Light and Shadow
I touch your rugged skin,
your leafy hairs, the sundry tuft of needles,
pendulant cones hanging down from the branches,
as your body morphs from one century to another.
If I touch your head, it appears as if I stroll
on the blue sky, your hands are rusty brown, so pristine,
I feel that too; so little between you and the old folks.
You are always so kind, giving shadows and solace.
Your wood, bark, seeds, twigs- we all use them in life.
Not too sure, but this is how faith works weaving its fabric
saving you from the mud of pathogens,
sunlight drops on the soft scales as you store
memories on the winged seeds.
While the wind rattles your old veins, cheer every quiver,
you surrender to windthrow,
Where life is there, death is inevitable,
You smile, I have been here for a long time.
All leaves know you are now me, a kind soul.
I want to sleep here, distilling light in shadow.
I want to start all over again- the act of kindness.
Every yellow feather, every white orchid here knows
She plucks tea leaves under the moonlight,
In her face the autumn sun flooding
the tea estate.
She puts her strong words outside, fights for her rights
a lot more than others,
In frame after frames, solitude after solitude,
her skin holds furnaces for years.
I know there is smoke in her eyes
The sky opens, in her cries, the forest nurtures trees
human, birds, cats, dogs sleep in her dreams
and fill the gaps in her wrinkles.
Praju, catches his smell in the tea factory resting on wood,
far off, an orange grove traces the threads
of a dry river,
the fire, the rolling, the fermentation and drier
spin the process of tea.
She blends pieces of the moon disc in her first flush,
serving us with mint and lemon,
A turbulence shakes the tea leaves,
the moon comes closer to the earth,
chiselling the memories into silent words.
Before falling sleep in the warmth
of rusted lantern,
she stands beside a centuries old blue-grey oil painting
There is cloud in her iris,
her mother turns into mist so early, her husband leaves,
all their shadows are buried inside the tea garden.
sailing beyond the mountain slope.
Meera, the sweeper, mutter to herself all day
cursing the unknown enemies.
Life on the pavement and the daily abuse is the routine.
Weaving words, she wipes the desert inside.
I know that. Her lover beats her but she never cries.
Her skin holds furnaces for years.
She once returns my old letters which I
throw on her dustbin.
She says, she can’t burn them.
One evening she comes to me holding a tiny bird.
She saves it from the attack of ugly crows and pigeons.
Her is a kind heart, her voice is now damp and shrill.
‘They will kill her’, she cries,
Peace is only in mother’s heart.
‘You keep her
but don’t put her in a cage’.
Her face is like a washed painting.
Rain is now me, my eyes.
Meera’s presence is pure spontaneity yet
her eyes burn and burn in cold blue flame.
It’s not so much that seabirds follow us,
more like they lead the way, going on ahead
like willing guides,
with not one word of our language in their lips.
Let it not manifest- red roses, meadows, rivers, ultraviolet
rays and the radiant nothingness.
perhaps a few yards into the future.
We love them for healing,
for presaging it out, for showing us where the edge
of the present moment is.
Alphabet can speak in its own tongue
it will be all symbol like yellow afternoon
inviting each invisible star.
Lean out from open window, listen:
the child is laughing now, the smell of earth is strong
in the lawn, a solitary bird tweet,
as if this is my first day in this earth.
(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 Ukiyoto Award.)