At 4 am,
silence is a single leaf
twirling and twirling and touching the ground.
The earth and the full moon
contented in this hushed-up sound
know the endurance of the reverberations
of smashed monuments, crashed aeroplanes, splintered nations;
the clash of cultures, and starving children preyed by vultures.
Exploded and scattered from statues of peace, stones
still appeal for peace. Broken jawbones
also tell a tale,
mock in the moonlight and regale
the debate started since the flood
if ink could really outlive blood.
SPEAKING OF A PARADISE
This paradise you keep talking about, what have you there?
This paradise you want to run away to, is it dark or is it fair?
This paradise you keep dreaming about, are there plants? Is there an apple tree?
This paradise you want to take me too, are there others? And are they free?
Is there a staircase? Is there a road? And your arrival welcomed by a signboard?
Are there sparrows? Are there crows? Dinosaurs harmless by idyllic shores?
Can you move about there at 12 midnight? Or is there always perpetual light?
This paradise you never stop talking about, does anybody control it?
And is there a shrine of one who has it built, and can a faith-confused enter it?
Would sightseeing buses be available? And a tourist guide?
Would ambrosia be served at my table reserved? And potassium cyanide?
This paradise you portray so nice, you say it came in a dream.
And were you dreaming well fed, that soft languor in your soft bed
And then dream-flitting sex and ice-cream?
Museums would there be: monuments of unageing intellect?
The dead whom I miss, with whom I long to be,
Would I meet them there turning a lane?
Spot them suddenly through a window pane? And will they speak to me?
This paradise, does it transcend fire and ice, barbed wires, troops and towers?
Does it have reform schools for rapists? Classrooms for communalists?
Bring bombers to a boulevard to assemble flowers?
Your paradise, that enticing paradise, I’m getting caught up there you can see.
So I’ll let it be, see if it grows in me
As skin covers a wound, earth covers a tomb,
Leaving the trace of a scar gently.
Of no use is the brilliance of the sky to the homeless,
Just a vast frightening desert is the sky to the homeless.
Why do you want to go she said when I showed her my ticket,
Would the breeze come evening not vacantly sigh to the homeless?
Intolerant this place I knew so well has become since when?
Birds desert their nest, that’s what they signify to the homeless.
Unfamiliar were the gods, uncertain their ways, but pray when
Did their places of worship shelters deny to the homeless?
Is the story of the Earth meandering in the dark finally told?
Nations, borders, arrivals, destinies: constancies flitting by to the homeless.
At the far end, this grey road takes a bend,
billows dirt by the dry river-bed through a cacophony of crows
on withered tree-stumps and then slumps to take a breath by my village
that was plentiful once and then its wells dried up they say by the curse of a sage driving from every home some member to this city looking for work
as I was sent so long ago now I can’t remember clutching my uncle’s torn shirt who put me on this road selling coloured bangles and bric-a-brac to those like you who come round the year buying inexpensive memories of this temple place.
But sometimes when the day is nice and the sun not beating down,
I fold up my frayed umbrella and put on this one pink dress
and break into a song as you gather amazed to watch me manage your tongue.
I don’t like this life very much but this is what I do.
And on such a fair-weathered night lying under the canopy of stars
I dream of a home beside lapping waters…
That is when I feel golden bangles caressing my wrists.
‘Gaping Silences’ is a response to the tendency seen in the last few decades in our society of destroying culture: whether these be places of worship, statues (I particularly recollect not only the recent incident in happening in various places in India, but the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas) or even the modern monuments like the Twin Towers. Monuments endure Time, communicating beyond individual lives and this small poem is a small response against this destructive tendency we seem to revel in.
‘Speaking of a Paradise’ employs the slightly tongue-in-cheek personal monologue as – or against – the political discourses from the Power about ‘feel good’ factors, or ‘good times’, achche din, ‘shining India’ etc.
‘Homeless’ is a response (in the Ghazal form) in the literal or figurative zeitgeist of homelessness and exclusion, and ‘Golden Bangles’, perhaps the most positive poem of the lot is the resistance of one such homeless persona, of her refusal to accept her life as a fait accompli.
Sanjay Mukherjee is a Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Saurashtra University Rajkot, Gujarat. An avid reader and poet, Sanjay has written extensively on British and American poetry. Indian literature, Translation studies and literary criticism are his areas of expertise.
I’ll not write about the Mumbai blasts.
I’ll only write about the fifty pigeons that died
And of the fakir who used to feed them grain
By the Taj International
Who was blasted away,
And how the birds,
They died of hunger and sorrow.
I’ll make only
A passing reference to the paupers,
The begging children,
The drug hawkers and the sex workers out on an afternoon
Stroll, and all about Boxer the handsome stray dog
Who used to come for his snooze
At about 1.00 p.m. daily with his head
Upon the lap of The Gateway of India,
But who has now vanished without a trace.
He was indeed, a true lover of man.
Thank you, godmen,
For your sudden afternoon shower,
For the small embryo piece
Suddenly floating in a small pool of blood,
At the lit feet of Mumbai Devi.
Gopikrishnan Kottoor is the pen name of Raghav G. Nair, an award-winning Indian English poet. He is best known for his internationally acclaimed poem “Father, Wake Us In Passing”. He is also the founder editor of the quarterly poetry journal Poetry Chain.