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Arup K Chatterjee

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Arup K Chatterjee

(Written on a Train)

I watched you make us guacamole
with the same confidence that you employed
to graciously take on the world— (“The Art of Avocado,” Iva Ticic)

To be quite honest, I began writing this
Two days ago, imagining there would be, per se—
Or at least there should be—a piano in this café
Well, at least let us imagine there is one right here
Between the countertop and the clock with a chanticleer
I am trying to sketch rhythms in my tartar sauce with a kind
Of fork which some freedom-of-speech discussants
Around me are using to measure out nibbles of tiramisu
I am tired of talking and writing about those forms of worship
Where lovers like the drowsy crows of dawn, snuggle up
And pretend not to hear—or even call it scrumptious cacophony—
When a medieval voice tries to telephone god at twilight with a microphone
And wakes up an Indian town in Arabic—now I am distracted
To think of awakening from a sleep. The thought of having undressed you
The previous night is overwhelming. If you do not come now it would be wise
I am too tired from worship now to even undress you with my eyes.
If there was a piano right here—not because I could play
Or that anyone should, but—a fruit or some such unusual thing
Could have fallen upon the keys, and struck an unfinished note
That I could tiptoe my perspiring fingertips on, feign its completion
While being lost too deep in contemplation, but overtly knowing
That you would not come, not today, not while I am waiting
What use is it to even wait for someone who might arrive after all?
A café is the least justiciable haunt for such an amorous
Conspiracy. Rather, it is not a place where someone comes to the one that waits
Nor a place where anyone discusses god. It is merely
A boudoir where we are all condemned to be free, until finally
I, or you, or the tiramisu, begin to taste of a tangy melancholy
The café is where I plagiarize from you—from the castaway details
That smudge your mirror while you try to touch up the perfect blush—
It is here that I feel like quietly deceasing from too much wisdom,
Or feel like trying the fish for dessert, or sometimes, but on very rare
Occasions, picturing myself as a pianist in your eyes
The reason is of course—furniture, we need furniture
I’m told it is too academic for a romantic afternoon to have an architect
But still I think we need a sort of architectural dialect
To gradually make this make-believe café come true
Someone to work on Ferrio’s silver dollar, someone at the tiramisu
“You know,” you say, “there are real problems in the world
There is terrorism, Syria, those things happening in Palestine
And all the other kinds of things to do with politics.”
“But all I wish to do in response to everything that goes around,”
I say, “is to do to the veins in your forearms with my mouth
What your nails are doing to straw of your cherry vodka.”
“Does your café serve drinks? Your spirit astonishes me,”
You say, “in addition to your tragic bootlegging efforts.
You had to keep cherry intact, didn’t you?”
“I pictured initially you’d be drinking something blue,”
Said I, “but that would be rather ingénue.”
“And, say” you ask, “what would you like to drink with fricassee?”
I would have told you had the carriage not just pulled over at Plassey.1


Drifting occurs whenever I do not respect the whole… (The Pleasure of the Text, Roland  Barthes)

Often I feel like
writing with the cigarette ash
using the grey chalk
of its carbonate
and calcium of my bones
that it has eaten
Does it turn you off
to think i love you less than
my selfish ashcraft?
When i think of you
I spend many hours smoking
to draw the constant
the one unmoving
image of you, in a sea
of ringlets of smoke;
Crescent moons of smoke
or full moons that eclipse you
from my addiction
of you and your eyes
too opaque for a teller
of sad fairy tales.
Smoke waters my eyes
refracting grains of your body
your apparent depth
your virtual honour
the dandruff of my bald lungs
our shared hypocrisy;
The shoes I polish
while whistling on a cigarette
the face you adorn
for a non-smoker's breath
in an old mirror, criss crossed
by sails of my smoke.
You romanticize
the subject of my addiction
while I circle you
in all I exhale
a poisonous rotten breath
too white for suspicion
often I feel like
wiping my lungs with the hands
of a child from your lap
writing on its head
a clean surname of my past
and teach it to write
with the precision
with which your nails tore me part
of fire that has burned
my wooden ego
often I feel like giving up
often I let it pass
(December 10, 2014)

…I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

 and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers…
         (“Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes,” Bill Collins)


You have changed,
Let no one else recognize you have come
Let me alone call you by your name tonight
Tomorrow I shall lie to them
We made love in ellipses and our hyphenated kisses
Quoting strangeness is not the most
subtle justification of a very unusual hunger
So I just told her
Make me a tenant
In exchange of my coat
I will stay in this winter too
Without a hint of shiver in my body
To be seen by your penetrating eyes
(That don't look at me but enforce
my gaze—a foregone culprit)
"There's hardly any room left,
What else can you give?"
Sketch an old iron bench—yellow
Rust in the sun of Amherst's January—
Watch you eating an orange
Take all its threads you disentangle
And drop beneath, gather the striations
Wound an invisible ring for you
Last night, when she held my hand—
With only the tendrils here hands still were
As though the false creepers of Massachusetts—
The reader will like to know
She did then take the ring
For my finger, instead of hers
And wore it as a contraceptive
For another year to come


1 A town in Bengal. Also the site of the Battle of Plassey (1757) which led to the British conquest of Bengal and subsequently India.


Feature–Contemporary Indian English Poetry

    Editorial: GJV Prasad

    Abhay K
    Aishwarya Iyer
    Akhil Katyal
    Amlanjyoti Goswami
    Ananya S Guha
    Arup K Chatterjee
    CS Bhagya
    Debasish Lahiri
    Devdan Chaudhuri
    Dhananjay Singh
    Gertrude Lamare
    Goirick Brahmachari
    Joie Bose
    Maaz bin Bilal
    Malsawmi Jacob
    Meera Sagar
    Nabina Das
    Nitoo Das
    Priya Sarukkai-Chabria
    Rajesh Kumar
    Ranu Uniyal
    rizio yohannan raj
    Rochelle Potkar
    Saima Afreen
    Sanjeev Sethi
    Semeen Ali
    Shelly Bhoil
    Smeetha Bhoumik
    Srilata K
    Sudeep Sen
    Sukrita Paul Kumar
    Sumana Roy
    Tabish Khair
    Taseer Gujral
    Uddipana Goswami
    Usha Akella
    Uttaran Das Gupta
    Vivek Narayanan
    Linda Ashok

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