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Sampurna Chattarji

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Sampurna Chattarji

Mistle Thrush, Pangot. Photo by Nitoo Das


Today my love is the space between the buildings where the restless walkers trance
And the rikshas in and out in and out through the loops made by the tooting horns
Bulbous sound between fingers billowing
Little brown-skinned girl in black undies leaping onto a red plastic stool
To dance a little jig of dry-me-now air after my bath
Stun me silly new almost-summer sun
The man with the newspaper spread on his lap like a lover
Sing to him, radio-song, fill the weeds and rubbish with dance
The mad woman does her accounts on the wooden bench
The man in the wheelchair is not in his wheelchair covered demurely with a cloth
Whisk it away frisk it away where could he be
Muse of the afternoon slowly building up
Stay put, my love, so I can watch and watch endlessly this intimate gathering-dispersal
This sound from the house named Rebecca of the tea-cups under the stilts
'Bijoya, purono torkari acche?'
The girl with a kurta over her skirt up and down up and down in her lilting voice
Giving her married friend six months with that man
Probirda will clobber him to pieces
To pieces this day, my love

Today they shuttered it down and took it away
fire under the pot smoke in the air hot pink dress
hanging loose in the wind thick slices of bread
toasted on coals took it all away and left a hole
with upturned benches and unlit stove in the wall
Shut it down the conversation over muriand tea
cups so tiny you could barely see them between
your fingers took away the bread van the riksha
man the regulars stopping for a plate of this and a bowl
of that took away the takeaway option in a plastic bag
Took away the madwoman's breakfast lunch and tea-
time took away the gamblers let's have a flutter mates
at free-time took away horibol hubbub and hullaballoo and
left instead this vacant lot of wood and brick this is the end
my friend of a lovestruck spring now hardluck summer begins

[First published in North East Review]



There is no face slower than yours no mouth I want
to snatch words from more than when you open yours
to speak in a tongue that is not yours let me
lend you mine and with it the speed that will save me
from waiting for your sentences to end I can finish them
for you here
let me there is no one person I want more
to shake no person who makes me rage more
than when I am with you
all edge
I want
nothing more
than to hurt you
so I press myself against you
like a knife against your wet stone
and now
help me
stop this blood


Constructing itself piece by piece the evening around her like a Lego set
drink garden evening rain bells chime crayon cat cookie cheese olive hat
nectarine comic-book porcupine double-decker bed movie armchair love
out of all proportion but still fitting perfectly man woman child not hers
foldable table marked stone cartoon carrot toothbrush confession on stairs
in galloping cold this was what they made of it: an intricate emotion it would
take a long time to dismantle if they ever came together again like this


Words that must never be said
even entire sentences
so simple they spring idiotic
what is it we hope to extract
from the bark of this tree we are leaning against
from opposite ends of the planet what can we hope
to incise on it that will resemble the marks of lovers
young enough not to care about foolishness
the foolishness of declarations like raw white sap

( )

This is the love you didn't want
the love you were afraid to lay
your hand on (as if) stroking the
face of a she-leopard laying your
head on the thigh of a lioness
(this is) the love that made you
hesitant and shy () a hunter
without his weapons nothing
that might make you say
here I am take me


A shattering light this light you see yourself in
made of gimcrack mirrors in a green room
where nobody comes.
The light that falls through the roof,
solid, a table I could write on.
When the heart is sad, the body languishes.
This is the light of that anguish
that makes you twist the knob the wrong way
so you shut yourself in in in
to the room where the light will be lost.
I must forgive myself first
then all the rest will come.
The half-crescent light at the base
of a bottle half-full of water.
Someone will come in soft slippers
into this aviary of words and things
and fill me with a natural light.
This is the light to be weak in,
feather mask orange rose porcelain butterfly
pinioned to the wall.
The light I shall collect myself in,
ready to pool
or pour again.

for Siān Mellangel Dafydd

To be seaweed
rather than shark
to be frond
to wave idly
to need the current
for nothing
but dance
the limberness
water grants
to limbs
To be edible
in just that
thin crisp way
sheets so narrow
it's like holding
a splinter of glass
To not melt on the
instead to need
strong teeth
the knowledge of
living long
on an island


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