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 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.
and wake up
and thus continues my sleep-walk
through the dream of a forlorn yard
I long to return.
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
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 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,
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.
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.