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The City Never Sleeps

By Ritoshree Chatterjee

By 2 a.m., skyscrapers stand buck-naked
Laughing in mad sepia staccato.

We buried our fathers’ ashes here,

Now they rise against the night
Growing taller each day –

The city never sleeps, they say.

By 3 a.m., a million squares go out, only the ones with
the mad, the sad, the naked and the dead

Blink like dead-drunk fireflies –

Gee, says a merry tramp in moonlight

The mad, the sad, the naked and the dead
Are all alike –

By 5, the sky turns amorous mauve

Street kids with hair as yellow as shit
Cradled to sleep to cuss-serenades –

Frolic like lurid confetti in a wasteland
Pulling out strawberry condoms for fun

Remember, says the merry tramp at dawn

The mad, the sad, the naked and the dead
Are all alike –

The city never dies for a moment, they say

Only you do.

By 6 , the sun peeks into graveyards –
Startling estranged lovers awake

Pecking the bosomy housewife on lips,
Frying omelette-aubades for breakfast

By 8, everyone leaves –

To work, to markets, to other cities –

Leaving cool-blue tombstones muttering
Leaving itr[1]on bedsheets, steam in the shower, stains in the kitchen and bodies in the past –

The city never dies, they say –
Only you do.

By 8, few return –
Plucking the moon like a golf-ball,
Squeezing its flesh into whiskey-bubbles

Remember, says the merry tramp at nine,

The mad, the sad, the naked and the dead
Are all alike.

Froth in knife-thin glasses rise –
Pulp-posters on mottled brick-walls rise
The traffic, the yellow street-children rise

Neon-signs, parrot-green prostitutes rise –
Office-cubicles, ghosts, dust, skyscrapers rise
Mud-jargons, brittle-boned city-slickers rise

Only our shadows shorten each day.

[1] Ittar or Attar or Itr is a type of natural perfume extracted from flowers (such as jasmine, rose or sandal), herbs, spices, or barks. … Ittars are natural perfumes for daily use.

Ritoshree Chatterjee pursues her undergraduate degree in English literature, and struggles to locate herself through writing amidst the chaos. Her poems have appeared in Late Night Poets’ Anthology and the Armchair Journal.


For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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