I have seen postmen wandering in the autumnal forest: Shakti Chattopadhyay

I have seen postmen wandering in the autumnal forest
Their yellow sacks filled with grass like swollen sheep bellies
So many letters new and old they had found
Those postmen in the autumnal forest
I have seen them pecking away incessantly
Like a solitary crane at a fish
So impossibly, mysteriously, warily absorbed
They’re not like those postmen of ours
From whose hands our constant, indulgent love letters
Are lost all the time

We are moving away from one another continuously
Distancing ourselves out of greed for letters
We are getting many letters from far away
We are going away from you at once to hand over letters
Loaded with love to the postmen

And so we are moving away from the kind of people
We are ourselves
And so we are about to express our foolish weaknesses
And motives, everything
We can no longer see ourselves in the mirror
We keep floating in the unpopulated evening veranda
And so we are taking off our clothes to be swept away
Alone in the moonlight
For a long time we have not embraced one another
For a long time we have not savoured human kisses
For a long time we have not heard people sing
For a long time we have not seen babbling children

We are drifting towards a forest even more ancient than the forest
Where the mark of eternal leaves is fused in stone jaws
We are floating away to a land of such unearthly connections
I have seen postmen wandering in the autumnal forest
Their yellow sacks filled with grass like swollen sheep bellies
So many letters new and old they had found
Those postmen in the autumnal forest
The distance between letters has only grown
I have never seen the distance between trees grow

The Tale of the Arjun and the Krishnachura: Mandakranta Sen

The Arjun tree stood alone in that field
An Aryan male – a pillar of aristocracy
All the other trees bowed to it
This was merely the beginning of the story

From somewhere came the Krishnachura seed
A few years later she was a young woman
A Santhal girl, with crimson in her hair
At once Arjun wanted her as his own

She was not a girl who would submit
In spring she dressed up without help, alone
She wasn’t drawn to the Aryan male
She was busy making the buds bloom

Last night’s flowers had fallen from her hair
Rippling leaves had woven clothes for her
Arjun – he was an Aryan male, who thought
Only he could claim beauty so fair

From the distance the Arjun tree could see
The Krishnachura’s cascading heart
Bewitched by beauty, his perplexed eyes
Wondered when he’d find his way to it

I’d better finish this story quickly
The Krishnachura is far too obstinate
Her pride won’t let her sell herself
She’d rather be a neighbour or a friend

The story isn’t quite so simple
Arjun shed his bark, sheds it still
But the Santhal girl can shed blood
The Aryan male accepts he cannot win

Be reborn as an Arjun tree
Consider the Krishnachura a friend
Don’t confuse me with others, upright one
When I bleed, shed your bark, call me then

Three Poems: Mandakranta Sen

After The Last Kiss

After the last kiss I’ll bring back a fallen hair
Life won’t change, I’ll take away this brief mistake
A momentary death, a synonym, over how many lives?
You sucked an ocean from my lips with sweat on your brow
Give me, give it to me, let me drink it, I am exhausted
How much of life did I have before this last kiss?
How much will remain afterwards? Just this lock of hair
Which I’ll wrap around my finger, a finger that touched you
Touch me, touch me more, let life leave in a flash
From my finest man I’ll seek a secret child
Whose hair’s just like yours, infinite space

~

The Story Of A Garden Somewhere

Every day you come to water the plants
Every day you go back gathering dry branches
In what simple flames
Do you cook your meal, gardener?

You give me the sun every day
Twice a day you water the earthen pots
Regular, measured love
I’m not an ill-fortuned woman

How long will you go on collecting fallen leaves?
Look at my green, all this green is yours
Ashes lie in the swabbed oven, I shan’t
Put fuel into it every day

The roots have settled in deep
You think they bind the soil of life
Uprooting this household
I shall escape from the garden

~

Rajani

Just Rajani’s luck
Any man she likes
They’re all married

Her aunt told her yesterday
If you heart awakes from sleep
It’s proper to raise your eyes

What’s the use of doing that
Saris dry in their garden
Playing in that arbour is wrong

Still the full moon is the sky’s guest
She climbs to the roof, a silent urge
Mesmerised by moonlight, the girl

You’ll jump, Rajani, won’t you?

Not a Very Happy Time, Not a Very Joyous Time: Shakti Chattopadhyay

Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet
Breast in breast
Nothing more – (a lot more?) – even earlier
Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet, breast in breast
Nothing more.
‘Hands up’ – raise them high – till someone picks you up
Another black van in a black van, and yet another
A row of windows, doors, a graveyard – skeletons lying awry
White termite in the bones, life in the termite, death in life – therefore
Death in death
Nothing more.
‘Hands up’ – raise them high – till someone picks you up
Throws you out of the van, but into another one
Where someone waits all the time – clutching plaster like a banyan seed
Someone or the other, whom you don’t know
Waits behind the trees like a hardy bud
Holding a golden cobweb noose, he will
Garland you – your wedding will be at midnight, when pavements are swapped, tottering from head to toe
From wall to wall, from parapet to parapet
Imagine the train waiting while the station runs, starlight by the dying bulbs
Imagine the shoes walking while the feet are still – heaven and hell turned upside down
Imagine children trotting to the crematorium bearing the corpse – in afterlife
Decrepit men dancing horizontally at a wedding

Not a very happy time, not a very joyous time
That’s when
Tottering from head to toe, from wall to wall, from parapet to parapet, swapping pavements at midnight
On the way home, a home in a home, feet in feet, breast in breast
Nothing more.

Two Love Poems by Nirmalendu Goon

~ 1 ~

When I tell you, ‘I love you’

It doesn’t mean that I don’t
Love anything other than you.

When I tell you, ‘I love you,’
Do I not also see the clouds?
Or the flower behind the leaves,
The birds on the flowers? Pretending
To look at you I look sideways at the world

The morning dew is still on your clothes
Around your reddened ankle the green grass
Plays at being twilight in its head

It strikes me that I love you because
The green grass in forests grows beneath your feet

~ 2 ~

The lord knows how many times I have
Drawn back my hand when about to touch you
My lord knows the number of times
I haven’t told you about love
Even when I was ready to.

I had welded my ears like magnets to the door
So that I could wake up at the sound of your
Soft knocking. You would arrive to tell me
‘Wake up now.
It’s me. Me.’

And what was this I heard
I would hurl myself at you with such joy
My lord knows how many times I have
Imagined just this scene.

My hair has turned grey for you
I have run up a fever for you
My lord knows my death will be for you
And then, much later, you too will know
I was born for you. Just for you