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>5 Poems in OMEGA 7–Assam-Bengal Legacies as I see Them

>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:

  • Dead River Longings
  • For Sukanta
  • Questionnaire
  • History Lessons: 1950
  • The Korobi Song

No. 1 and 4 are Assam-themed. Insurgency and civil unrest cannot escape any writer who has grown up in Assam in the 1980s and 90s. “Dead River…” and “Korobi” are testimonies to that fact. Terrorism, secret killings, abduction, muffling free voices — much before the global media started hyping up their own stories, Assam has been experiencing all of that. And even today, Assam, and most of northeastern India, remain scarred. Born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam, to me these moments in history never leave my consciousness.

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:

History Lessons: 1950

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.

Won’t listen

Won’t eat

Will want

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.

NOTE: The poem “Questionnaire” is a legacy of my own global mishmash!

Image from the Internet: Sukanta Bhattacharya; Korobi or yellow oleander.

5 comments on “>5 Poems in OMEGA 7–Assam-Bengal Legacies as I see Them

  1. Rhett
    December 5, 2009

    >That's way too much water, or blood shall we say, under the bridge. Can't readily identify with the intense passion – the poem kind of goes insane with passion and seems to howl – like that poet.

  2. fleuve-souterrain
    December 8, 2009

    >Kush, this edition of Omega journal is a thematic one… read all the others there, you'll see a theme.If one contributes to let's say, a war anthology, one can't cringe to read about about battle and destruction!… besides I don;t expect everyone to understand the Assam and Bengal partition legacies. But your last line "the poem kind of goes insane with passion and seems to howl" kind of tell me you got the hang of it! thanks for reading.

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    December 11, 2009

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  4. fleuve-souterrain
    December 15, 2009

    >How about I send a basket of yellow oleanders! The Korobi-gift!

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    January 12, 2010

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