The golden deer has come on its own and is sitting inside my cowshed
Eating leaves and grass
Who shall I run after now?
It takes one year eleven months to get one line of poetry
A baby entered the womb, was born, waved its arms and legs about, learnt to walk,
Babble baby talk – and I?
Couldn’t pluck up the courage, even today, to call a dictionary a dictionary
To call Sachin Deb Sachin Deb
Merely – yes, I’ll deliver, I’m on it,
Saying which I’m accumulating rubbish, peelings, garbage by the shovelful
In book after book
I’ve never even kept a pet parrot but I’m behaving as if
I keep peacocks at home
I receive the Right Honourable Graven Raven with smiling hospitality,
I say, How immaculate you are!
If I see him visiting Bishakha’s house then I say,
Oh my, how like the full moon over the empty Maidan
I still think about myself as if I’m a thermometer in a lion’s armpit
Still afraid to call a moo a moo, I say “cooing of cuckoos” instead.
But why don’t I keep in mind that I am, now, more than ever more masterful!
It’s utterly unbecoming of me to keep moaning “Monjori Monjori” and dying of love.
Not everyone flails about like I do
These days many mistake me for a rich man
I should take advantage of this situation
Consequently, these days, I enjoy getting irritated from time to time
What’s called blowing hot blowing cold
I enjoy mixing the spit-sputter of temper into the stir-fry of joy
In the midst of all the people, from time to time, I enjoy resting my cheek on my palm and playing glum
Imagine I’ve distanced myself and am sitting apart
People will come running, aghast
Will ask: Shall we give you a separate room?
Will want to know, deferentially: Should we shave off your moustache right away?
The barber is on standby – just like Bakhtiyar, forever ready to die
With a little laugh I deepen my voice and say: Diffi – cult I’m reading Harry Potter right now,
Besides, today is the day I deliver my lecture on
“The mustachio’s me the mustachio’s you” at this evening’s gathering
And the inauguration of a special magazine on the subject of “soft-centre sandesh” is also today
Today is the day girls of tender age will bend to touch my feet and touch my shoes instead
They will be in such a hurry that even my
Lust-free shoes will blush with shame
And what’s even more disastrous
Is that at my age I will feel like sitting at the “rock” like a roadside Romeo
Will feel like flinging all these offerings of flowers and incense away with a “shoo!”
And going to a special shop for a face massage,
Will feel like getting a hair implant on my bald pate
Will feel like being Lakshmikant to Pyarelal
Will feel like playing one scene like Utpal Dutt, and one like Ajitesh
Will feel like learning again, anew, how to wolf-whistle
Will feel like standing outside girls’ colleges in the afternoon
Wearing tight pants
I should take advantage of this situation, too
And yet, hitting even fifty kills me these days
They’re hollering “hundred hundred” in the galleries
But life turned to coal the minute I turned forty
In our time Hindi film villains were called Jibon were called Pran
Now in Gandhiji’s style I can easily say
My life is my villain
Can say Mike-testing hello hello
Can say One-two-three-four
Can say Ooby-dooby-doom
But instead I say
All my poems are in the service of society
At conference after conference my eyes water
Saying the same thing over and over
And from around my neck my shirt protests, Eek! Don’t wipe your nose on me
The microphone says, Move your mouth away and speak, your spit’s flying
Vaishnavs are saying, Chheechhee this is Krishna-slander
Bishnupriyo-di is saying, No no this is an insult to women
The listeners are saying, Encore, turn around, return!
I turned around, returned
I took down all the seats of honour from Khajuraho
Exhibiting them day and night all the screws started
Coming loose from my hands my feet my hips my bones turned baggy
Baggy from head to toe, wall to wall, cornice to cornice
The Corporation lorry picks me up and dumps me on the rubbish-heap
At night when the moon appears above Science City I
Fumble my way to the road, instead of the sound of walking
The sound of iron dragging as I crawl...
No vehicular movement. The Bypass is deserted. On their way home after finishing work two hired assassins take me for a broken bench and sit on my back. Absentmindedly wipe blood on my cheeks. When I shudder, they think it’s an earthquake. Run away towards the next murder... Dragging my body along, I reach you. My ghost stands, holding on to the bars at your window. Your head is turned towards one side of the pillow. No moonlight in your room. The sound of the fan. The rise and fall of the curtains. Near your feet, the streetlight in its night-robe. Do you know there’s a station called Labhpur? A narrow gauge station? O sleeping face, do you know? For many, many days trains don’t go there anymore. A deserted platform. Ticket office locked-up stationmaster’s room locked-up. No crowds coming and going. A bushy banyan tree behind. And in front? What’s in front? In front, an engine with two coaches, weeds wrapped in its wheels, has been standing for how many months or years or aeons do you know, do you? At that Labhpur Station I sit with you. At the time when the moon is entangled in the banyan’s roots. Our sitting place is not a wooden bench but a stone platform. A board stands alongside. But its name cannot be read. The name sleeps. As does our identity our location our thoughts of the future. Office-daftar, what’s your father’s name? Born in which year? Where do you live? What have you studied? Who all are at home? They sleep, they all fall asleep. At that moment, we are the first woman the first man. In the palm of your hand my lips roam searching for dead riverbanks along line after line. You’ve suffered so much, so much suffering, give it all, all to me, saying which, the way the thirsty move towards a vessel of water your mouth finds my source. And our clothes leave our bodies and fly below the moon like two butterflies.
Excerpted with permission from After Death Comes Water: Selected Prose Poems, Joy Goswami, translated from the Bengali by Sampurna Chattarji, HarperCollins India.
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