Stark and Lyrical

The Thumb Print launches its poetry column with prolific poet NITOO DAS

Poetry Editor ANANYA S GUHA’s note:

In these poems there is an intermingling of both the abstract and the concrete making them very powerful. Her images are clearly etched and vivified in such a manner so as to arouse reader’s empathy. Lyricism is also a mark quality in her poems. These poems bring out some of the best in her poetry: stark, real and lyrical.

 

Embroidery

 

You have to learn

to uncrease the wrinkles

with the tightness of a hoop.

Use a circle of wood and a screw

to pull taut a moon of cloth.

 

Choose carefully

the needle, the skeins, the pattern.

Squint eye to eye and thread thin

silk. Designing fingers will arrest

 

an instant: a lazy daisy nest, a running

bird, herringbone leaves, feathered curlicues

closed with French flowers.

 

Craft a silence balanced by the stab

of needle, the clink

against thimble.

 

Knot with care

when you’re done.

 

The underside

(the flight of thread

the net

of loops and jumps)

will never be seen.

The precision

never undone.

***

 

When a man kisses a tree

 

Something shifts.

The grass leans closer.

The June dust hides

much. An ache for tree bark

fractured like the soles of his mother’s feet

perhaps. Or a beloved

wooden and impenitent. A rehearsal

of the evening’s foreplay. Perhaps.

Or just the touch

of a man’s lips

soft and open

against a tree’s grief.

Perhaps

this last.

       ***

 

Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang

 

Every morning I feed you

pieces of my past, O Buddha

Every morning I scatter

my feathers around you, O Buddha

Every morning my fingers

fly over listening wheat, O Buddha

 

Every morning I dress you

with calloused eyes, O Buddha

Every morning the cold turns

me into firewood, O Buddha

Every morning the mountains

remind me of stains, O Buddha

 

Every morning the leaf-smoke greys

into lovesong, O Buddha

Every morning the stars seem closer

to your mouth, O Buddha

Every morning my frown

torches the sky, O Buddha

 

Every morning I fold deeper

into my flesh, O Buddha

Every morning the stones walk

by a fever, O Buddha

Every morning my hunger

edges toward you, O Buddha

***

 

How to pluck a gulbakshi

 

Consider it blindfolded.

Judge its magenta

as sharp as breath.
Take into account a runic aftertaste.

Weigh the fragility of smell,

eroded so easily.
Believe in violent fingers,

fervent and crumpling.

Study

its turncoat variability.

Bear in mind the lightness of feet.

Reflect on the trumpet

display, the frail charm.

Think about narratives

hidden in stamens.
Watch it as it swoons.

The clock ticks. Four o’ clock,

five o’ clock, six. Watch it crinkling.
Quick, pluck it. Crush it

and consider it again

in the mark of pink hands.

***

 

Map of India

 

My Geography teacher

always asked me to chalk it

on the board. It was easy.

 

A floppy-haired head, two

arms spread and feet pressed

coyly together in the waters.

 

A woman pirouetting.

One hand holding

a veil in the wind.

 

This is the map children

still draw. The formal,

fictional map. The other map, the

 

un-schooled one shows she

has trimmed her hair a bit and is slowly

letting go of her veil.

Nitoo Das

Nitoo Das

Nitoo Das teaches English at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She was born in Guwahati, but has lived in Delhi since 1994. Das’s PhD from JNU dealtwith constructions of the Assamese Identity under the British. Her first poetry collection, Boki, was published in September 2008. Her poetry has also been published in online sites like Poetry International Web, Pratilipi, Muse India, Eclectica, Seven Sisters Post, Four Quarters Magazine, Northeast Review and Poetry with Prakriti. Das’s poetry works with voice, soundscape and comic defamiliarisation.  Her interests include fractals, bird photography, caricatures, comic books, poetry as hypertext and translation from Assamese to English. At present she is working on her second book of poetry.