covered by an instant’s nakedness. the drum-roll of mid-monsoon rain.
primal sound rumbles up from Omkarnath’s throat.
Ramkinkar’s Santhal family. stillness, motion.
in 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.
butterflies along the house wall, tangled in their desire for union.
suddenly, smiling teeth in the dark.
from Joyonul’s paintings the fragrance of rice paddies comes flying,
spreading color and air. overflowing the chest, a blood-tide of base
the Padma’s terrible current. in every field the cow’s breath-broken lowing.
painted Bengal’s sky, clouds, sunlight.
all along the water, the flying coastline. waves shaped like wheels.
space filled with atoms. atom and
space, bound in explosive embrace.
that dread dark of the tidal wave.
in every blink, in every hundredth of a dropping eyelid, a blessing.
in an instant’s nakedness, release, frenzy, millions upon millions breaking through;
just one human kiss.
staying and resisting seek their language.
a chestful of contentment
oh the girl’s tresses unloose themselves,
her clothes fly away,
in the flame-orange of her body comes the dawn,
in the beckon of her enchanting smile the morning follows.
the farmer with plough and yoke on his shoulder
walks the ridges of his field
the daughters gone the sons gone the cows gone the land gone
only their mother remains
pour the water, oh golden maiden, put your mind to the water
fetch the pitcher winnow the grain wash the floor serve the rice
oh she’s used up her body, she can move no more
her flesh comes off her bones, her eyes from her head, her hands from her arms
at sunset this wounded woman’s shadow sticks to the mat.
the farmer, shrinking within himself
in the husk and ashes of his dreams, roasting all night in the vapors of his burnt youth
and stuck to the pot of jaggery, the corpse of a dead ant
at every instant, this possibility remains:
instead of one footfall, another footfall.
to jump the fence of a particular simile, metaphor, or symbol
and find some other unknown style, meter, or tempo.
instead of one poem, another poem.
instead of one touch, another touch,
in the shadow of a sharpened knife, other comings and goings.
familiar words, exhalations and inhalations, ardor and aversion, deception.
in one kiss, the edge of another kiss.
in one body, another’s red death in fire and decay.
you forgot everything
me, a dry broken branch
you, like an able housewife
feeding it to the oven’s flame
watching it burn, watching the cinders
you sighed with content
you forgot everything
brushing the lap
of your courtyard
the coy branch of the shojna
overspread with flowers
with the rocking of the gentle air
they’d scatter on the ground
i couldn’t have known
or this pillage
would never have been so deadly
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 and dissolving
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,
sparkling, sleepless; 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 your lives;
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 classical singer
Ramkinkar, a sculptor from an aboriginal Indian tribe, the Santhals
The 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