"what does it take / to make Kannauj sound like New York?": Three prolific poems by Srinjoy Dey

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"what does it take / to make Kannauj sound like New York?": Three prolific poems by Srinjoy Dey

Poetry by Srinjoy Dey

Grapes

“Pick a bunch of green grapes,”
Bee Wilson instructs me

as a brown boy in a third world country,
you do as you’re told by a blond, white woman,

“wash it, and put one in your mouth”
she orders,

she went to Trinity in Cambridge,
nothing she does could be bad,

“Feel the grape with your tongue,”

I feel it, observing

“how cold and refreshing it is:”

cold and sour

“the crisp flesh,”

crisp, unbreakable,

“and jellylike interior”

mauve mouth, gunpowder, bullet-hole

“with its mild, sweet flavour.”

***

Notes on Transliteration

why is it so hard to make our cities
sound like they belong, why does Bhilai
doesn’t quite sound like Sacramento
or New Hampshire -- what does it take
to make Kannauj sound like New York?

Is the formula hidden away in Bombay
or camouflaged in Calcutta

or beneath the madness of Madras and
underground in Ootacamund somewhere?

maybe the truth is hidden in the gospel,
in the ruins of Rome, the remnants of
latin and the anglo-saxon ashes.

these words, like a cup filled to the brim,
begin to crawl out of the boundaries,
and stretching beyond their limbs

drag themselves across seven seas
late at night in a second-degree migration

back to their homes, back to where words
don’t remain passive as snails across the shore.

Here, they are felt in my sunburnt flesh.
Here, they follow the will of this land,
freedom and sacrifice, they bleed

***

After Jorge Semprún

For N.

“I no longer have nightmares at all.
Literature has appeased my anxieties.”

She hears doorbells, conch shells being blown
far away on a full moon night. She says it is
impossible for her to purge her mind.

“These images,” she says, “latch on to my brain,
like some wicked show host, it keeps replaying.”

“I am not scared,” she says, “just gripped.”
I sit at the edge of her bed, dry-lipped -
listening, calling for the dawn to break.

“Maybe sunlight,” I say, “will make them
go away.” “No, my love,” she says, “come
here next to me. Read me another verse from
Faiz, whisper them to me, and then another one;
the sun will rise when it has woken up,
I want to hear the ocean in a seashell.”

***

Stuck between facts and fiction, when Srinjoy is not editing copies at The Hindu, he is buried knee-deep in the pile of books he wishes to read. He also curates a fortnightly global arts newsletter, SubText. His works have been published in Miracle Magazine, The Alipore Post, and Kitaab International’s poetry anthology A Map Called Home. He is currently based in Chennai.

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