Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Keeping Me Awake

 —Poetry by Kushal Poddar, Kolkata,
W. Bengal, India
—Artwork Courtesy of Public Domain

Rain doesn't soothe me,
not in the beginning, not when it
dances with the skin.

Its OCD won't let this go.
All night it talks to sleep and pours.
'Mustn't fail. Calm him down.'
The noise ignites my awakening.

It perfects its rhythm, negotiates
with the gale, pays homage
to the dirt, tells the tale of my mother
and her love for petrichor, and I, still awake,

imagine a monstera leaf and droplets missing
the holes, missing the slits and exploding,
imagine the pearls those who pass forms on
another leaf beneath. I breathe, repeat

the song rain sings—“I calm you now.
I calm you not. One drop misses the spot.
One turns into a tear. One is the pearl
all mothers wear in memories."


On the roof she bathes
in moonlight.
I know some
who went insane after
drinking her straight
poured in a glass.

One told me she
looked like a still life
of a scorpion in a liquor bottle.
The concoction was fermented
to see the reality beyond reality.

That, one told me,
wasn't a house. The roof
was a summer river
thin, drawn by child
with his HB pencil.

I look at her, the crazy
and nude neighbour
on her roof, in her river,
a scorpion in a bottle
of moonshine. 


The old names have shifted
their alphabets. The new names
for God and those 'In/Out' in their
rectangular slots keep the cleaner
busy. This edifice, the one and only,
remains untouched by the fire,
and everywhere fire has scattered
its red feathers. The cleaner
keeps every particle of the dust
in a quite large bag in case he needs
those to rebuild, but since the fire
came here he has not been in the building.
Some says that the fire is an urgent prayer,
one desperate signal for intervention,
albeit some say he stopped coming because of it.
An ambulance and an army truck whistle by;
the cleaner works hard to wipe the brass,
brick, mortar, blood, flesh and bones until
even he ceases to exist, and ashes fly like doves.


A friend is gone
in the oblivion today,
yesterday, tomorrow;
I don't know
because time wears
its yellow raincoat,
stands on the road I see
from my window
although it doesn't rain,
and the traffic, busy, penetrates it.
Why did you, do you, will you
kill yourself? I don't guess
because a minotaur chases
its shadow in the mind's maze.


Someone once told us that the stories
open the escape routes from our reality.
We have been reading those maps.

The lost paths belong to us; we have turned off
the GPS; we leave the automobiles, sway and
dance forward instead of walking, striding.
The rose you sniff after plucking it from a wild
garden stuns you to a long sleep. The tea and
snacks at one bus stop push us to the toilet
eleven times in a day. Aunt Ginny has a problem
of not drinking enough. We will drag a coffin like
a Wild West movie. Monday stories have blue
rivers, the others days merge into each other.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kushal Poddar

The local body builders' association
builds three tiers of flesh on the pier.
Near ocean lifts its hem a little.
The defunct lighthouse yawns.

I watch a naked hermit crab crossing,
offer it my skull. The gulls lose
the battle of speed. The crab and I
stroll toward the water and salt.
I feel light, mindless.


Kushal Poddar is the author of nine books, including
Postmarked Quarantine and How To Burn Memories Using a Pocket Torch. He is a journalist, father of a four-year-old, illustrator, and an editor. His works have been translated into twelve languages and published across the globe. Find and follow him at Welcome back to the Kitchen, Kushal!


 Kushal Poddar

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