Poem | Mosarrap H. Khan


Painting : Chintu Das 

Because that’s what he said his name was.
A tall, lanky, consumptive man, named Pumpkin.

Pumpkin unties his bicycle, trudges along the concrete sidewalk,
mounts the ramshackle machine, crouching, his thin legs pedaling with effort.

Pumpkin knocks on our door, early in the morning, late into the night.
When the shower clogs, Pumpkin vacuums it. He changes the light
on the ceiling, fixes the curtains. A five buck makes him happy.

Pumpkin hovers around our tiny kitchen door. She senses
and asks if he would like to eat some food. He sits down with the glee
of a child. His African taste-buds flare with desi spices,
 memories of ancestral affinity seep through in his sweat.

I sit on the steps of the brownstone late into the night sipping beer.
Pumpkin pedals his bicycle, ties it to the filigreed railing.
I offer a beer. He accepts and asks for a cigarette.

I prod him to speak of his life, his wife, his children.
They live somewhere close by, he mutters.
I see a woman who comes often and asks me to allow her into the house.
Pumpkin lives in the basement.
He asks me not to let the woman in.

Pumpkin wants to know about her. I hesitate and never tell him
if she would ever return. We play an evasive game.

Some days, I see Pumpkin working at a neighboring house,
sorting through their garbage. He sorts through our garbage, too.
He asks me if I drink Jameson.
I hesitate to tell him that’s a luxury I enjoy.

The night is bright with fireworks. The blind alley reverberates
with loud music and the burnt smell of meat.
An old lady comes and sits on the step,
where I sit and drink beer. She asks for a beer and smoke.
I don’t hesitate to share my booze and smoke with the old woman.

Pumpkin asks the woman to leave me alone.
I feel grateful to him. I don’t know why.

It’s a moonlit night. The faint crescent moon is partly hidden
by the edges of the concrete. The air is still with humidity.
Pumpkin trudges down with his bicycle.
He opens his can of drink. I wonder what it might contain.
He sits at the root of the tree and lifts his t-shirt, airing his bony frame.
His toolbox lies next to him.

I offer him a cigarette. Pumpkin refuses my offer tonight.
And flips open a pack of Newport.

We sit there in silence.

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