
darkness some known and some unknown
the boat lies there
nestling the bank alone
of generations gone
just inside the
courtyard, on the left an ancient guava tree,
planted by father’s
father-in-law; on the north side the kitchen,
after four monsoons
slanted completely eastward;
the white faces of
three widows, an oil-lamp burning in the dark;
on that night the call
of high tide in the Arial Khan’s waters,
on the bamboo fence
two spears, a hatchet, a cleaver,
in waiting the night lengthens;
with its drenched
enraged breath, like a lifting rib a sandbar rises
the tug of primal
mystery, of the current’s black muscle;
tell me you won’t go
when the headman calls next,
swear it; why risk
tearing at the dark,
the white teeth of strange laughter,
clutching their wives
chest to chest; the sun’s red spurting
from the spear’s
wound, that flaming pain you won’t understand, dear;
from their land the
three men leap and bound away,
in the same way father
went, grandfather went, of generations gone
in the blood-clotted
darkness the lamp flickers,
on the bamboo fence
hang the rusted spears, the cleaver;
three widows’ faces
with their ebbtide gaze, listening to
the Arial Khan in the
dark, sand-rib rising with its breath
a sculptor from an aboriginal Indian tribe, the Santhals
Arial Khan is a mythical river of blood and courage, and also an actual river
identified with the cycle of death and regeneration
© 2005 by Prasenjit Gupta
Published in Parabaas, January 15, 2005