5/26/20

New | Poetry | Atreyee Majumder

PC: Life Magazine, Google Archives



America 

America, summer is here now
Your sobs muffled in flowers now
Lovers kiss on skateboards
And the recession smiles
Your shopping carts brim
Your beards trimmed
Your beaches abound
Your towers aground
Your daddy loves you
Your pajamas are new
Black and blue.

America, you killed the sinner
You washed your hands
You kissed me tender
You brushed
You hushed
Me to sleep.

I memorized my credit card numbers
in my dream
When you fucked me tender
America, summer is here now
I hiked a few miles
to see the world as if I were tall
And then came down
And gathered all my stuff
My credit cards, keys, underwear
Forgot my phone
It rang
In the dream
As you shoved it in
Between
I wore a hat
In the dream
My thrift store dress
On the floor
Of an elevator
America, your big dick
Shrunk
As the phone rang.



Found 

Found in a torn envelope
of ripped-out toenails.
As if a birthday gift.
Unopened.
Rotten with time
but loved still
in hiding.
Through cracks of daylight
and agile cats
and pencil shavings
in bookbinders.
These webs of time,
found in the folds of scarves and hairs.
Your dead toenail
shaved out
in inches, is
now a monument.


   I have Plans

We are the hungry generation
Hang on
We are hungry
Can you hear me?
Line is unclear
Are you home?
I’m home
I’m busy
I have plans
Five year plans
Ten year plans
I have a plant if you will
-     A dead plant.
I type in the comfort of its warm corpse.
Do corpses get hungry?
We are the hungry generation.
We hate you.
Your broken pencil
Bald spot
Tender loving attention
Constitutive openings.
We’ve locked the door of the kitchen cabinet.
The door is locked.
The food is in there.
It rained.
We bled.
There was blood on the dance floor
Time and time again
We played DJ Heebi Jeebie
Some Oriental bullshit
Hungry for music
Hungry for love
Love on the dance floor
Tsk tsk tsk
Love in the time of Hungary.
I was just in Budapest for my honeymoon
The moon was yellow
We bled out some hungry love
At lunch, we parted.
I kept the bangles
They make me hungry
On balmy evenings
I dream of mosquitoes
Some Oriental bullshit
On a four post bed.
I have plans tonight.

  Date Knight

I walk these dunes across the clock
The clock of a millennium
This clock is my friend
My most hearty friend
From the Republic of madness.

For a millennium,
I have been looking for Radhika
Radhika whose braid hung out of the
Calcutta tramline
She had limpid sad eyes
Illustrated by a schoolgirl braid.

It has been many clocks now
I walk in and walk out
Of the many wristholds of Radhika.
The Calcutta tramline is my friend
It reminds me of the many clocks
That burnt out
Running with me.

Thank you clocks,
I say, in dried tears.
I have stopped counting
For counting was my first sin
Never count my friends! Never ever!

O clocks I am sorry
For I tried to use time for counting
Time is the veil of Radhika
The unveiling of which was my second sin
Hey Radhika,
You wanna get coffee sometime?
Anytime, anywhere.

I promise I won’t look at the waitress.

    
History

If tomorrow comes
I will be the dry leaf teardrop crystal
Right by the stairwell
Thick dust all over, broken glass pane, sobbing faintly to brother History
If tomorrow comes
You will be pulling along a perambulator and shopping cart/
pigtails and dreamy eyes.
If tomorrow comes
I will be the industrial warehouse
Dried soot on furnace
Waiting for the delight of limestone;
I will be the rocky bed in the rivulet that was
Young weed on temple deity
Pulled down cars of the 80's.
If tomorrow comes
I will be the ash-heap of today.


5/25/20

New | Poetry | Emma Caterinicchio

Artwork by Harsh Kumar



For I fear
And fear I for,
The things that could desert me,
That make me happier than can be,
And are, truly, temporary highs,
In a life of all of the above.

        ***


A friend here
A friend there, 
One in my pocket, 
One on a plane, 
That one sleeps too much, 
That one not at all.



A friend here, 
A friend there, 
One smiling wide, 
One breaking down, 
That one likes to worry, 
That one does as well. 



A friend here, 
A friend there, 
One making thousands, 
One unemployed, 
That one doesn’t talk much, 
And all are in my heart.


     ***


I can create it
Just wait and see, 
I point my finger in space,
And make a melody.



I can create it,
Allow me the room to shine, 
I thread it through my fingers, 
And make a sweet design. 



I can create it, 
Don’t turn away, 
Watch me move my lips, 
And listen to what I say. 



I can create it, 
Don’t be alarmed, 
I move my hips like this, 
And the whole room is charmed. 



I can create it, 
Don’t need to wait in line, 
I place a seed into soil, 
And allow creation to shine.

    ***


At night they’d crawl, 
Out from their daytime slumber, 
What bigness the world had to offer, 
Always something new strewn about, 
And always something sleeping, 
Until they’d reach out, 
And touch it awake.



When something wakes at night, 
Versus in the early morning, 
The awakeness is different and delicious, 
Its energy comes from an internal eternal place, 
Rather than the sun. 



Play those sweet night melodies,
Long limbs that crawl, 

And wonder why the world is so quiet, 


When there is so much awe.

5/24/20

Fiction | Nirmal Verma | An Inch and a Half above Ground | Akash Bharadwaj

Le Bar des Colonies a Toulon, by Verdilhan


If you wish you can join me on this table. There is enough space. After all, how much space does one need? No—no---I won't be bothered. If you wish, you can stay silent. Even I don't like to speak much...a man can talk and yet be silent, at the same time. Very few understand this. I have been doing this for years. Of course, you don't...You are young; at your age being silent means being silent and talking means talking. It never happens at once. You’re drinking from a small mug? Perhaps you are not used to drinking yet. The moment I saw you I knew you don't belong here.  I know who comes to this place in this late hour. You can't talk to them. They are already sloshed. They come here for their last beer when all other pubs are closed and they have nowhere else to go. They get drunk very quickly. Over the tables. Out on the streets. Inside the trams.
On several occasions, I’ve had to drop them home. It's true they don't recognize me the next day. Don’t get me wrong, I was not pointing at you. It’s the first time I am seeing you here. You quietly went towards the other table. I felt bad about it. No, don't panic...I won't force myself on you. We can sit together and still be alone with our beer. In my age, it's a bit difficult, as every old man is a little scared of something or the other…Turning old with your dignity intact is a grace difficult to achieve. It’s an art you learn over time. What did you say? My age? Can you guess? Oh no Sir! Don’t make me happy for no reason…But perhaps you have already given me a reason to feel good about myself. Would you mind if I order another beer to celebrate? What about you? Won't you drink? No…I won't insist then.
Every man should have the freedom to choose their life and drink...Both can be chosen only once. Later we repeat, what we drank once, or the life we once lived. Do you believe in the afterlife? I mean the one after death? I hope you don't have the clich├ęd answer that you don't believe in any faith. I’m a Catholic; but I find this interesting that a man doesn't die after death...We complete a life and then another and then another. Very often during the night I think about this...You know, at my age, one cannot sleep easily. To get sleep you need one part carelessness, half a part tiredness; and if you don't have any of these, you compensate it by drinking one and a half pints of beer. This is the reason I have been coming here every night for the past fifteen years.
I sleep a little, around three am I wake up, and then I can't stay in my house alone. Three am at night is a terrible time. I say it from experience. At two am, it’s quite dark and at four, it's already morning; but at three, you feel you are neither here nor there. I have always felt it is the moment when death arrives.
What did you say? No sir, I don't live alone. People who live on pension have their own hobbies. I have a cat; she has been living with me for years. While I’m sitting here talking nineteen-to-the-dozen and drinking beer, she’s sitting behind my door waiting for me. It gives me a lot of comfort that someone’s waiting for me with her eyes on the road outside.
I cannot imagine those people not waiting for anybody, and no one waiting for them. You stop living the moment you stop waiting. Cats can wait for so long and so patiently. They are like women in that sense. Like them, they have the extraordinary power to attract you and draw you towards them. They bring forth both desire and fear. You might be afraid of dogs and other animals. But that's a lesser kind of fear. You walk on one side of the lane, and the dog on the other. The dog fears that you might cheat on it, and you are fearful that it might pounce on you. But in that fear there is no mystery, adventure or possibility...Something that a cat or a snake can create in you.
The truth is- and I am saying this from my experience- cats are like women. They are difficult to know till the end no matter how many years you have lived with them. And it is not because they purposefully want to hide something from you; it's because you don't have the courage to open all the doors that can take you inside them. Don't you find this strange that most often only those things attract us that harbor a bit of terror in them...If you don't mind I will take one more beer? In sometime, this pub will close and till morning, you won't find a drop of it anywhere in the city. Don’t be afraid! I know my limits. A man should raise himself just an inch-and-a half above ground. Anything higher can make him land in a police station or a sewer...Which is not very interesting. Some are so afraid that their feet remain on the ground. For them drinking or not drinking is the same. So this is it- the right distance is an inch and a half.
One must be conscious enough to see one’s consciousness slowly wither away...Like when the flame of a matchstick comes right up to your fingers and you let it fall -- neither too early, nor too late. The mystery of drinking is hidden in that moment of holding yourself and letting it go. The difficult part is we don't realize this unless we have gone beyond it. And then it's of no use. I won't feel bad if you laugh at me and brush aside what I just said. Sometimes I think I should learn to live with the fact that not knowing some things has its own comfort. With time you learn this as you learn to live with your wife in the same house for years...However; the doubt remains if she is playing the same game that you do.
Sometimes to get over this doubt you start loving a second woman or a third. This is the beginning of a disappointment because the second woman has her own secrets and the third her own. This is like the game of chess. You play your chance which opens up endless opportunities for your opponent. Having lost one game, you hope to win the next one. You forget that the next game has its own possibilities like the first one- endless and mysterious. See...That is why I say no matter how many relationships you get into, in reality, you are in relationship with only one woman...What did you say?
No! I have already told you, leaving my cat aside, I live alone in my house. You are right...I am married...My wife is not alive anymore...This is my guess. You seem amused. I said I am guessing because I didn't see her dying. When you haven't seen someone dying in front of your eyes, when your hands didn't bury them, then you can only guess that they are not alive. Maybe you will laugh at me, but until you have seen someone known to you dying, a faint hope remains  that one is alive...You will open the door and she will come rushing through the kitchen, wiping her hands in the towel, to stand before you. Of course, this is an illusion. It doesn't happen like that. Instead, there is a cat changing the color of her eyes while leaning on the step behind the door. I have heard people say time can absorb things...Do you also think so? I don't know...Sometimes I feel it doesn't absorb so much as it sweeps away- in dark corners, under the carpet, so that no one can see it from outside. But its claws always lurk from behind. In any unknown moment it can clench you in its arms. Perhaps I am just rambling...This is the joy of drinking beer.
You can wander off the track and keep moving... circling round and round. Do you know the children's game when they sit making a circle and one of them runs around with a handkerchief in his hand? Is it played in your country? Ah! See...No matter how different we are, children play similar games. In those days, our situation was like children playing that game...Because none of us knew when who would find the handkerchief left behind whom. Each one of us like a scared kid would search his back if it lay there...yes indeed, the Germans arrived here during those days. You must have been very young then. Even I was not that old. During the fight, I was busy working from morning till evening like a young bull.
McSorley's Bar, Joan Sloan

After an age, a man learns to live within the parameters of average happiness...He has no time to see beyond it...You must have felt that the thing we call happiness belongs to a moment. Though very strong, once the moment passes by, it appears weak and faint like a slight hangover. However, what we call sorrow or difficulty or pain doesn't belong to an occasion...I mean you don't exactly feel it during an accident. At that moment, you become distressed, failing to find an already existing frame to fit your experience of pain into. Occurring of an accident is one thing...But to face all its consequences throughout your life or being able to face them is altogether different. This is impossible...It doesn't work like that. I mean...To place yourself again and again in someone’s position and imagine the misery the other must have undergone… It might be a little less or little more...But not what and how the other must have felt. No..No… don’t get me wrong. I didn't see my wife undergo misery.
They had already taken her away when I reached home. During seven years of our married life, it was the first time that I had entered an empty house. The cat? No, those days I didn't have a cat. I got a cat after years. My neighbours were for sure looking at me through their windows. That was natural, I guess. I also used to peep through my window to look at people whose relatives would be taken away by Gestapo. But I never imagined that one day I would return home to find my wife's room empty. See...I want to ask you something- hearing of a death, torture or an accident or reading about them in the newspaper- does it occur to us that it could have happened to us? Why do we always feel that it is for others? Ah! I am happy that you are taking another beer. You can't sit before an empty glass the whole night...What did you say? I knew you would ask this question. I would have felt a little strange if you had not.
No, sir...Initially, I couldn't understand it myself. During an incident like this a man becomes clueless. He cannot even understand the pain he is going through. My wife's belongings lay scattered all around...Clothes, books, old newspapers. The doors of almirahs and cupboards stood open and every little-big thing from inside lay upside-down on the floor. Christmas presents, the sewing machine, old photo-albums. You know how marriage brings it all together! It seemed they had turned every small thing upside down, searched every corner...There was nothing that might have escaped their hands. I spent that night sitting in my room. From there, I could see my wife's empty bed. Under the pillow, lay her handkerchief, a matchbox and a pack of cigarettes. Before going to bed, she always smoked a cigarette. This irked me in the beginning, but later I got used to this habit of hers.
On the stool near her bed was her book- the one she was reading those days. The page at which she had stopped reading the night before, she had inserted her hairpin to make a mark. It smelled of her hair. You know even after so many years many small details from our life do not vanish from our memories! Perhaps rightly so. Before marriage we always think of big things full of deeply felt experiences, but having stayed together for a few years, these big things slip from our fingers; only some small habits, everyday routines that look shallow from outside and minor daily differences remain. We feel shy to divulge those details, but without them everything feels hollow. I spent the night sitting in her room surrounded by her things. I was perhaps not me then. I was unable to understand anything. She was not in her room...It was real. I could understand it. But now that they had taken her away, it was beyond me.
And after all, why my wife? I kept asking this question to myself that night. You will be surprised to know that in the seven years of my married life it was the first time that I suspected my wife...It was as if she had kept something secret from me, something of which I was not a part. Later, I came to know that the Gestapo had been looking for her. She was found with some illegal pamphlets and papers which were being circulated secretly among people. This was an unpardonable crime in the eyes of German officers. The police had found those pamphlets in her room...And you would perhaps find it surprising that I didn't know anything about it. Before that night we used to sleep in the same room, make love...and in the same room there were things which were her secrets about which I knew nothing. Don't you find this interesting that they knew my wife better than me? Please wait...Let me finish my glass and I will get along with you. After some time, they will close and then it will be over. There is no hurry. The joy of drinking resides in drinking it slowly. In our language there is a saying- we should drink to the fullest, because after a hundred years we won't be in this world. Hundred years...This is a long time, don't you think so? I doubt if any one of us will be alive for so long. A man lives...eats...drinks and then one day- phat! No sir! The terrible thing is not dying. Millions die every day and one hardly makes a sound.
The terrible thing is that the dead person carries all his secrets with him and we can do nothing about it. In a way he becomes free from us. That night I frantically kept moving from one room to another in my house...You will perhaps smile at this that after the police I was the next person to search her belongings...I  searched every little thing of hers . I did not believe that she hadn’t left a trail, following which I could have found something of which I was also a part along with her. Her wedding dress, letters kept in her drawer I had written to her before marriage, feathers and stone she collected...You see, in the seven years of my married life that night I was searching my wife's things as if I was not her husband but an investigator, a servant on the payroll of police...It was striking me again and again that I wouldn't be able to ask her anything anymore. She wouldn't be able to escape from their hands. I knew this.
I had not seen anyone returning after their arrest. But that night what had disturbed me more was not the fact that she was close to her death, but this realization that I would never come to know the truth about her. Death would put a lock on her secret and not leave behind any trail that would help me unlock it ever.
The next night they knocked on my door. I was ready waiting for them. I knew they would come. If my wife had accepted all the charges against her, they wouldn't have needed me. But I knew my wife would not utter a word. I was unaware of her ‘secrets’; but I very well knew her habits. She knew how to be calm and silent...no matter how tortuous the pain. No sir, I didn't see her being tortured, but I can imagine.
The first question they asked me was very clear: if I was the husband of Ms...? In response to the question, I could only agree. All other questions were beyond me. But they did not let go of me easily. They laughed at what I had just said. And when I told them that I did not know anything about her activities, they thought I was trying to save my skin. They took me to another cell. The whole week during day and night they asked me the same kind of questions in different ways. What did I know about my wife? Where did she go? Who gave her the leaflets? I can’t tell you about the ways they adopted to wrest answers from me. No matter in how much detail I tell you, you cannot guess at all. They used to beat me up until I would lose my consciousness. But they had a lot of patience...They waited till the time I was back to my senses and then the same pattern would repeat. The same old questions and endless pain.
They would not trust me that I - who was living with my wife for years- did not know about her secret activities. They thought I was making a fool out of them. Throwing dust in their eyes. Their beatings didn’t pain me, what pained me was the fact that I had no answer for their questions. To tell them I had only the knowledge of some very ordinary domestic matters that every woman shares with her man. I cannot even imagine that along with her everyday life she was living a second life...away from me, outside me, untouched from me, a life that had nothing to do with me. Don't you feel a little strange about it...if they had not taken her away, all my life I would have thought that my wife is the same person, someone whom I know.
You do know those were the last days of the War and Gestapo would not let their prey escape easily...My wife did not accept anything till the end. They had no hope from her. But they considered me naive. They perhaps did not want to kill me, but they inflicted on me as much pain as possible while sparing me my life. They left me alone only when they got tired, or when I had fallen unconscious. I did not accept anything- this was not my courage- the truth was I had nothing to accept. Do you know, the first night when I did not find my wife in her room, I felt bad about it?I thought she had betrayed me by keeping me in the dark. This would prick my conscience that my wife did not consider me capable enough to be her confidant. But later in those moments of unbearable pain and torture before Gestapo- I felt glad that she did not tell me anything. In a way, she had saved me.
Till today I have not been able to reach a conclusion: would I have been courageous enough to stay silent, had I known her secrets? Think a little, how much my pain would have increased, had I the option to accept! Under some compulsion you can bear a pain heavy as a mountain, but when you know that any moment you can get rid of it, though you would have to betray your wife, your father, or your own brother...then after a certain threshold it's impossible to say if you wouldn’t choose that path. There is no pain bigger than having the opportunity to choose. Sometimes I feel my wife did not divulge her secret to save me from this pain. It is often said that in love there is no hiding, it shines like a mirror.
I think there is nothing more misleading than this. To love is not only to split one open, it is also to hide so that we could keep others away from our own personal miseries...Every woman understands this and since she is more capable of loving than a man, she also has the courage to hide herself. Don't you think so? Possible, that am wrong...but during night when I can't get sleep, I feel a little assured thinking that...leave it, I can't explain. When I called you to sit on this table, it was not with this hope that I would be able to make you understand anything. What did you say? No sir! I didn't see my wife after that. One afternoon when I was returning home, I saw a poster.
Those days posters would be put up on the walls of the city every third or fourth day...Each poster had thirty to forty names of those who had been shot down the last night...When my eyes fell on the name of my wife, for some time I felt strange that beneath this name can lie the face of my wife...As I told you, till the time you haven't seen one dying before your eyes, you cannot believe that one is not alive...A faint hope remains that one would open the door...but see, I am repeating what I said before. This is a good thing about drinking beer that you can keep moving around the circle...round and round and round. Are you leaving? Please stay for a while...Let me buy some pieces of salami for my cat...Poor thing must be sitting hungry waiting for me. No...No...You don't need to come with me. My home is not that far and then, I know the limits of my drinking. An inch-and-a-half above the ground.


5/23/20

Poetry| for the Dark Times | Sutputra Radheye


Mural by Diego Rivera

Fascist Rhyme

Forests are being baked
to serve companies coal.

          Migrants are being killed
          because they're bloody poor.

Students are thrown in jail
as their voice hurts like nail.
       
          Doctors are dragged on roads
          for owning a mouth of their own.

Police acts like dummies
as if they are scared of cronies.
  
            Muslims are targeted, attacked
            on news channels long sold.

Uncle Namo visits once in a while
to allot tasks, cry and lie.
         
            That's not how Lockdown is for you
            You have dalgona coffee to brew.





DEHING PATKAI


Ugly men
        strong men
coming to our forest
 with cash
           and an axe
to cut down
        the historical roots
by burning
       the home of gibbons

and, the white collars
       permitted the decimation
of green
        to pull out the black gold
from the womb of land

O, the people
                   stand up
before the axe
               cuts your leg
and speak for
               Dehing Patkai

or else
        someday
our amazon will be bought
       by their amazon

and the government
         won't even blink
before selling us.



Five Days 

A Rickshawala
soaked all the air
he could

The calls of hunger
un-attended for five days

The jars were empty
as his body stayed
under Lockdown

Enough of the protest
the poor will die
anyway

New | Poetry | Jim Clark

pc: annie spratt 


News of the Day

I walked out this evening and saw
the white peonies, six of them, bending
on their slender stalks toward the earth.

They were so lovely I took out my phone and snapped
a photo to share my happiness with friends.

After the photo went on its way I noticed
the headline, breaking the news of the moment,
“Two Killed, Four Wounded, in Shooting at UNCC.”

The old too-familiar pain entered my heart,
squeezed the air from my lungs,
bowing my head to my chest.

The beautiful peonies on the screen fluttered
white, angelic, each with a tiny smear
of blood in the center.





One Day

Las Vegas, NV


Dawn is a generous thief
Bringing loss,
Leaving its litany of grief.