Culture & Society

Forte De Bandora And Other Poems

From the time-polished steps of the Bandra fort to Mockingbird Café, what is it the poet searches for?

From time-polished steps of the Bandra fort to Mockingbird Café, what is it the poet searches for?
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Forte de Bandora

(Bandra Fort)

The rugged steps invite shadows from 
the seventeenth century,
sketching old war ships in a large canvas.

The past is perhaps out of memory, out of irony.

Whispers cluster around walls, thick bushes, history 
traces the number of attacks and resistances,
counting the cannon and gun shots.

A still air over the palm groves as if a storm is coming in.

Invaders fill the dark chambers with wounds 
and scars during the course of time,
how smooth the weave is,
and they do not erase and they never will.

Unknown lovers sit on the ruins, still scared of insects, 
red ants and spider, never forget to keep 
the bowl of laughter on the sea side overlooking
the arched pillars of the gateway.

The wild flowers trap in the fissures of the granite block
seabirds look grey, shaggy and morose, 
beneath the grey clouds-
threatening to open up the torrential downpour.

Old and young walkers chase the lands’ end
of sounds and colours, some throw pebbles
unmindfully on the messy foams and splashy waves.

I am taking notes minute by minute, hour by hour 
in the forward and backward direction,
giving my mind harmony and peace.
 
A morning of make-believe-

Like ancient ships, it is in search 
of hidden fountains of Agua Fresca!

Agua fresca- Portuguese words meaning fresh water

Mumbai Monsoon- Powai Lake

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams- Yeats

The late afternoon has scaled back colour scheme
sky compositions are stylised, not flashy, 
graded in an off-colour way, 
pulling me deeper and deeper into this.

The hyacinth stains the surface of the lake, 
contaminate from inside blurring 
the inner world with the outer world,

The waves, on farther, the spot-billed ducks, pond herons, 
then the tyres sway and the fishermen 
drops their nets from the swamps.

There is a mood, a tone, an intangible energy
in the surrounding areas.
A crow is about kill a blue-beak tiny bird
but it escapes, diving into the brown nest. 

Falcons rest temporarily on the palm groves, 
then fly away 
over the cluster of huts towards the hills!

Rain clouds threaten, 
The air is a skinful of water, the thunder
swells the joints, rattles the bones
cuts from day to night, condensing time.

The look of mid-August-
that accretion of absence reveals the secrets, 
your words break into distant stars, 
that will never leave me alone!

I enjoy now the strong moist winds blowing 
from the lake side, 
that is grounded, lyrical, uneasy, humorous even.

Hill Road, Bandra

The roadside shops talk about haircut, nails
pedicure, manicure, the colour of clothes,
this one? this size? this much? 
facing the paradox, learning to perish of it.
 
The shape that is present in the body itself, 
in its openings, in its closure-
that’s a part of the beautiful discord.
hawkers’ lips are aware of everyday dialectics.

An old woman walks along the pavement 
her face shows a patina of old order quietness
with a wink and a waggish grin, constantly intersecting, 
she empties her laughter.

As the evening sets down, the street lamps begin to appear 
in crepuscular gloaming,
the cars, buses and autorickshaws wend 
through unmarked zones,

One stray dog meander through the narrow road,
the face of a slum boy shines near the M&S showroom,
someone has given him a packet of food,
a noisome stench comes from the narrow alley.

That corner shop is redolent with clove 
and other warm spices.
young boys and girls rush to the vada-pav stalls.

The sliced moon leaves the hushes on the tree top,
all the segments of time speak different languages. 
without any ceremony.

Mockingbird Café Poetry

The mask is face for some poets,
others are stretched, chin ups face, 
circling around a long table under shadow lights

Uniformed waiters are fleetfooted, serving juices,
one single Americano, one double cappuccino, 
Darjeeling tea, Margarita pizza, bread pieces and glasses of water.

Inside the café, an empty library invites footfalls.
walls are filled with funny quotes 
laced with exuberant mischief,

Coffee Before Art, Goodbye Straight Lines
Married Till Fatness Do Us Part
Driver Switch Off The Siren

No performance, only sit and read aloud,
Poetry, pause, clapping, adda and laughter, 
How many words does a poet need to learn?

Two boys mimic the songs and calls 
of the two girls sitting at the window table.

The outside is not the same inside,
overcast, windy, drizzling rain and the noise of traffic.

Reconciliation with the weather- an old man 
enjoys over cocktail.

The windows aren’t high up, 
offering snatches of pavements and pedestrians. 

In the leaves a bird is waiting for it to get dark.
Who can kill the mocking bird inside?

Kanjurmarg

Kanjur once a village, now turns into a 
concrete jungle,
the city looks miniscule day by day,
from the forty-fifty-sixty floors.

Middle levels of the skyscraper are better bet
you can like the finer details of the earth-
labourers with helmet on head fill the last acre
of green grass with cement bags and bricks.

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A grey sky
underneath which railway-lines and slum dwellers
sleep alike.

You look to the little patch of the distant creek that
escapes into the drawing room.

It rains till the top twenty floors- 
tiles, roofs windows, doors disappear in the
stormy clouds inside two hours.

The soft evening light trembles on the half-finished
Metro rail pillars, stands on the crest of the 
Holy trinity church off the beaten road.

They glow, grow with the moist air 
over the school yard.

The fresh green trees, their leafy branches shine,
weave quiet shadows over 
Cinépolis, Magnet mall, footpaths, puddles and potholes.

The last shaft of sunlight devours the old village green.

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The migrants now varnish the glass of the tall towers,
the old faces, past moments and ancient nights.

(Gopal Lahiri is a bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 27 books published, including five jointly edited books. His poetry is also published across various anthologies as well as in eminent journals of India and abroad. His poems are translated in 16 languages. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prize for poetry in 2021. He is the recipient of the Poet of the Year Award in Destiny Poets, UK, 2016, Setu Excellence Award, 2020, Pittsburgh, US and Indology Life-Time Achievement award, West Bengal, India. His latest collection of poems ‘Alleys are Filled with Future Alphabets.’ has received wide acclaim.)

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