Nabanita Kanungo’s Three Poems
By Nabanita Kanungo
One morning, in a faraway place,
I come to know it is out of you.
The next day I hear your voice like an echo,
fading across miles of air waves,
struggling through sedated veins.
You can barely talk.
Yet I ask you,
Did they show you your lotus?
You chuckle feebly,
like a child again.
Would it hurt if I told you
I was already thinking of a good metaphor?
Would it hurt if I told you
I saw a poem in this too?
A poem like an impossible love,
a universe of children and tumours.
Your desires studded with stars,
constellations that ploughed your dreams
and prepared nights for the man to sow his storms…
passionate singularities like flowers
unfolding, burning, speaking…
all inside of you, there, there in that place,
that opened you one day as a sea
where nests were woven in the eye of a storm
and where between spasms of nausea and pain,
the first cry took shape
in the music of womb
the origin of despair;
where rotten myths coalesced into rogue comets,
the last orgasm fell as a quiet bomb on his dream,
and you picked up splinters of that city, sleeping alone…
with hot flushes fanning out into your forties like pests
staining sheets with a blotchy, red date…
The procedure must have been complete
and that bitter-sweet contradiction
bottled up like a past preserved,
when I went back, far back into the sac of time,
recalling how at thirty, I lay my head
on your squidgy belly one day
saying that I want to lock myself up inside that place
all over again and never come out.
I went far back to reasons;
that innocent shock of milk in your breasts,
and the crop of your tides shivered in my spine
with my beginning.
On the earth’s trembling lip,
your eclipsed name laps the last shores
of a memory that can’t bear
the light of your wounded faith;
here, where depraved tradition struts about
on the trod-over furrow of your heart
and love waits to be recovered until
it dies weeping, expectant, abandoned in a forest
so the world may have its reasons to rejoice everyday
for each of its pathetic disguises of decency.
We wrote our best lies in grandiloquent verse
of a thousand years of murdered innocence,
created you so you could be splendidly destroyed in the end,
your dignity mutilated for a moment of awe,
an occasional sigh or tear in the telling of a story.
We are the reason why your silence
never howled for justice in this wind,
why all that hurt, however deep, doesn’t scrape
the thick skin of democracy as it returns
from temples of your centuries-old marble eyes
in a gaze that has nothing to say.
Only denial grows ordinary in the worship,
feeding an insatiable hunger for myth,
unruffled by the questions no one asks
of what became of you for all your love at last
as you took those final steps
to enter earth’s darkest truth,
with all your answers,
your immense sorrow,
its last word.
A Relevant Poem
It is always a lame bid for poetry
to try and be relevant to its times.
There is always the stale smell of smoke in the air,
and a storm cloud rising in the horizon
will return a generation in cinders, rob the sky of hope.
This is how the scab on memory peels off again
and I cover my face as something unspoken in the news
blows the ashes of my metaphors towards me in a kiss.
It’s a stupid grovelling, wishing to speak,
say I felt this or that, that I still feel, that no one cares;
why must poetry writhe across those meaningless shores again
to fulfil its futile tenacity?
And there will be a theorist in some meet
who will seize the point of absurdity that does not let wounds heal,
or an analyst who cheats it of simple hurts
which gave it a taste of things sadder than loneliness,
like love for instance or hope or even this history
that an indifferent god moves as an old pawn
across war’s chess-board.
But here I am, in my picturesque city of pines and cars
trying to write about a Gaza, a Jerusalem,
a Baghdad, a Delhi; and in the same useless vein,
I will write of the fist of rice sinking slowly
into the clamour about hikes in petrol prices,
the woods surrendering to composed manoeuvres of profit;
or the steady march of an industry
which sows bullets into the heart of a child’s atlas and reaps bombs.
I will write how I want to apprehend that instinct
which calmly drives a rod into a woman’s womb
or a bottle into a child’s, and has the nerve to laugh
from behind the tattered law of a country;
I will also warn a blind democracy
not to try to find someone different
in the same hooded chill
which climbs all the way up every five years
to its throne by the defeated steps of my spine;
and somewhere an old stupidity will enter my attempt
to understand a city I cannot call my home
although our births are bound by the same borders of guilt.
But these are not the co-ordinates which will help me locate this silence.
Perhaps it’s that poverty of my soul which plays out this despair
in a war that never ended with those fake agreements
the world did not pretend to fulfil as it lulled me with new dawns.
Outside, there are flashes in the darkening horizon;
a soft rain begins to fall on July’s torn breast
hardly drenching the earth with the plot of fake peace
and far off, there are those hills which refuse to
soothe my eyes with the amateur country of my dreams.
A mad wind presses my arms across my chest
bracing me for an answer that is falling somewhere at this moment
in hundreds of bullet-riddled bodies of children
who always stood on the wrong side of wars.
And something quietly tells me
that I mustn’t try to find myself
in this world with a silly reason that lets me go,
emptied of myself – a reason like this poem
which is afraid of the sense it tries to make of a time
or place where it was always possible
that parents should exchange the severed heads
of their enemy’s children at the borders of a myth,
where there are reasons to strip history naked
on the streets again and smear its battered face
with the dark ease of bloodshed.
Art-work: Colours of Holi by Reetuparna Dey
Nabanita Kanungo is from Shillong, Meghalaya. Her poems have appeared in Caravan, Planet (The Welsh Internationalist), Prairie Schooner, Indian Literature, Lakeview, Journal of the Poetry Society of India, Muse India and The Dhauli Review; the anthologies, Ten: The New Indian Poets, (Nirala Publications, 2013), Gossamer (Kindle, 2016) and 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016), and webzines such as The Sunflower Collective, The Tribe, and Raiot. A Map of Ruins, her first book of poems, was published by the Sahitya Akademi in 2014.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.