2 min read

Where Dead Poets Haunt

I never thought one day

familiar paths stranged

by gates barred

and shutters closed 

the dogs who crowded 

our daily breakfast 

haunt for scraps sit

wanting at empty tables 

ghosts on stone benches 

watching the lake flow

along distant railway tracks 

where invisible lips search for 

another behind bushes lonely

and the road lined

with dusty footprints

of souls that passed by

in spirit, in day dreams,

echoing the last football match 

resounding on field 

overgrown with grass 

that the two friends, 

sitting there one sunset evening 

discussing dead poets, 

have abandoned for days 

broken beer bottles remain

bougainvillea bushes atone

and rusty railings call out

for a chat, corner shops for

a smoke, staircases for 

a laugh, concrete ledges for 

a respite and classrooms to sit

and reflect on pleasures old

of bored scribbles and passed notes

in days when love was so easy

so ephemeral so treasured

when white sandy biscuits

were dipped in lemon tea zest

and oily pans sizzled to

pop music blaring on the radio

perched on jars and jars

of inviting cookies

over brown tea-filled mud cups

noodles with three toppings

and cut up egg bread toasts

crapped by the dhaba cat

when tobacco smoke

tied knots of comfort in humid air

mingled with horns

of buses blue and slogans red

because they are frozen now

and planets walk in slower tread

In a Railway Carriage 

The automated voice 

recites station names 

like pandits chanting 

the avatars of gods in 

the morning arati 

and the sweet-nut 

seller boards at the 

stop to join the chorus 

of the men wearing 

necklaces of long 

packets stuffed with 

snacks that smell of raw 

oil: fried peas and seeds 

and gram and pulses 

puffed rice and biscuits 

invite saliva to the mouth 

and I learn copywriting 

from the man selling 

pesticide, steal taglines 

of pickled amla-ginger 

candy – fit for all ages, 

whether winter or summer – 

And from the ‘magic cap’ 

peddler who mimes its 

many functions I learn 

how to perk up lines 

to keep eyes away 

from the running trees 

outside to look instead 

at their entries and exits 

playing their part on our 

carriage before moving 

on to their next playhouse 

to perform hymns to incense,

nail-cutters, safety pins 

sweets, cashew, keyrings 

chocolate, gram boiled 

with lime, the spiced jhal 

muri sellers rhyme 

banging his mixing 

bowls for tangy 

tongues to hear over 

the fruit vendors who 

push past crowds of 

travellers hawking 

their wares to be sweet 

as sugar dropping the 

price to the demand in 

the compartment: ‘oranges, 

ten rupees for four’ 

playing shouting matches 

with the lads advertising 

little scales to weigh 

fudge, jaggery and more

Srabani Bhattacharya is a writer, editor and translator. Poetry helps her to be in a constant dialogue with the world around her. She thinks of her poems as memory albums preserved before they are claimed by time. She recently started a page (@paperbird.me) on Instagram to practise her writing. Her works have been published on LiveWire, Kalavaram, The Kali Project and Walled City Journal.

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