>OMEGA 7 journal (Howling Dog Press) has been released (November, 2009). Five new poems of mine are featured among the many wonderful ones from an array of writers. The magazine, completely edited and designed by Michael Annis who selected the accompanying artwork by Henry Avignon, in one word, is stunning! Read my poems from Pg 190-193 here.
The five titles are:
“Sukanta” harks to the poet from Bengal I devoured as a teenager. For a hugely talented writer who passed away at 21, just a few months before India gained Independence in 1947, Sukanta Bhattacharya‘s voice was a clarion call to arrest imperialism, capitalism and warmongering (I use this word in my poem to a slight objection from poet and friend Nikesh Murali, but he said the poem was otherwise fantastic!).
Last but not the least, “History Lessons…” is almost personal history. My father was a young ‘political prisoner’ in Rajshahi Central Jail (in the erstwhile East Pakistan) for Leftwing activities. A firing was ordered on April 24, 1950, to quell unrest among the inmates. Seven died and several were injured in that tragedy, among them my father. Read the account in his post “Twentyfourth April“. He blogs at Old Man River.
In a salute to my twin legacies I’m posting these two poems out of the five here:
From rag-wearing villages
of Bengal, they crossed mustard fields, dark
swamps, small rivers in crowded
ferries with a bit of Mars attached
to bodies, a crater from that 1950’s day
of becoming history books
when they rattled
metal bowls & glasses
told the masters there won’t
be any compromise.
all rights to be restored
to dialogue, to be heard
they spoke & they smirked
handholding their tiny fates.
They stood behind iron bars
with backs to a faded
wall uninvaded. Stood in a
Eight by eight
Feet cell, angry
Tired as hell
That was when, his cheeks
smelled of fresh lime leaves
the beard on his chin grew hard
like lotus stalk the soldiers knew
from childhood (they swam with
them in lotus ponds), yet
they fired. Left uprooted trees,
piles of jellyfish drying on a deserted
seashore. The molten moon falling in
a swift swipe, between porous
pebble & muck, he saw
the inside of his thigh a Martian
blotch. A bullet. A red-hot cave of
history lessons the land still hides.
(From my father’s recounting of the 1950 Rajshahi Jail Uprising in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where he was one of the participants)
Dead River Longings
That was a poet who pined for a sickle-curved river
Golden perhaps or emitting a glitter through its ripples
The river name evoked glinted crop crowns; he wrote about
Jade paddy fields sliced by crow yells and bloodied streams.
That was a poet who walked the morose city streets alone
Uttering words usually unspeaking, like flow and tide;
In stumps of concrete habitats he did graffiti of a rising sea.
In such forgetfulness, some say drunken stupor, he died
Cut by a car when street cleaners came dusting the morning.
Or was he beaten unconscious and thrown by the police?
Out on the dirt, because the bugger wouldn’t stop chanting
About his mist-shadowed river of dying ivory dolphins
That buried incoherent songs in soft mud made softer by
Human waste. What haste hides is that he came back after
Moon’s wane, on his lips: that river, ujani, is still my bride.