The Tale of the Yard and other poems

By Preetinicha Barman 

POETRY EDITOR Ananya S Guha’s note: Preetinicha Barman’s poems have a rusticity which makes you hear, feel, smell and see. These poems are of the earthen house, the pond or the tree. However evocative they are also their cinematic quality is unmistakable.

The Tale of the Yard

I wake up

and sleep 

and wake up again;

Blue curtains surround the room

and shadow my essence.

My face under the white ceiling,

looks like a copper plate,

humid, reddish brown.

This is the moment when

 the mind goes for a sleep-walk

 to the rumbling field of sandy grass

 tickled by the ripples of yellow-brown leaves.

 The sun shines bright

 in the land of the waking sleep,

 and I fall asleep under the heat;

Clutching the wire

the semi-dry cloths flutter in the wind.

The ducks dive into the pond

with quacking speed,

The cows and sheep slip into the front-yard

through the gaps of bamboo-fence.

The sky purples,

The giant brass-bell of the temple

cautions the beasts

and the sleeping woman

lying in the twilight.

I move

and wake up 

and thus continues my sleep-walk

through the dream of a forlorn yard

I long to return.

***

The Trail

Standing on the field

I asked the mud trail

“Do you remember me?”

The old path amidst the stubbles

replied with a coy gaze,  

“You came once or twice wearing your new boots

and I smelled you,

You were your father, then”.

“You were there with your sandals,

(a bit worn out)

When you were your grandfather,

I smirked a little and 

sprinkled mud, 

and you puffed out annoyance”.

 “I was heavy with delight

When you pressed my chest 

with your enamoured  khadams

as your great grandfather.

That was the time of my youth,

The century just unfurled,

 I was newly made

and you had a new hawdah”.

“I know you for all four generations;

My mother, the paddy field even knows 

your great ancestors”.

She sighed and smiled,

“My love gathers

your every smell

when you step in,

Shapes my bosom

each time you glean

and ride the loaded carts.

I wait for your return

When you cease to come,

Lean on patiently for the smell

of your feet,

I knew you for ages,

Perhaps your present eyes

have marvelled at my beauty

just this time…”

***

A Calf’s Dream

It’s this shed that is my home,

I am born in it and live here with my mother.

The broad-eyed heifers peer at me,

They are my sisters,

Do they dote on me

or are just jealous?

I suckle at my mother’s udder,

twice or thrice a day,

I’m given my fodder

by the one who smells sweet but strange.

Does she dote on me?

***********

I joined them in the other shed,

I am a bull, a steer,

I have grown muscles and horns,

They look at those and wonder,

May be one of them is my father.

The woman puts fodder for me,

I like the balls of salt.

***********

 I still don’t know my fate,

Will I remain a bull, a steer,

or will be castrated into an ox?

The grown heifers look at me 

and they marvel,

They expect me to be their beau.

***********

I’m an ox,

In the mornings I plough,

Evenings, I carry vegetables to the market;

My yoke is hard, my cart heavy.

I have strength

The woman’s son calls me his brother

and I give my best to him.

***********

I am an old cow,

I was a beautiful heifer,

I was a milking cow,

I filled the creamery and the dairy.

I love the green of grass,

the yellow of straw

and the black, brown skins

of my calves,

But they look only at my white

milk, card, cream and butter.

At this time of life

I am left with none,

Only the green grass remains with me.

I take rest and brood

in a ceaseless field

till the sun droops.

My sons go to plough,

Some pull carts,

Two of them inseminate

and fill the sheds,

My daughters still enrich the dairy.

My bounty blesses

the fields, the farms and the hearths,

I feel proud

to be called a cow.

***

The Backyard Woods

The backyard is quite clean now,

A few years ago one could not venture into it

without sipping dose of fear.

Snakes and insects,

the ghastly sound from the ruffling trees, 

the deep air breathing out the sigh of spirits–

All combined into the gothic aura…

Now the woods are scanty,

The mango grooves, the jack fruit trees,

the tall areca nut plants –

all are sold one by one.

If this year too, 

flood ravages the crops

the farmland will also be sold out.

Then no fear of ghosts or spirits

would ever haunt,

Fear would hide

in the heart of the farmland,

If that also gets sold

then…

then the house yard will be orphaned,

the shrunken patio would sing the dirge 

of ghosts and spirits

and of the trees they dwelt in…

***

Atharokota (The Eighteen Roomed Palace)

The pond with its reddish water

still hallucinates the red history,

The giant banyans around it

breathe out the sigh of bygone days –

Abundant, artisanal Atharokota,

The eighteen roomed palace

is lost in an abscessed land

around a desolate pond.

The pond is the only remnant now, 

called ‘Atharokota’.

It has now turned into a fishery,

A hut and a machan guard it day and night.

The fishes of today do not know the old tale

nor do they know that they are feeding on

the skulls of the remains of a missing history.

***

The Marsh

I saw you leaning over the pool,

Grey and black fishes were 

dancing in the slimy water.

I saw a rainbow in front of you

gleaming over the twilight moor…

No, no, you didn’t see it,

Your soggy eyes never look for 

any other colour than grey and black.

I saw you drooping,

Your wet legs dangling like cranes.

A heron was flying away

just by your elbow,

It looked like your twin

buried deep in the palsy thoughts

of grey and dark,

And then seeking shelter 

in the hood of darkness.

The grey moor turned black,

I could not see any more

the colours of the hungry marsh.

***

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.