7/29/21

TSC Book Review | Poetry | Book of Prayers (For the Nonbeliever) | Dibyajyoti Sarma

Noah's Ark - via Wikimedia Commons

 

For all our achievements, human beings still grapple with two basic questions: Where have we come from and where are we going?

These questions have been of particular interest to two epistemological disciplines – philosophy and science. Literature and the arts have also delved into the subject but in a more roundabout way as it lies beyond their domain proper. However, that does not detract from the beauty and grace literature brings to the issue, not to say the powers of imagination that can shed light upon these mysteries.  

Dibyajyoti Sarma’s poetry collection Book of Prayers (For the Nonbeliever), ponders over these questions in an erudite and compelling way. His poems draw from several origin myths of the world, including those which are part of the folklore in Assam, the state to which he belongs, and other states in the northeast.

He starts at the very beginning. “The beginning was a void. There was no existence; / there was no nonexistence.” These sentences echo the essence of Buddhist philosophy, common both to Mahayana and Hinayana schools which see a void behind the veil of the world and which find ideas of both existence and non-existence man-made, without any corresponding reality in the actual scheme of things. The Heart Sutra, a classic text of Buddhist philosophy, for example, also suggests the same.

 

He follows it up with the line: “The beginning was measureless water”. This reminds of the Greek philosopher Thales, who maintained that water was at the root of all creation and that all things were made of water.

 

Citing creation myths from the northeast in the next few verses, he writes: “From it evolved two/ forms — a man and a woman. There was no forbidden/ fruit, and they copulated without guilt.” This section turns around the Christian origin myth of Adam and Eve, by removing the forbidden apple and concept of guilt from the story. The alternate reading of the story that Sarma narrates is the one more likely, from a non-religious point of view, and one which gives the woman in the story more agency. The addition of the serpent to the story and the temptation he causes in the woman are ultimately patriarchal tropes which make the woman a cause for the fall of man from his spiritual pedestal.  As Aubrey Menen writes in his novel A Conspiracy of Women, Eve was perfectly capable of pulling off the whole thing on her own. Moreover, her desire should not be used against her, to paint her a temptress. This is what causes the introduction of guilt and temptation in Christian theology into which Soren Kierkegaard launches an investigation in his classic text, The Concept of Anxiety. Kierkegaard argues that the possibility of committing sin is the source of latent anxiety in humans. 

 

From the universe, we move to Assam. We hear of hills and rivers dotting its landscape; there are princesses and goddesses, suggesting a strong feminine principle underlying the imagination of the land described.

 

A song-like poem, lyrical in its idiom, follows. It pays tribute to all that gives the land its beauty and the spirit which sustains it.

“The flowers that bloom on our hills are red, / like the setting sun, / like my grandfather’s patterned loincloth, / like my mother’s mournful eyes now empty of tears, / like my brother’s bullet-ridden shirt, / like blood, our blood, which we spill indiscriminately.”

The reference to violence that suddenly occurs, seemingly abrupt, reminds us of Assam’s history of insurgency which has become less prominent now but perhaps it is no less painful to remember the toll it once took.

 

The river/water motif returns with the poem We Dream of Fish, a poem through which I first came across the author’s poetry. It is a stunningly well-written poem which uses the fish as a metaphor for memories and sensations, as well as the myths, that make up the Assamese sense of self and being. ( The Sunflower Collective: Poetry| Dibyajyoti Sarma )

 

The next poem We Are in the City, was also published in the TSC. It marks the poet’s tribute to Delhi, a city everyone hates to call their home, but having lived here once, it looms large in the imagination. Drawing on the story of Sarmad, an Armenian mystic said to have been a confidante of Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, who was killed on the orders of Aurangzeb, the poet paints a striking picture of Delhi. In the poet’s telling, all the seven Delhis of the past come alive at once, existing simultaneously with concrete sky-scrapers and selfie-wielding tourists.

 

In the poems that follow, other myths and epics such as the Mahabharata in particular, are drawn upon with dexterity and aplomb by the poet. Myths are contextualised and even contemporised, Gods are deconstructed, and this heavy intellectual exercise is done in a perfectly organic poetic idiom.

 

The poem We Renounce appears almost towards the end of the book. It is a personal favourite of this reviewer. It speaks of the last sermon by Buddha to his favourite disciple Anand and is rich in deep philosophical insights, while humanising the old and ailing Buddha. “I sought to escape this cycle of illusions and / I failed, the day I longed for company, / the day you came to me. Let me go, it’s time. / And now, I remember him, my infant son / and I wish if I could say sorry for not being / the father I ought to have been. Let me go, it’s time.” The repetition of the phrase ‘Let me go, its time’ brings a musical cadence to the poem.

 

The poems that come after are equally rich in imagination and poetic idiom. They cover themes that the book starts with in other innovative ways. This sense of unity and coherence gives the collection a uniqueness as it stands on its own, and must be read in its totality to appreciate its concerns and taste all its flavours. It is a worthy accomplishment for the poet and heralds an original and poetically mature voice.


(Reviewed by Abhimanyu Kumar)

*The review was updated after publication to reflect some minor changes.

7/23/21

New | Book Review | Crowbite | Nitoo Das | by Shaiq Ali

The Raven, Japanese artist, Wikimedia C.

 

Disentangling Roots: A Review of Nitoo Das’s Crowbite

 

Nitoo Das’s new poetry collection Crowbite opens with Mawphlang which is as much a visual experience as it is a poetic one. Here, the forest is much more human and its landscape is not violent, not ominous but indecisive, restless, quivering. There are breaks and gaps but the closeness with this restless ‘nature’ seems from the past and relevant. It gives the narrator the ground on which to stand, the touch she longs for, the touch of moth and seeds. It feels worthy of telling a secret.

Mawphlang begins a series of new beginnings and endings in the collection where the innate space of the mind in an existential world reacts, and turns, to the other side of modern geography: the trees, birds, rivers, forests, and much more. Their separateness is blurred and Das melds this with a deep sense of opposition, of transcendence and reflection in her verses. Each poem stands in a whirlwind of temporal, spatial and emotional outcry and adaptation. In The Elephant at Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew, for instance, the Elephant is not a towering, rampaging creature but is, rather:

burdened with his own incongruity

in the hills

 

Here, the first verse can easily be reversed and seen through the eyes of the narrator, living in surroundings that she has no control over, where she doesn’t belong. Das’s metaphors, like the one above, are strongly placed in the geographical sense but incompatibility with her inside world brings about a continued struggle for harmony and at the same time, dissonance. In the poem My Mother Clicks a Selfie, the face of her mother and the river Dihing are likened to the withdrawing of roots from the grass. Then, the sparrows sink in grief in spring.

The Dihing is nowhere

near her face, except perhaps

as an absent blur a turned device

cannot present. A root

withdrawing into grass.

 

In spring, a sparrow sinks

dragging a sudden grief.

 

Roots are no longer a symbol of birth and spring is no longer a season of union and new blossomings. Das overturns common conceptions of meanings whose cultural contexts are now constantly being buried. This state of flux is portrayed through visible means (visually), through language (words) and more vividly, through images which create new arcs, both physically and in her mind.

 

Not only the poems, but the collection itself battles with this displaced-ness gradually as we move on. Midway through the collection, in Root Bridge, Mawlynnong we are in the midst of a reworking process, a remaking.

 

They manipulate

definitions of what remains below everything. These

roots are parallel lines of real and reflection.

 

By the end, the poem Bus to Sohra encapsulates somewhat the process coming to an end.

I am a creature that cannot leave the pines alone.

The title poem Crowbite draws a striking parallel with Premchand’s Sadgati (Salvation). While in Premchand’s short story, Dukhi, a Dalit, succumbs at the hands of a Brahmin, in Das’s poem, the tradition of structural opposition she creates throughout the collection is given shape through Bhobai, a “lower caste” painter, and his metaphysical leap and changing himself into a crow. The poem Crowbite transcends death through transformation. Bhobai has realized that it is his body itself which is used as a chain by the “upper caste” Sharma Master and release from it is the only solution. In the realm of the humans, his existence is through his caste which chains him to his body, and therefore breaking away implies, transformation in bodily terms but salvation in metaphysical terms.

But it ends hinting at a somewhat paradoxical shift.

I sang songs with the fishermen. I bathed in the sacred river and flew away from their temples before they could throw stones at me.

Bhobai the crow cannot escape from his form altogether; while he can sing songs with the fisherman, at temples he would be at the receiving end of thrown stones. The temple, although not explicitly shown in the poem, the instrument and place of origination of such caste alienation is still out of his reach, and ostracizes him. It does not spare, ultimately, Bhobai, the man as well as Bhobai the crow.

In the physical sense, the body is the locale where the forces of separation, belonging, alteration takes place. The poem Crowbite also brings to the fore, the question of the body of a “lower caste” as the subject which draws on the image of the body. Perhaps, it is in the background of the invoking of this abstraction by Das that we can imagine the transformation of Bhobai.

Furthermore, the body is at the centre of many poems such as The Cat’s Daughters, The Game, My Face and Three Weeks. All probe into what the body is commonly taken to be, from a birth vessel to a sacred embodiment and claim instead that it is like anything that decays, an entropy. Knowing about the body is a learning process in itself, it has its own language, unique and its own time trajectories:

I see my body through cracks in glass. [Bus To Sohra]

***

I carry my face

in my hands

looking

for the marks that made it [My Face]

The essence of the title poem extends the already refined strength of the collection Crowbite in defining the nature, modes, possibilities and limitations of opposition to the hegemony of caste and many other forms of oppression. The crow as a metaphor and image, becomes its centre-piece. It is a means of salvation, it cries for the forgiven and the damned, it remains at the end, the only connection that the poet feels has withstood the test of time. Or else, all of the past was nothing more than a:

Day [that] had vanished like the whims of a feather.

 

7/12/21

New | Short Fiction | Chayne Hampton | Hello My Baby

Artwork via Wikimedia Commons

 

In prison, there are two types of phones. The first are the cell phones and just like at an AT&T store there are many different models. There are flip phones which are smaller, more inconspicuous and easier to hide. And there are smartphones you can use to video chat with your people on the outside, in between binge-watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, thanks to the free high-speed internet service the prison provides. (The irony of watching a show about prison while in prison is not lost in this description.)

This first type of phone comes with a set of troubles. Cell phones are illegal contraband in the eyes of the Department of Corrections, which means that if a prisoner is caught with a cell phone, he will receive a 115. This is the equivalent of a ticket that gives the prisoner more time on his sentence. And that’s a risk that Trent Thomas is not willing to take. While it would be nice to see his girlfriend on a high-definition LED screen in the comfort of his cell, Trent is being released at the end of the month and Jenifer would be livid if he got more time on his sentence. He’d already been gone for a year.

 

Hence, Trent uses the second type of phone you find in prison: the Prison Phone. They are also known as ‘stress boxes’ because of all the bad news incarcerated men have gotten while talking on them over the years. They are extremely inconvenient to use. The rules are that they can only be used between 12 pm and 3 pm.  They are shut down until after dinner, at 6 pm, and again at 8:30 pm. These time restrictions are only part of the problem. Between 4 pm and 5 pm, there is a mandatory headcount, which means all prisoners must be in their cells. This is a guideline followed by all prisons in the state, so while one prisoner is being counted up North, another prisoner is being counted down South. The process takes about an hour. This is surprising because as Trent’s cellmate Bullet would say, “You would think being able to count would be a requirement to become a C.O.” If the count goes even a minute past 5 pm you can hear Bullet start heckling the guards through his cell door, “Use your fingers if you can’t count!”

 

During this time, the Correctional Officers  make their rounds dropping off mail and picking up requests to see Medical. Lastly, they bring the phone list. Getting on the phone list is the closest thing to a guarantee that you might be able to get on one of the twelve phones available in the cell block. While twelve phones may seem like a lot, it’s not, given the fact that each cell block houses five hundred men. The phones are all in a line, with uncomfortable steel benches in front of them. These phones do not ring. Ever. They only make outgoing calls, and calls can only last fifteen minutes. The calls have to be accepted by the person you are calling. Nothing is free. Your people on the outside have to have an account with a company called Global Tellalink which manages the calls made out of the prison and charges the account belonging to the number you are calling. Every call starts exactly the same way. A robotic-sounding woman’s voice says, “You have a call from a California state prison inmate.” The inmate’s pre-recorded name is heard, and the voice asks the person being called to press 5 if she wishes to receive this call. If you get through, and the call is accepted, Global Tellalink thanks you for using its calling service (even though there is no other option) and also reminds you that your call is being recorded.

 

Holidays are the worst. Five hundred men trying to get through to their family members to 

wish them a Happy Thanksgiving or Christmas, and apologizing for not being there with them. They promise that when they get out, they will never spend another holiday away from them. This makes for highly tense situations. Trent remembers watching one inmate remind another of his phone time in the middle of the latter’s call, which started late because another inmate before him went over his allotted fifteen minutes. “Come on man, I am talking to my kids!” said the inmate holding the phone. “I don’t give a shit. I gotta call my old lady!” the other inmate shouted  back. And just like that, a fight broke out. By the time the guards responded, the receiver on the phone had been broken across one of the inmate’s head. The guards activated the alarms and sent everyone back to their cells. Merry Christmas.

 

In the year that Trent has spent in prison, he has figured out that the best way to get on the phone first is to sign up early. Then make sure that Jenifer is available to answer. This way they can talk every day. So, at 1200 unlock, right as everyone is going to the yard, Trent gets on the phone and calls Jenifer on her way to work.

 

“You have a call from a California state inmate. Trent. To accept this call press 5. Thank you for using Global Tellalink. This call will be monitored and recorded.” 

 

“Hey, baby”, Jenifer’s voice says through the phone. It always makes Trent smile to hear her voice. It really helps him get through the rest of his day. “How are you?” 

 

“I am fine.” says Trent.

 

“I’ve got to go to work. Bianca is being a real bitch and has me scheduled way out, down the 

highway in Davenport.” Trent loves hearing about the mundane, everyday problems of Jenifer. She works for a care-giving company, doing house calls for little old ladies all over Santa Cruz County. “Isn’t that where your client Barbra lives? The lady who has dementia?” asks Trent.

 

“No. That’s Ms. Lucy.” Jenifer corrects him. “She lives in town. This is a new client, I guess. She’s thirty minutes out of town. I don’t mind the drive but the weather is really bad.” 

 

“Oh,” replies Trent. 

 

“How about you, baby? How’s your day?” Jenifer asks him.

 

The same as every day, Trent thinks to himself. But he never says how miserable he is with the monotonous routine of prison life. Instead, he tries to spice up his daily activities and make them sound more fun and enjoyable than they are. “Well, me and Bullet are gonna run a few miles and work out. Then shower, go to chow, and probably watch Jeopardy.” Hearing himself say his daily routine is  boring even to him. 

 

“That sounds fun. Are you excited?”

 

“Excited for what?” 

 

“For getting out?!” 

 

Trent knows what she is talking about but he doesn’t like talking or even thinking about it. When he does, it somehow makes the clocks tick slower and the days become longer. “I try not to think about it,” he says. 

           

“Well, I am excited!” says Jenifer. Then the robotic voice from Global Tellalink interrupts: “You have five minutes remaining for this call, and thank you for using Global Tellalink. This call is being monitored and recorded.” 

 

“I’ll be glad when I don’t have to hear that anymore,” says Trent.

 

“Me too, baby. Have fun today and be happy—you’re getting out soon!” 

 

“I’ll try.”

 

“I love you, baby.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

 

Trent made a mistake a year and a half ago, one that changed his whole life. He was out with Jenifer and had a few drinks. Trent met Jenifer during his first year of college and they have been together ever since. They were celebrating his graduation from college that night; he had earned a Masters in Business. Trent was not a partier or a heavy drinker. If anything, it was uncharacteristic of him to even be celebrating. Usually, his nose was in a book. But graduating seemed like a worthwhile reason to cut loose. Unfortunately, Trent cut too loose.

 

While leaving the restaurant he got into a car accident driving through an intersection. No one was badly hurt in the accident and Trent had never been in any kind of trouble before. But the people in the other car had some scrapes and bruises and the mayor of Santa Cruz at the time had adopted a zero-tolerance approach to the Driving under the Influence or DUI ‘epidemic’.  To make an example, he sentenced Trent to three years in prison. 

 

Trent is only serving one year, given good behaviour and low points and no prior prison terms. But one year on the inside feels so much longer than on the outside. Especially for Trent, who has never really spent any time away from home. In comparison to his cellmate Bullet, who is doing ten years for involuntary manslaughter, Trent’s time is just a drop in the bucket. He tries to keep that in mind and never openly complains about his time in prison to anyone.

 

The day plays out the same as the one before. Trent goes to the yard, runs and works out, reports back to his cell by count time and makes sure to sign up with the guard for his daily calls with Jenifer. Then he watches Jeopardy with Bullet after chow and at bedtime, he lays awake watching the local news. The prison is close enough to Santa Cruz for him to get news from home. It’s nice to see his hometown when it does make the news. “Starting news tonight from Santa Cruz,” the news anchor announces. “There was a head-on collision on Highway 1. The driver of a silver Ford Explorer drove head-on into a semi-truck heading the other direction.” Trent sits up in his rack and gasps. Jenifer drives a silver Ford Explorer. “The authorities have not identified the driver of the silver Ford Explorer but the accident is still an active scene. Now in Sports. . .”

 

Trent turns off the TV. The cell is pitch black. The doors are locked, and it is cold and quiet. 

Trent feels more alone and helpless than he has been in his entire life. It is 1100. He has thirteen hours until he can use the phone. And while he has felt like the last year of his life has dragged by slowly, time has never stopped before, not like this.

 

After the longest thirteen hours of his life, Trent bursts out of his cell, rushes down the hall, squeezes in-between other convicts and bolts down the stairs two at a time to the phones. “Welcome to Global Tellalink,” says the robotic voice. Please pick up. Please pick up, Trent repeats to himself as the phone rings. . . and rings. . .and rings. Come on Jen. Pick up. Then the other line answers. “You have a pre-paid call from an inmate at a California state prison. Trent. If you would like to accept this call press 5.”

 

Trent waits. No one is pressing 5. He panics and hangs up. When your person’s voicemail

answers the phone the recording will still play, asking the voice mail to accept the charges. Trent picks up the phone again and frantically dials, his fingers slipping off the receiver from the sweat on his palms, his heart racing as he pushes the cold buttons on the phone and tries to reach Jenifer again.

 

One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Trent’s heart feels like it’s going to pop. What if something has happened to her? They were talking about getting married when he would get out. Oh God, what if something horrible has happened to her? Just then the recording plays, “You have a pre-paid call from an inmate at California Corrections facility. Trent. Press 5 to accept this call.” “Hey, baby.” It was her voice!

 

“Are you ok?” Trent asks.

 

“Of course, I am,” she kind of giggles at the question. “Are you?” She can tell from Trent’s voice that something is wrong.

 

“I just thought...I just thought...I saw the news and I thought it was you!” 

 

Jenifer doesn’t understand. Trent can still picture what he saw on the television: the mangled

wreckage of the silver Ford Explorer on the side of the highway, illuminated by the swirling 

bright lights of the emergency response vehicles, police cars, firemen and paramedics buzzing around the scene.

 

“Trent, calm down. What’s going on?” If it had been her car, he wouldn’t have known what to do. “It wasn’t you!”

 

 Now confused and getting frustrated, Jenifer asks, “What wasn’t me?”

 

“There was an accident shown on the news last night,” Trent explains. “A bad one. Someone died. They didn’t say who.” Trent pauses for a second, relieved as it sinks in that he is speaking to Jenifer. He sits down on the cold bench in front of the wall-mounted prison phone. “I thought it was your car. It was a silver Ford Explorer.”

 

There is a pause. Then the recorded voice from Global Tellalink plays, “You have five minutes remaining for this call. And thank you for using Global Tellalink. This call is being monitored and recorded.”

 

“Trent?” Jenifer asks. 

 

“Yeah?” responds Trent.

 

“I am fine,” she assures him. “Are you going to be ok, baby? There are a lot of silver Ford 

Explorers in the world. You know that.”

 

Trent feels a little dumb. She is right. He had allowed himself to get pretty worked up.

 

“I am fine and I love you,” she says. “Thank you for being so worried about me.” The call 

would end any minute now. “Do you want to call me back?” she asks, sensing that Trent may still be a little emotional and upset.

 

“No, I can’t. But I’ll call you tomorrow,” he says.

 

“Ok, baby. Have a good day, ok?” 

 

“Ok.”

 

“I love you, baby.”

 

“I love you too.” 

 

There is a pause, and the recording plays, “Your call has ended, and thank you for using Global Tellalink.” Trent puts the phone back on the receiver and goes to the yard.

 

Jenifer and Trent had seemed perfect for each other from the day they met. For his class, Trent was doing a type of light internship at a homeless project for extra credit. He could still remember seeing Jenifer for the first time, amongst the vibrant colours in the edible garden at the homeless project where food was being grown by those wanting to grow it and maintained by volunteers like Jenifer. She had been wearing overall shorts. Her hair was long and brown, her skin sun-kissed and tan, and her dirty gloveless hands held a gardening shovel. She almost shined in the sun. Trent knew at first sight that he loved her.

 

Back in prison, his day plays out just like the one before and the one before that: yard, then count, then chow, then Jeopardy. Before he knows it, he is back in his rack watching the news again. “An update from last night’s devastating head-on collision,” says the news anchor. “The body of 29-year-old Jenifer Davis has been identified as the driver of the silver Ford Explorer.” Trent’s mouth falls open in shock. His skin goes pale white, and he starts to drip a cold sweat as the TV screen fills with a picture of Jenifer, provided by her family members. There is no denying it—it’s her. What the fuck…but how? 

 

Trent lies in his bed, unable to process what he has seen on television. Maybe it wasn’t her. There are a lot of silver Ford Explorers he remembers Jenifer saying. And there could be another Jenifer Davis…right? He is trying to convince himself, but then there is the picture. Trent has seen that picture before. It was taken at the homeless garden project where she volunteered. No sleep comes to Trent that night and at unlock he moves in a daze, like a ghost, to the phone, the whole time thinking, what am I doing? She’s gone. Who am I calling? He finds himself sitting at the bench in front of the phone, just staring at it. Two feet away an inmate is speaking Spanish on the phone, and even though Trent can’t understand what he is saying, the tone of his voice seems comforting. He picks up the receiver mindlessly, and almost instinctually, he dials her number on the ice-cold steel keypad.

 

Ring…ring…ring….and the phone picks up. The voicemail? Trent thinks. “You have a call...call...call,” the recording skips and cracks, as if something has interrupted the connection. The robotic voice sounds like it is almost running out of power. “From a California Department of Corrections inmate. Trent. To accept this call please press 5 now.”

 

Trent waits…and waits... for what seems like forever, and then he hears a voice. “Hello?” But how? Trent thinks. She is dead—he saw it on the news. But it’s her voice. “Who is this?” he asks.

 

“What do you mean, baby? It’s me.” responds the voice.

 

“No…no, it can’t be! You’re dead,” says Trent in disbelief.

 

“Baby, you’re scaring me. What are you talking about?” 

7/9/21

New | Poetry | Two Poems | Bishweshwar Das


St Anthony of Padua, via Wikimedia Commons


Tuesdays at St. Anthony’s Shrine 


A glass enclosure

houses the solitary Saint

with a child in his arms.

A trickle of devotees 

red and white candles, 

flowers, and a million prayers

follow him every Tuesday.

 

He is the Saint of lost things, 

of missing dreams and hopes –

Limps, beggars, drunks, nuns, office-goers

expectant mothers, transvestites, peddlers,

they all gather here.

 

Their eyes closed, hands folded,

someone ties a thread next to an iron rail beside the glass cage.

 

As people pray and leave,

alms are tossed to beggars.

Ten-rupee bills and five-rupee coins,

sometimes, even a fifty or a hundred rupee note.

 

A broken-toothed beggar woman, walks near the mural in the alley,

lifts her saree and pees nonchalantly.



Good Morning Mr. Philips


Good Morning Mr. Philips, have a good day!

The sun is out shining, and the birds haven't stopped chirping.

I want to take you out for a drive someday, but I know you like your little walks

Soaking in the warmth and giving back your aged brittle bones their strength.      

For the lack of Vitamin D tablets, that you forgot to take

 

Mr. Philips, you remind me of R K Laxman's common man,

Sans the coat and dhoti.

I like how you dress though

In polyester pants and checks

How I wish you had a Spanish cap!

Wonder why your children and grandchildren never thought of it…

 

I like the measured steps you take Sir,

How your frail hands clutch the walking stick.

I wonder how old you are Mr. Philips

Maybe the oldest in the neighbourhood

And do you like this lane?

I am sure you do. 

You can walk here unhindered,

this lane with silent conversations

 

Those beagles never bark at you,

And Mr. Chico's Alsatian, never grumpy when you're around.

I try not to miss greeting you,

But did I miss it the last time?

 

Mr. Philips, you got me really worried –

A week of not seeing you

around these lanes.

The sun was out, but not you

The landlady talked about your hospitalisation one day,

And the fact that you had died.

 

The day you died, the sun came out in full glory

Outside your house, colourful footwear, 

far too many pairs, for me to venture in.

The smell of incense, of Jasmine and rose – a

a heady concoction

like rice beer.

You're dead, you can't hear them

But everyone spoke in hushed tones.

 

I saw you lying there serene 

But no sunlight reached where you lay.

Wonder why your children never thought of it.

That you who loved the sun so much, now lay without it-

I'd like to gift you a handful of warm rays

weave a blanket out of it,

a parting gift of sorts.

 

The service I hear is at Mar Thoma Church.

I wanted to come, Mr. Philips,

but there would be no sun there as well-

As you go down six feet below the earth, 

I know you will miss the sunlight.

 



6/11/21

New | Poetry | Haiku | Joe Sebastian





bird poo on head

the Buddha still
still

counting his days
on two and a half octaves
of the bansuri


on the distant notes 
of a bamboo flute...
descends dusk


on a clothesline...
a hen pigeon
missing her surname


on a potters wheel
yet to take final shape
child bride


taro leaf...
a  mountain waltzes
in a droplet

belated wishes...
taking time to write
the right words


dawn light
how it fills nests 
of night birds


*Image of Meditating Budhha via Wikimedia Commons