Did you see it fall
Clinging, snakelike alone, for a while
Before it fell, crystalline and brief.
The stark end of a forgotten mossy branch
Bending with sorrow for the sublime.
The weight
Of an age of motion as swift as rain, broke
Through the green-blue-black,
a last cry
Before the change.
A water-drop.

Did you think it would be this way
That you would weep for the smell of a time
Lost and washed away,
An old age, an age of knowing, of growing
Sunk without to where no rain can fall.
That you would see the bending trees
Grow larger through the convex wave
On black seas—your life a water-drop,
you alone
Powerless to stop its fall.


The wind blowing a breath across the field
A falling wing howling in the night
The memory of a name unawakened
Make hungry breaches
Open in the moon.

The moon has alighted on the steeple
Reaching a gnarled arm in caress
By your torn leap into deranged space
Closeness has been found.
Won’t you come and see?

Your eyes are opening like black roses
Your mouth never ceased to move
In darkness. Yet this trembling
Fist, you kiss with lips that melt

The season is ending, the doors are falling shut
Awaiting the first breath, hesitant
Which all will realise
And sanctify
In fading memory of your martyrdom

Then let us not be shy of holding hands
One last time, obscure friend
Be to me
Small and fragile once more
Before they take you away.

They are taking you to the public square
A million tiny soldiers, they hold you
Aloft. A pyre is burning
Vermillion and the taste of ash
Etching into raw flesh
Its own irony!

We will wear your heart on our foreheads, love—
Twisting our round necks with pride
Dolled-up in our own backyard,
We will be right.
But you will only lie still.

Over that beaded head now hideously
Steams a white froth reeking of icy
Massacre, sail across white corridors of stone
Sterile and smokelike
With stone in your mouth

Blue, blue, blue and cold, your heart!
Still breathless, stilling, still.
Rounded love
That had brimmed in your eye
Ready to overflow—

That echo runs wailing over the sea
Nirbhaya, Pi Patel has found the light
But when Death came
Baring his thighs
Did you fear?

Lift up your eyes of smattered Kohl!
Pull out your arms from the wall
And come to me
Sweet princess
Only child.

Devikaa! Daminii! Jahnvii!
You are on the last boat ride!
Orange-juice-lemon-juice man
Bhelpuri –bhaiya-oozing-hard-work
Wave a blue rag from the shore

Devika, run your hand through your hair
Jahnvi, put your hands in the air—and then
Devika, Jahnvi, stop. And cry.
Weep it out. Then shout.
Damini, lie still.

Under a brazen shadow engulfing
The rocks, the arched spine rising
From the shriek
The black colossus with the razor beak
Ripping, ripping, ripping.
No chain will stay him now.

Don’t sob, you wretch, show enmity!
Be the red siren with flaming locks
And let your touch be anger.
When all the world moves, why
Should you be silent?

Your feet quiver. Then what great malice
Froze the fire in your mouth—
As they ran wild
Virgin like
With unintelligible groans?

Tell me what dawn they will open for me.
Or is it a pennant-stricken sky
Will we sing of revolutions
While you, love,
Grow old in modesty?

Stay awhile, I’m terrified!
New Year Madonna! Dance already!
Another candle I light
From that ashen womb
Another minute I borrow.

This sorrowful hand, heavier than a tide
You softly fill with the lightness of birds
We are carried up high
In the rising smell
Of cola and crackers.

Forgive me if I yield to them now—
Forgive me if I die
Like your quenched terror bending over me
Raw and palpable, yet
Past like a winter.

In the end, to know your ordinariness
Had never a thing to do with us
The sigh is cold now
And fragmented.
Motion can only haunt you now.

So sit at long last like an angel at the clock
Ticking like a woman’s truth, in black dusk.
I’ll weep for your lost laugh
Private and country less
A laugh I’ll never know.

Oh, the chunri that flies aloft like Spring!
Curling on the clouds like a widows grief
Oh the scarlet raptures
Of a kiss

Oh the hope that shakes at last
Those roguish hands brewing a new obsidian
Oh the rain that falls
Drowning your face

[On16 December 2012, a twenty-three year old girl  was brutally raped on a bus in Delhi when returning from a screening of ‘Life of Pi’. ‘Nirbhaya’, the one who awoke a nation, died of her injuries on the 29th of December.]


Her tongue had a reputation for being quick
To curl around a thoughtful pen or a nicked finger
And her fingers, they said
Fit perfectly on the creases of old foreheads.

She walked stirring up the dust
(which being so disturbed, nonetheless
whispered devotedly around her ankles),
Smelling of indulgent antiseptic, smiling her smile
Making them want to live for that reason only.

The banister said to the main-gate one night
‘I can’t imagine, what or who, the other night,
Had broken from her charm!
It must’ve been a poltergeist.’
She’d run as though she’d seen a ghost
Torn-bloused through the howling corridor.

[Suchetana Mukhopadhyay]


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