Sensuous flavour

POETRY COLUMN

This month’s poet ARJUN CHOUDHURI’S poems are full of light, colour and movement

Poetry Editor ANANYA S GUHA comments:

Arjun Choudhuri’s poems have a sensuous flavour. They are full of light, colour movement , taking one into both the past and present. There is something ‘ indefinite ‘ in his poems as they defy time and finitude. History also comes in, as sheer abyss of time and space. Words are precisely and immaculately crafted and the inner rhythms of the poems resonate and reverberate.A conscious crafter of words Arjun deploys his poetic ‘strategy’ bringing in effectively elements of surprise. He is also unabashedly lyrical.

BARADARI

It is said that brothers cannot die

without killing each other’s memories

of each other.

In the valley, where the sea meets

the serpents, the legendary snakes

who walk about on two legs, and

spring through the earth as waters

come silent as Dardic speakers

of lovely words made of bone

and fate, and misshaped gonads

and adventitious dreams of a lake

drunk to the fill with names and games.

Dal. Lotus of the east,

and home of flowers.

Guarded deep by fire

and deep fear, and hurt.

Dal, sleep, now that it all

is made of you and him.

Brother. Arm my death

with a slinking serpent tale.

Between brothers there is

nothing on the lines of gratitude.

Between snakes, there is

nothing on the lines of co-sloughing

skin, and kin, and bone, and earth,

washed into Dal for another birth.

SONG TO THE EARTH

A drop in the veil

the morning there

the road not fair

with the daily dust

and the crust of the end,

the whitening and

the tightening rent

of the lonesome war.

There in the mist

now rises clear

the temple made

of earnest crown.

You wait as a gate

that never dares

to close its petals

for fear of there

being no more roads,

or gentle goads

of you and I,

of lip and eye.

Yet what it is

that makes this true

a gentle land of golden hue,

of darkened night,

and pink sundown?

Perhaps it is the fact that you

are different like the dew of the night

is different from the other dues

that slink into my dreaming sight.

CONFESSION

For you alone, my history,

are the truth that lies

shattered and pretty,

but all-powerful.

All else is fixed

into beauty and not-beauty.

If it is not the utterance

of all has been, then what is

this, my history,

putative thesis of this

and that, some of it

said, most of it

engraved

into a wall.

Something

that does not

speak, at all.

WAIT

The train left ten thousand years ago

when there was no Akbar, no peacock throne even.

All that is now left for me to behold is this,

this deserted platform of an illicit life.

ELDER ASKING

How do we live, thinking
of how we live? How do we live
when we think that we do?
How do we now do thinking?
How do we now live, thinking?

On the breast of all that is ice
surges the probability of water.

AGRAPHONIC

The world is not a bridge anymore, son of Marium.
There’s no coming and going here as you saw it.

We walk like balloons, and prick the pick, sick
of all that is kind, and beautiful.

The world is not a bridge anymore, son of Yusuf.
Here we labour beneath the back of the vain.

Like the burst of sun that leaves the leaves
wanting to shed before the coming of autumn.

KHUSRO, IT IS NIGHT…

The day has left me endless;

no sun therefore in sight.

I watch the piling pilgrims grow,

for Khusro, it is night.

A diwan for the night, Khusro,

a diwan for the light.

The day was long, and levelled row,

and Khusro, it is right

when you call the door the endless wait

like mustard grows at annual rate,

when all that pales in churning gait

within Nizamuddin’s sight.

Khusro, it is night.

Bridges long have passed the world.

Rivers deep have plunged

into the sea where grows the heart

made of words unfurled.

The days have passed like lightning flickers

in the midst of April storms.

Delhi waits like auburn autumn

draped in dark and brownish norms.

And yet the longing surely grows

in the shade of Auliya’s tomb.

Here they breed so many things,

none of which make sense of us,

but the dark descends like the draped dead

in a sheer absence of light.

See, Khusro, it is night!

YOU AND I, THE AFTERNOON

This great afternoon,

and you, and the coming

of your eyes, as the clouds,

as the sudden rain, as the light,

as the swallows’ flight

over the mango trees,

and the tinkle of the water

that the women wait

at the curling tap,

I love it all as Pipistrello’s bat

would love the dangling tresses

of the somnolent Vlad.

GANDHI BAGH

Here in the dark

the joining roads beat

like wings on the surge

in the rain of summer.

When nests follow the way

of liberated attachment,

when trees send leaves

to their placid end at the roots.

In the dark, here, only poles

of electric wait for the lighting.

While behind them the eleven,

dead now as doors and nails,

masquerade as ghosts, deities

of a May that never had been

weighted for, nor truly seen.

As the yellow glares of the cars

slip into a nothingness of dares

and songs, and blares of horns,

the silent man warm with care

walks that thin line between here

and there, and there the mud

slithers across his feet, his fair

feet which tread the path of not-there.

The silent man, with silent mud,

with silent wares, with silent want,

makes for a goodly flower of night

draped and growing with green light.

Singular fantasies surge in his body.

Another wait begins after one has died.

On the turn when he sees the feet,

he gathers his bait, and makes to slink,

to see if this night it would somehow link.

Every evening at eight this garden

comes to life with a silent guard.

In the day, it is only the sea of dead,

of grass, of stone, of flowery head

that people passing see around here.

Gandhi Bagh, secretive citadel,

of dead Mays and a silent bell.

Arjun Choudhuri

Arjun Choudhuri

Arjun Chaudhuri's debut poetry collection In the House Next Door was published by Writers Workshop in 2006. Since he has published two more poetry collections with Wordsmith, Kolkata (The River Roads in 2009) and Aquarius, UK (Metrophobia, 2012). His recent poetry collection Rain Tree Deity has been accepted for publication by Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark. Arjun also translates poetry and prose from Bengali and Sanskrit. His translations have featured in a number of anthologies and scholarly editions like Barbed Wire: Borders and Partitions in South Asia (Routledge, 2012), and in Swapnasumari, or The Census of Dreams (Vicky Publishers, 2011). His anthology of translations from Bengali poetry titled Bordering Poetry was published by Vicky Publishers in 2010. Arjun is currently co-editing an anthology of essays on commemoration entitled Barak Valley Express: Memorials in Text. Besides poetry and translations of poetry, Arjun has also edited two volumes of the 'Critical Introductions' series published by DC Books, Kerala (George Eliot's Adam Bede and Henry James' Daisy Miller, both published in 2011). Arjun teaches at Assam University's Department of English and has completed his doctoral dissertation on cultural memory and multiethnic American literature at the same department very recently. He is also the founding editor for The Four Quarters Magazine. His poetry and some of his essays have been published by Postcolonial Text, Muse India, The Four Quarters Magazine, Fearless, The Crowded Patio and other literary journals in India and abroad. Arjun has been recently nominated a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, Centre for Advanced Study, University of London, UK.