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Debasish Lahiri

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Debasish Lahiri

(For Rilke)

The time to mend things has been
And gone.
It is autumn.
The indifferent bounty of autumn’s eye
Is pitiless
To our hands
That can no longer receive,
Only hoard.
The weapons time uses,
The stone and the sling
Of hope,
Fall idle now.
Their work is done.
They watch the gasp of frail-thewed breath
Like birds
That have won the war with the sun,
Pacing the verandah of some cloud,
Shadows loom,
Like dwarfs
On the clock’s long waiting
For the sun.
Autumn permits:
The lingering of the fruit,
The ruse of the orchard.
Other things have run their course.
He who has had the roof walk out
On him
Shall not find another now.
He who is alone
Shall stay so.
Is it time again to write long letters,
That hush
The rush
Of leaves along bare avenues?
Is it time
To receive
The thrift of autumn’s bounty?

When the gods,
Like a pious mirage,
Led men to the margins of the sea
And then,
Became the sea,
Man was stranded between elements.
To allay his confusion
He chose rocks:
Monsters that grew out of the sand.
But human art
Only found another margin:
Its own.
Since then,
The master artisan had decreed
That man and stone
Shall only breathe
The sea’s exhalations.
Breathing becomes art by being millennial.
It is not human hands
That shaped these stones,
But human waiting.
The sea rises and falls
In its symphony of surf
And rocks in the sun
Age into strange shapes
That time regards as divine.
On the sands of Mahabalipuram
Sheer rock softens into the dance of Shiva,
The repose of Vishnu.
Rocks become art
By listening to the Sun’s aubade
And dreaming on the crests of the sea’s lullaby.
A man in the sun,
Listening to the sea’s chisel on rock
Can become a rock.

19th March, 2015


A rock is a honeycomb with the patience of the sea:
At land’s marge forever;
An ocean of honey stayed by a waxen wall.
Lest we judge a rock
By its hardness,
Its awkward hiding of affection
In its edges,
There was one whose script
Ran with the sweat of rocks,
Not ink.
Its place was always another place,
And its hour was always twilight.
Twilight comes
Even to the honey at the heart of a rock.
It was the hour of Hesperus.
Long since blinded,
And becalmed by the passing of light,
He would not stir
To let the day in or the night out:
Only bats and swallows passing each other in flight
Cursed him in areal cabals
Not knowing what light stirred in them.
There was one who sang of this maddening time
In a song,
Patient as star-song,
Immortal in its losing of time and the Sun.
Perhaps there was the twilight on the Aegean
In his eyes,
Honey in his spit,
Gold in his breath too,
And a rock in his heart.
Beauty is motely,
He sang:
A half-light,
Enduring the coming of another.
And there is the sound of seeded thunder
In honey breaching wax.
A lyre sounds deep underground
The forging of happiness and pain
That move like molten rock
From an avowal
To a denial of intimacy.

20th June 2016


Thunder can be an unreliable guide.
It often points everywhere.
The path of thunder
Is not a way.
It is a desire
Not to find one:
From the maze of the straight road.

30th July 2016


Every house on this street
Is on fire
In this rain.
No one braves the rain
And there is no escape
From the fire.
Everyone is burnt wet.
No wonder there is no smoke.

30th July 2016


Which silence will I choose?
Rain and wind
Across night’s chessboard.
Are getting heavy winged.
Soon it will rain bats and moths.
Late coffee
Makes empty sounds in the cup
Round and round
Like a circus by night.
The sleeping cup their hands
Round the conch shell of their ears
And hear the rain
Like the surge of an ocean
In their dreams.
Do they have a choice of silence too?
Every sound is a memory.
Every deaf raindrop
So which silence will I choose tonight?

31st July 2016


Time’s hours have their secret colours
Hidden under streetlights.
It took rain
And the leer of a foolish moon
Down this ravine of lightning,
Once called a thoroughfare,
To reveal the charactry.
The marsh
The thicket and the bare flatness
Of riverbanks
Have ambushed the city.
Rain emboldens.
It has caught me today.
To what ancient memories shall I rise
From this water?

31st July 2016


Google Ghalib in Calcutta
And smoke hides fire
From the ether-eye.
Are you not happy Asad
That falling Delhi
Paused on your palm,
Took in its last sun
And left,
Like the Koel,
At dusk:
Falling silent,
Suddenly minded of sleep?
Do not write in our city again.
You would be called verbose,
For harbouring a fugitive,
That peddler of contraband.
But then,
Do write
For me
Words sentenced illicit
By the brief justice
Of machines
That sanction
One night stands with words.
How would you find your way again Asad?
The concrete has not waited
For the flower to bud;
The bricks have not been melted
By the sun
Like candy held too tightly.
Children’s feet
No longer
Draw evening with dusty toes.
Like a kite
Above Calcutta
You were houselessly tied
To your home.
How can I find it again?
Tell me Ghalib,
What else is left
But the imagination
To find
Your homeward step?
Who else
Can lead my seeking feet
To the blindness
Of lost time
In your alley?

14th December 2015


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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