2 poems | Arjun Chaudhuri

No one called her brave when ...
my mother donned the white.
The red in her parting pinked,
her iron bangle taken off then,
her gold earrings left locked.
My aunts were worried about
whether she would eat fish
on the fifteenth day after all.
My grandmothers knew what
would follow after, the leaving trial.
It was a fortnight of rituals that started.
It was a fortnight of changes that came.
But no one called my mother brave
when she kept changing, from white to white.
My father died early in the morning.
The cremation, the wiping of red,
the food, the crows, and the funeral bed
took up all of that day, and evening.
No one noticed when my mother ceased
to walk among the coloured after that.
Even now when June comes with summer
and summer brings showers with it
and red occasions of pride come singly or many in hand,
I notice how my mother keeps her white
separate from all other roles she has.
I wonder how much strength it is
that bears the blame, the burden of a death.
No one, even now, calls my mother brave
for having donned the white that day.

When we moved house,
we took ourselves away
and left much behind. ...

My father was blind
to my anger at the leaving.
My mother knew, though,
but she did not say much,
except to keep the peace.

When we moved house,
we took a lot away with us,
but left too much behind.

The last of the trunks to out
was the oldest tin trunk, the one

on whose lid I had often
replayed The Flying Trunk,

with lizards on the attic floor
dressed in afternoon light
like maps of fleeting kingdoms
speeding beneath my flight.

My father called it useless.
My mother agreed with him.
The books could not be graceful
on the newly living walls.

They left it there, in the attic.
When we moved house,
we took a lot away with us
but left a lot behind.

*Excerpts from Arjun Chaudhuri's latest volume of poetry, Love Stories Of A Decade to be published soon.

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