#113

You beam that it’s -25º Celsius! My voice burrows deeper inside my armoured mouth. Your arms seem to be spinning nacre in the vaporous light.

Your body turns to a map of isopleths taut beneath your skin—
hungering for your Antarctic cold perhaps—
bodies of scars, bodies of nerves and veins,
freckled effluvia. Bodies of glaciers. Bodies I inhale.

Your voice hovers above the cascading chill, rising and falling: one mutilated, but silken, wing. Casket of silence— borrowed, buried— tides without a moon.

Around my dark iris there bobs a ringlet of flambé-blue. On my cheeks an arbor vitae of blood hungering for my sun. You have eyes the color of icebergs, the color of wind over lagoons, homesick stars.

I want to ask what part of you is brittle, what part snowfield, blizzard but my lips have forgotten how to move. I am swallowing your radiations

I am learning to burn to keep warm.

©Mohana Das

#112

Afternoon — the light swims in through the narrow blinds, a shoal of silver fish with sequins for eyes. On my back upon the cold red floor, cold and beautiful, I watch him sleep — silver fishes dancing on his forearms. Below the lanes tremble with laughter, the tension of unnamed games and pornography, shaved ice cones slathered in kalakhatta. A pair of eyes meet, a tinge of fire burns the face. Mothers sleep: always the cotton saari, always the hair mid-parted and pulled back, always the sindoor, the red and white bangles, always the legs drawn to the chest. A man sells pickles in a lopsided cart. Dust rises like artisan foam, sprouts thin wings and wanders off. Later the bodies will drop, exhausted and lace-like, upon everything.

©Mohana Das

Field Notes, Kasba

001: At 4, a train tears the tympanum and shoots forward, clutching in the gaps of rib-like seats — garrulous passengers. The mist is swallowed by a swab of hot, black smoke. Under a rattling asbestos roof, a bride wakes up, arranges the flimsy folds of her sequinned saari over tender, brown breasts, swallows the stinging ache of copulation with spittle, before setting on her haunches by the kolpaar to scrub last night’s meals off aluminium plates.

002: Butterflies have been molesting blossoms of dawn: an upright stalk of carrot fleur noted a day ago has turned to tuber. The scent of fertilization swamps the air.

Soon it will be mid-spring.

003: Dollops of shimul on stark, leaf-shorn boughs applique the afternoon sky. The land has been scavenged by breeding, poverty — where there were mounds of grass sloping tenderly to a jet-black pool, there are shanties and pig-excreta now. Children with mud caking their buttocks run amok through piles of dented utensils, goat offal. Young mothers chide and are chidden, their thin arms sticking like insect appendages on the sides. The fuchsia-fleshed shaapla is gone. The palash no more torches the eyes with its flame-coloured plumes.

Only packets of loose earth roam with bird-like candour.

004: Later as they trudge home behind the cattle, clouds of dust pottering like winged love letters at their cracked feet, they do not have a name. Someone talks of fleshing a katla fish. Someone talks of fever and gangrene, ek mutho chaal. Others whisper how their vaginas, now exhausted, hang like shrunken aparajita flowers within the anatomy — undesired and useless after seasons of chaffing. A wild-haired girl with almonds for eyes crosses her scraggly legs almost antiseptically, like an irreverent spasm.

005: Stars hang like clusters of fire-candy, dying in the orb-eyes of preternaturals who roam the khaalpaar all night. Their silver anklets chime in branches and boughs, in the geometric dyspraxia of bamboo groves, asking — the syllables heavy with pain — a few sprigs of tactile love.

©Mohana Das

Dear Alan,

Right now if you open your eyes, still mercury in its wonder, you won’t smile. Far below the surface of the sand where you fell asleep, red shirt and jeans baked in the summer sun, there was Gaia; and she rocked you in her thick, brown arms. The song in you- hear it?- is her gift.

The vineyards are so gnarled they bear no fruit. Wine is blood (only human now). Your homeland lies in splinters inside your throat. Not a bird is left. Everybody hews limbs off each other. You were tired, little head lolling side to side; she took you in. Beneath the damask sepals of your heart, hope had dehisced. You had no language. Childhood shrank under your favorite oak tree. Your old city had become all but a city.

Maybe a year or two later when your limbs gather masculinity, and the cells of your brain proliferate nebulae-like, you will know how a continent fell at your pink feet, begging mercy and peace and god knows what offal. They sold you. They ate your heart; fought on who ate more elegantly. Dear boy, someday you’ll exhume the fear off your marrow. Someday you will cut off the umbilical cord and fling it down at he remnant of men tearing themselves to chunks of bitter meat. The Mediterranean will be gutted in a gorgeous flash. Light will be salt.

Darwin awaits you. A scarab beetle lies face-down inside his goblet. The fittest have survived.

©Mohana Das

Day-Trips To Take From Kolkata

Kolkata has a unique location. The azure expanse of the Bay of Bengal, the hillocks at the edge of Chota Nagpur plateau, the luxuriant plains, the mangrove forests of Sundarban – all lie just a few hours away. Not only are travellers drawn by the natural beauty, but also by the rich architectural and religious history of the destinations.

Verdant paddy fields and blue-grey rivers add ecstatic beauty, a beauty that has moved many a poets and singers. The beaches of South Bengal and the tip of Orissa are relatively unknown and boast of pristine beauty. We have all this and more covered with this list, that you will be spoilt for choice!

Source: Day-Trips To Take From Kolkata

#111

my fingers are stained with tannin- “leave the windows open, will you?”- i can weigh the listlessness humming in the air, that scent of paraplegia- “what’s your name again?” the fork slides down the sponge, a burst of cherry bleeds through the chocolate; the saucer stares heedless through the teak, the brick. your hand on my trembling knees.

a spoon clatters. the scarcity of rain pounds against the sole of your mojris. the tea is ripe. if the floor upends, we will be two pendant lights- you brighter, ofcourse- and the bookshelves will open their tongueless mouths and gobble us whole. “what do they call this place now?” from the window, a foreign summer wafts in.

in a parallel world, i am writing you a drawing of the city that died. the cotton interweaves, my fingertips pucker; your eyes are shards of amethyst. “little blue bird has a magic bead,” i see your lips form words. you empty your pockets of stories as i sit, milky-eyed, licking a cantankerous sun.

©Mohana Das

#109

when rain clouds swallow our city and fireflies fold their glow in the shiver of their tiny wings, you sit by the window and wait. from the room across, i look at you and pin away for the slice of your heart that will never be mine. there is the dry shriek of thunder. thorns of bougainvillea pierce the charcoal underbelly of the sky.

a gecko had perched itself on the ledge and watched with beady eyes as we lay spent, perspiring from every pore, the gold of daybreak pooled on our thighs. you had smiled as my fingers ran through your hair. my smile bloomed into a kiss. from over the rooftops, flocks of pigeon carried notes of riyaaz on their wings.

On the Road lies abandoned on your lap; pages turning wayward in the gusty fennel-breathing wind. in my tiny hands i hold unpredictability. sometimes i wonder how love slips from between fingers; how galaxies collide and birth fire balls; how the past resurrects itself and enchants us. the corner of your mouth curves into a tiny smile.

i watch till the rain dissolves the clarity of space and you become a watercolor without form, receding till your window becomes an outline only, a bulb-lit rectangle.

darling, must i ask her story? must i ask if the rain brings her dark eyes back to your mind?

©Mohana Das

Paper Boats

we never discussed the rain.
this monsoon when the water threatened
to swallow us whole, you curled
like a snail inside my rib-cage; Kolkata slept.

you are 6 and i your child-bride, quarter
mother held you to her sallow frame-

i dream i have let your fingers go in the onrush.

later i trawl out seaweed, sit
braiding strands of pastel disappointment into rugs as you
launch your umpteenth paper boat into our soggy lane.
i smile through my teeth; the
tea-laced morning has caught a flu.

©Mohana Das

Date Notes, 28 Apr ’15

evening- the sky threatens to inundate-
we pack a plate of momos- chicken,
schezuan- hop into an auto:
darkness swirls over the aged buildings of Hatibagan.
trams, their toothless mouths stuffed with romanticism,
hobble unmindful. all morning, we tried
etching secrets onto each other’s skin, ears
cocked for the softest sound of feet down the
corridor: as we kissed; as we exhaled the
anguish of seven long days out on the cold red
floor. the rush is thinning spasmodically.
a cubic angstrom of my brain feels exhilarated as the traffic count
goes 5-4-3-2-1- yellow taxis zoom, i bump sideways in his chest-
everything smells of sweet,
wet earth.

at Ahiritola, we find the river weeping:
blue-black bruises blotch her swollen face,
the wind lashes, tears froth-lipped waves into
tattered skeins- i clutch his arm,
the jetty trembles and the sky is electric.
when it starts raining, we have just
unwrapped the momos- hurriedly, my mauve umbrella
goes up. our backs are slabs of ice.

evening- it pours- monsoon is an enraged
raga. the strings of her tanpura are ablaze.
leaflets engorge with ecstasy, the bloom of petrichor percolates
through flesh, bones- i feed him momos,
hungry for touch and warmth and proximity.
the bridge is a limp line of halogens
hovering ghost-like between earth and sky.
a launch bobs bearing-less in the distance.
our lips ache for a confluence.
Kolkata holds us back despite herself.

©Mohana Das