Poems | Rohith

Artwork : Matthew Bialer 

(after reading a gazetteer of Anantapur written in 1905)

Muslamma* cried for the last time, as she sank into the turbulent river, "memories are lifeless" - the scream pervaded in air etching an acoustic boundary around this region. The locals believed for a long time, that her sighs could be heard under a Margosa tree- but one day, when an impertinent lady screamed 'O Musalamma! Hast not thy yet drowned?' she became silent forever.
Naked women descend from waning crescent of moon onto the tip of Mallappakonda* hill, where there is a shrine of a local goddess. By morning, the priest reckons, on finding the traces of menstrual blood and moist footprints.
An old man whispered in his disturbed sleep, "...the time when famine and cholera* hurled Anantapur to irrecoverable destinies. Children, their stomach stuck to their ribs, cried with hunger, in sweltering darkness of prolongated nights. The shadow of death loomed from the infamous gibbets where bodies of thugs, bandits and thieves were suspended. Feverish winds licked the dead crop, as sand rose like hood of a snake. A bull rendered as a sacrifice to a black stone, whose jugular vein bled rivers of light, trembled on the infertile soil." The old man sat from his sleep and murmured "Drought is a nightmare".
Evening, you rove in the sinuous streets of town. The sensation of retreating light licks your sole like a tender tongue of a ruthless beast. When you realise that you are lost irredeemably, you hear a racket of laughter and smell of ocean. As you follow your senses, you encounter a canal and ladies taking bath. They welcome you to disrobe yourself and join their company. You go farther to find an arid desert with shaking mirages and last words of dead farmers soaring as winds .
By the time you return, all you remember about Anantapur is a skeleton of fish, stuck in a cast-net.

*Myth has it that Musalamma, a young damsel, threw herself into a swelling river as a sacrifice to Gods , to protect the village from devastating floods.

*Mallappakonda hill is the highest landscape in Anantapur district, crowned with an old temple of Shiva.

*famine and cholera of 1850-70 in Madras Presidency which constituted Anantapur in Colonial times.

Vidrohi's Poem

I saw your poem on the road 
 a bidi in mouth, 
 puffing circles of smoke,
 a blanket around its neck-
 It was wearing your 
old tailcoat and tattered pants- 
 I knew that it was your poem,
 the very moment I saw it.

It was trying to cross
 this national highway of time,
 this road on which 
 young students puked, on their way
 to home from a tavern- 
 this road where revolutionaries
 were hit by relentless vehicles,
 this road that endured 
 ages of amnesia, 
This road that doesn't give a damn 
 for a poet or his poetry.

 I'm a poet too shy, 
 to ask your poem 
 to take me to the other side.
 Instead, I ask for a matchstick
 to light my bidi.

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