Sunday, Dec 03, 2023

Poems: Philosophy Of A War


Poems: Philosophy Of A War

In times of war, how do you divide your enemies? What happens when you keep the names of your small desires in your jacket’s pocket? At dusk, when darkness begins to devour a city, can it also envelop the hunger that gnaws at its soul?

Philosophy of a war.
Philosophy of a war. Shutterstock

Friends and Enemies

It was never your plan to divide
your enemies into three groups: those who look like you,
those who don’t look like you
and those who cannot be identified. This happens
when you have a scent
of an old battlefield
on your skin, somewhat like nights and vinegar. However, it is
an intense experience to see yourself
crowded to the rafters 
everywhere; the same eye colour, same doggedness,
the same smell,
the same common honesty to get things done
in your own way. The same shadow of a long night twirls
in everyone’s index
finger like a key ring of a lost password when you are further out
from yourself every hour
than your secret bush craft plans with a dog
in a mountain full of silence, sunflower and ferns
You make a list, though, on a bar napkin with one side
night and the other red
and you keep names of your small desires in 
your black jacket’s left pocket. The pocket smells
of nights and vinegar
like an identity card for this day; the next day is a turn
for some vivid dreams  in your head
Everyone is you
and they have the same list
hidden in their black jacket’s left pockets too
They smile and sob
though they actually swig and kill
for their desire and some more vivid dreams
Like you.


Dusk devours the Brigade Parade Ground, bit by bit
The cars
left near the roundabout, the Hooghly river
with ferries and a foreshore road,
a statue of an unknown man with a musket
by the Red Road and a sunflower bed
behind the empty goal posts
near Fort William
sink like parts of a huge ship, bound for nowhere
A balloon pops
Somewhere in the Maidan like a muffled gunshot   
Children and their parents walk home
Only three glass balconies in a tall building
near South Park Street Cemetery shine
in the last rays of the red sun
Like the remaining gold teeth
of a cruel April evening, full of hunger
Darkness engulfs the city slowly
while I stand near a traffic signal, red,
near Victoria Memorial
with a grey paper bag
in my hand
with a red apple in it

(Sekhar Banerjee is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet.  The Fern-gatherers’ Association (2021) is his latest collection of poems.)