‘My words don’t have a house to live in’ : Five poems by Namrata Pathak

Losing a City

(Down and Out in Guwahati)

I

The city is an incantation
for deaf ears. Solitary voices
in the central junction sink into a
ugly hullaballoo.
Newspaper men,
fruit sellers, beggars, school children—
all in sight with outlines barely distinguishable
from the city
don’t fit into your geometry. Little frustrations of living
fail to take any shape.
No ovals, rectangles, pentagons, squares.

II

Loneliness recited in this very lane
that sleeps and wakes into a “Allah-Hu-Akbar”
from a mosque Southward
announces the day, not out of any purpose, but to suffer
the clumsiness of the light.

III

The rain sprawling all over the city
is a last attempt at survival. Tiny insects
in the skyline deal with personal matters
in secrecy, their fate being sealed for days to come.
The white clouds blossom as a matter
of pressing importance
gaining some weight like a lover’s indifference.

IV

The suffering mangoes look more like
defeat in cellophane papers.
They opened the mouths once or twice
at the prospect of inevitabilities,
and said nothing.

V

This city is a gradual farewell to my youth,
the first troubles of love, the last remnants of love.
The vague yellowing bamboos
walking slowly away
from the speeding car
offer their last wakefulness.

***

Another Person

This poem has completed a lifetime
for looking after you— your files.
Newspaper cuttings, Roadster shirts.
For the flavour of grief comes back
to me unchanged. For love has no time
for speculation.

How little concerned you are
about the silence within. Did we return
to the sound of our home? To the incommunicable
smell of musty furniture, pinewood windows,
condensed milk in the fridge?

In the greed of closeness,
I travelled to stranger places,
almost become another person.

***

Leaving

Conflict is central to the way
we leave— cities, homes, people;
food joints serving black adrak chai,
its taste of unbelonging.
The imposter memories ceasing
to cross the threshold
torn between an inside and an outside
look for a inconsequential beginning
in frail air conditioned airports.

You leave cinema halls, post offices, malls.

The overtly funny Wills Lifestyle hoarding
with acrobatic women hanging upside down
in brown shorts, mid-air,
in a filmi style,
is a thing of the past now.

You leave skins, faces, masks.

It is unexplainable, what provokes your laughter.
We don’t laugh when we leave. Look.
The sky is a letter of conspiracy. The horizon
is the colour of anxiety.
The footfalls
on earth lost their social membership.

Leaving has an element of exclusivity,
like love. Only you have to fulfil a set of criteria
to leave.
Leaving can be collectively managed.

***

Semantics of Everyday Life

My words don’t have a house to live in.
Stuck in cracks of the pale walls,
plastered haphazardly
by unkind hands of strangers,
their faces mimicking familiarity,
roughened by five sweltering summers,
heady homecomings,
they have not arrived yet.
Breathing hard,
my poor aspirated babies.
Choked.

You looked away,
masking your
despondency
with
a noiseless smirk
and in the frigid airless room,
my words
took refuge
in the feathered shuffling of pigeons.
Pigeons encircling a faithlessness.
Pigeons in flight
weighed down
by the haughty sun—

Words
in folds,
creases,
wrinkled silences,
storms,
your cup of untouched tea,
creamy bougainvilleas, trellis and leaves,
old notebooks,
Kafka—

Words—
everywhere
coil up in a cold uterus,
my disowned embryos,

Babies
with limbs drawn up to the torso,
the back curved, the head bowed down.
They pretend not to belong.

***

Tasting a Half Ripe Guava on a Fateful Day

A cold hardness speckled by time.
A green ball
dissolving in the mouth. Freshness.
A tug of war,
a wanton need to lick the hungry fingers—
fire, seasoned love,
desires.
Here.
There.

Gulabi raatein.
the moon in the bansuriwala’s stare,
weathered hills
smothering your restlessness.

A grey shirt
dipped in a smoky laughter,
a lovelorn puff,
concentric circles rising up and up,
the roar of a grinding machine in a juice parlour.
Salt. The even slices. You sinking
your teeth at the border’s hollowness,
filling your mouth with love’s apathy.

***

Dr. Namrata Pathak teaches in the department of English, North-Eastern Hill University, Tura, Meghalaya. She has an M.Phil and PhD from English and Foreign Languages University (formerly, CIEFL), Hyderabad. She has four books to her credit, and her latest is forthcoming from Sahitya Akademi.


Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review :

‘In Bronxville, I meet a banana tree’ : Six poems by Devi Sastry

‘And we smelt like guavas’ : Five poems by Nilim Kumar

‘You may see the city slowing down’ : Five poems by Malcolm Carvalho


 

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