ROOPSA & I

poems by Prasenjit Maiti
with illustrations by Stephen Malpass



Sunday at Church
 
Your lips like skies and your eyes like anger
as I return all my rivers to myself, my rivers saline
and sad and forlorn, your arms like castles and
their pits like wells of honey and dew
where I may swim and reflect awhile like myself
your smile like skies, your lips serene
your lips curled in silent rage, your smile frozen
like yesterday’s salmon
that I chewed like vengeance
the mustard dropping slow
down my teeth like mercy, your smile like skies
your lips like skies, your lips serene, your lips divine

Some Indian Lines
 
what  really is sadness all about, and how does
sadness look like?
I’d like to think like all Indians writing
in English 
that sadness is sadness, and has
quite expressive Indian eyes
if  nothing else.
sadness goes around  Calcutta’s Strand at a pretty amble
and does pretty nothing else.
sadness is almost like innocent cigarettes smoked 
as if in a frenzy, as if sadness
would leave tomorrow and leave us all
in some very Indian ecstasy!
what is sadness? can you tell me a fairy tale
about it?
1999
 
This year crawls toward Calcutta
my beloved misery
like some tiger famished for more
and like tongues performing acts
I have only read in old books
left over from dear
beloved College Street
(my intellectual confidant)
and not felt
in the blood of my blood;
So do it to me, my love
help me erupt like sadness
gagged by sadness,
help me run the streets
naked
screaming Holy Murder
and save my dear old Calcutta
my misery and my most
triumphant defeats;
And yet you are still, still
you are yourself and not mine
(like some middle age fetish,
mindful of some girdle of chastity)
your young swings lush
and dangerous
in the air and water and
fire and winter of Calcutta,
and yet you are yourself and
not the years I used to know
 
How I Fool My Critics
 
I write my fearful Indian lines
and look up my dictionary
for meanings that are not mine
and the next moment I worry
and so must I because
I do not know what my meanings are
do you know them, Roopsa? Roopsa
you are a name I have played with too much
to avoid sex
but my dictionary advises me I cannot.
ever. have sex like that,
and so
I remember my pretentious Calcutta schools
where figures of  speech were
admired like women and women
like so many pieces of legislation
you and I and Roopsa cannot understand.
I write my fearful Indian lines and
can now only look up in awe
at the great bit of nothingness
that Roopsa and I had once, defying our
dictionary,
accepted as nothingness 

 
More Indian Lines
 
The last few days were like
the last few days save
an occasional sunset or two,
or even a woman
though not in the manner
your dirty Indian mind works,
no sex please, we’re Indian!
No, I'm trying to write
about other things here,
like confessions
like being rain in rains,
like being a woman in women, like
almost anything else...
you can go get lost for
I've again lost hold of my
bloody narrative
that keeps on slipping
out of my soapy hands,
as if I'm wasting myself
shamelessly
for precious nothing...
No, I’m trying to write
about other things
here, like a professional
something, like what
I don't really know. But
I'm trying, and I'm trying
and it is another sunset now
 
How I Look at Myself
 
is an odd thing to ask before the
pen and the paper, and an hour
that is not ideal for confessions. it
is morning, after all. are you not
reminded of the promises
round the corner that such mornings
used to brag about? I am, and I have
not yet recovered from the
treachery of nothingness. Nothingness
is like Brutus. a noble man who kills
to save what I do not really
know. nothingness is so amazing
and brazen in her nothingness
is nothingness a man or a woman
or myself? I believe this season is
unbecoming when confessions are
concerned, and so there is
my pen, and so there is my paper 
 
Neckties
 
We were once walking into an evening
when we fell over one another
hurrying to loosen our lovers’ knots
and the evening all the while
was closing in like the evening
but we were close no more
as there happened clashes of doors
closing doors closing and hearts
folding up like doors closing
and finally we were withdrawn
as if we were taking our hands off
one another
off your warm petals
and the cold dew drops therein
off your cheeks and closing our eyes
to rest awhile
painting our everyday
lives in black and white
but you smirked and I shuddered
and the plastic in my hands went cold
like my cold hands
the rubber between our legs
was damp and limp when you laughed
and I could take you no more
and so let everything loose
among the floods that leave behind
the nothingness knots that tie no more
the sirens whose music freezes
just ever so, like our lovemaking
like a waterfall
and the failing winter birds

 
Feelings
 
We sit around a sťance tonight
as all our  rotten old loves flock
around like ghosts in their eerie lovemaking
we don’t learn, we don’t laugh
we’re only wallpapers hanging tattered
 and loose, as we must
as across the distant seas of going away
from one another
in a manner that is so mindful
of going away from one another
but allo!  Wait a second or two,
my first first love (who are
you?), wasn’t it you who asked me
to wait as the traffic changed
from eternity to nowhere, like your
lips, from red to blue
so untrue and even cold like
your very dewdrop petals that
are lush and yet unfeeling?
But wait... We can't just forget our
wallpapers and our ghosts
and our nothingness tonight 
 
Kind Women
 
This year is like blundering someplace else
this year happens to be meeting
people people people
who kill me every moment
of our lovemaking, and
yet you do not care, you do not
step out leaving our
desolation behind to smother
or stroke my nothingness
even once, reaching out to our memories
that are like
us, hanging ever so loose
and forlorn like all
those
broken, dejected tiles
that line the inglenooks of our
sorrows
frozen and killing
killing me each moment
this year or the next or the next
or the next and the fleeting emptiness
of times that can only
gape at our frozen shores
and all our dense necking and wines
and women and fantasies that
are all so very kind and killing like
all the people this year this year this year
 
1996
 
Sometime, should you be
lonely as you are
walking  along winter roads
that are like
different indecisions, Someday
should I be alone
reclining like pillars of shadows,
Should I repeat so
many blunders, Should I recall
evenings together that
are like nothingness, Should I
laugh and stroke my
merry celibacy, Should
you care like your
lips in bloom
like drawing blood on the rocks
like our darkening nights
having it away with you,
Should we grow
apart like trees Should
we slur over our confidences Should
we, but years
Should we, but memories
 
So
 
This is September.
I woke up with a
hangover. Had
an untidy shave 
and a late shower.
The breakfast went
cold with apprehension but my
coffee was frightfully hot.
I am supposed to read poetry before
you all this afternoon.
This word I do not quite like,
afternoon. It reminds me of all
that I do not want to be reminded of.
For I believe it was an
afternoon when she walked
out of our lives, leaving me to
savor our dinner alone like a
heartless something. And this
word, too, heartless. It is so
meaningless that I do not want
to be reminded of  its meaninglessness.
So this is September. And I have read
my lonely poetry before each of your
lonely eyes like nothingness 
 
Summer Bees
 
She used to make love like quite a
different woman and the night
air was always cool and fragrant the
moment we started teasing
one another  She knew the names of all
those heady flowers, and
she called our Qutb names like a defeated,
weakkneed warrior!
We never used to chat during our
lovemaking, only she did moan
and I darkly mumbled between our skins,
lying ever so under the
naked, awesome skies and all the broken,
bearded gods were like
grey men twitching and wasting
themselves in envy, helplessly
staring as we lost our celibacy for ever
and for ever
the breeze caressed us sprawled out
as we were spent like money
in our recklessly groomed lovemaking
She was like a woman in
love in all her bites and swollen lips
that are still bloody and
lovely in my forever dreams 

 
September
 
This morning is playing havoc
in my
balcony, it is hot and the ghosts
of city life are already
sitting at my breakfast table
that groans with fruits and
memories that have to be
peeled wisely and without malice.
If you, my distinguished
readers, do not know how
to peel a woman or memories, let
me teach you all an old trick or two.
You take the woman in
your arms like eggshells,
and you start telling her what the
joke is all about. She might not
be aroused, and then you are
always to fall back on your memories
and do nothing else 
 
1998
 
There are these occasional day
breaks when I know I am not going to
die and am yet up against
some absolute nonsense. So
many people
would smirk in their
so many worldly ways and wonder,
why do I suffer such a dog's life?
Don't I remember my unread whatever?
And there are really no words
in this world or the next or the next
that can form an able rejoinder to all
such valid kicks in the pit of my
self-respect  that even I cannot
stomach on even such
occasions. Did I write self-respect?
Don't make me laugh, ladies and gentle
men, for I'm once again reminded of
the nothingness that now blisters my lips
 
Remembering
 
It so happened that that evening was
like your full lips in bloom, I have
written about your lips elsewhere and
yet cannot recall them anymore or
even the evening when those lips were
so, there is now only your nothingness
that likes to hang around with me
and so we would walk cozily together
in easy camaraderie into an
evening that is
so very mindless of all those
holidays spent
with you like prayers in rains
and lovemaking,
we can now only look back,
your lips and I, in
rage and rage that that are but
grey eyeless
men twitching in envy while
the skies and the
seasons may well recall your
pouting lips that
were so nearly once
or twice in bloom 
 
Serenade
 
What about a woman
without trappings, what about
walking along walks that
are no more, what about my
writing that is not published
anymore, anywhere?
What about a woman without
trappings whom I can take
along walks that are no
more like distant
heartbreaks? What about my
writings that cannot
express themselves?
What about my women
whom I do not meet
anymore? What about my
woman whose name
I do not know and
whose lips haunt me in
my nearby heartbreaks? 

 
Adieu
 
We were the excesses into the gory,
shameless
nightfalls as teacups and
china and stutters share
a similar face across the years
and the births of our
endless spasms, we were
searching crannies and
darkness to hold each other
fast unto eternity
to swell in your sweat, your
women aroma, your
heaving cups overwhelmed
at the sight of the
darkening areola flooding
our vestiges, overflowing
the shores of your first
virginity, yet you have gone
away and are no more to be
found among the cloisters
of antipoetry. nothing more
is to be lost, apparently, with your
birding away from all those terraces,
poolsides and stairs, passages and
landings that once ached like our
bodies, our laughter and lost discourses 

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