Fire of my reverence: Shakti Chattopadhyay

Fire of my reverence
Incinerate me
First, torch the two feet that can no longer move
Then the hands which hold no love or order today
Now icebergs of flowers in the crook of the arms
No more responsibility settling on the shoulders
Burn them in proximity to life
Stop a moment, then destroy
The silent seat of knowledge coloured by truth and lies
Save the pair of eyes
Maybe they still have
Something left to see
When the tears have stopped flowing crush the eyes
Don’t burn the garlands and bouquets dishevelled with fragrance
A loved touch lives on their bodies
Let them drift on the river freely, wilfully
Fire of my reverence
Incinerate me

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

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 Poems: Shakti Chattopadhyay

The Girl Named Mungri

With many rocks it has covered the path
The tiny stream that flows past the heart
Across it, houses by a linseed farm
If only you had known the girl named Mungri
You’d like it if you knew how the breeze
Suddenly makes her bunched up hair fly
Whispering rain, with the flowers dropping
Pollen, the distant mountain-woods of teak
It’s not building a home in another’s mind
Nor opening the moon’s doors and windows
The tiny stream that flows past the heart
Across it, houses by a linseed farm
If only you had known the girl named Mungri

A Letter

You’ve left home, since my letter’s been returned
You’re not there, the house stands, with a rusted lock
The peon has brought the letter back – for you’ve left
You must have found another house at a fair price
Send the address, how many rooms, is there enough light?
Have you put the plants in the veranda, do they bloom?
Tell me all, write me in your crooked script
A letter, it won’t be returned, I’m alive

Get me flowers from the tree now: Shakti Chattopadhyay

Get me flowers from the tree now
Get me all the flowers right now
All of them will fall to earth at dusk
I will not be here either at dusk
I will go away somewhere at dusk
I will never stay here at dusk
Get me flowers from the tree now
Love me close so you can be free now

[ Original: Aekhon gaachher theke phool perey daao ]