An Afternoon in My Mind
I don’t remember much about waiting
for the bus to my mother’s village
or how we made summer tolerable
while waiting for trains to the cities.
They were like the ignited wick of a cracker
stripping me of my patience.
But like a clogging bunch of thaw
in the flowing canal of my memories
I have this photograph of catching fish
with Mama, Bhai
and Dadu – the stoutest one there
holding the fly rod.
Ecstasy still lies in the frame
but Uncle and Grandpa have passed away.
The fish we caught that day
still flutter in my mind.
The pond must be
keeping our reflections safe –
somewhere in its water
captured by the late afternoon light.
The fisherman in the Sundarbans
was hauling his boat out of mud
and into an intoxicated river.
Between the prow and his hands
a sweat-soaked turban
hollowed out the sounds of struggle.
His bulging veins more resolute
than the wary holes
of the fishing net – soaking up the sun.
The stooping trees of the forest
tried to lend a hand
but, held by the riverbank,
moaned in the wind.
The water looked warm
but didn’t rise to the boat.
Somewhere in the fragmented sun
hunger was savouring muddy toil.
Stories of loneliness stay
warm inside my blanket, get
replaced without a sound.
Arms raised, a leafless tree
prays for its death.
I wish I understood those birds, their songs
struggling to break free from the branches.
The Trident and the Tea Seller
The trident lightning arrestor
looks more constant than before –
besieged by discomfort,
bygone joys and pain – a belief
flowing endlessly into the future.
The creepers cannot
offer love to it – no red or yellow flowers.
The tea seller beside the closed factory
never noticed it since the trident
didn’t ever arrest or spear any lightning
especially when the radical flags
were offering a yearlong monsoon
to a sneaking, venomous rust.
There is now a vacuum inside the gates,
patches of love and strife on the trident
and outside some tea for passers-by.
Revisiting My Old House
Sheets of a calendar fall at my feet
from the wall hooks
of a short childhood and long memories,
flapping in the wind, as if lifting its arms
in an appeal to save them from extinction.
Further above on the wall,
a cardboard with a photo of four wild horses
and another with two tigers
haven’t yet changed their places.
They take me across sands where
I lie as a thorn detached from a cactus
without a hedge nearby.
I’ve chosen to live through mirages of promises.
Heat shimmers in the path.
I will have to rest in the shade of my own shadow
and then walk a bit further.
Excerpted with permission from An Afternoon in my Mind, Sonnet Mondal, Copper Coin Publishing.