Ekphrastic Poems – By Debasish Lahiri

Pic by Steve Johnson



Empty City


Full of my city,
I sit

If I could visit
all the places
where I had emptied myself
and rummage through
that dear rubble of hours
so many had cast away
(to pine for later)
to find me,
amongst lost abjects of affection –
dust of treads,
silence –
with the hunger of a beggar
in the garbage,
salvaging a supper
that had waited too long in the kitchen
of a satiated man.

If I could burrow
into the plenty of the unpeopled street
for a rag,
like the unhomely tramp –
darning with hope
the holes
in evening –
socks and blanket
of December –
and find
a slip of myself,
I would then be full
of tales
heard on solitary vigils
by members of my self
in the wainscoting
of the garret
of the building
that stood till a day ago
in that corner of the street,
now a debris of air,
and the city




Funicular ascent
of breath
begets the sea
at city crossings.

Helter skelter —
breath descends
like the fall
of evening,
the city
is a fairground of sighs.


Morning Sleep 

(On Rene Magritte’s “The Victory” 1939)



On cold sheets
of sound —
water running,
a faucet
bawling into wakefulness —
morning sleep.

There are doors
even dreams
need to keep shut.
and half a cloud,
dry surf,
drier fish,
all the sand
in the thought of walking
into the room of sleep.
I wake up
to shut a door
and keep out
friendless kin —
half a cloud —
from my dream.


About the Poet

Debasish Lahiri is an Assistant Professor in English literature at Lal Baba College, affiliated to the University of Calcutta. His writings on Postcolonial theory, Indian, American, African & Australian Poetry, and European Modernism have been published in international journals and anthologies of criticism.

His poems have been widely published in journals like The Journal of the Poetry Society of IndiaMuse-IndiaIndian LiteratureInkaptureThe Poetry Salzburg ReviewMediterranean PoetryWeber: The Contemporary WestSix Seasons ReviewBywordThe Punch Magazine and The French Literary Review among others; in French translation in Siècle 21EuropeRecours au Poème La Traductière; in Italian in NUOVI ARGOMENTI and in Portuguese in NERVO: Colectivo de Poesia.

His six books of poetry are: First Will & Testament (Writers Workshop, 2012), No Waiting like Departure (Authors Press, 2016) which was shortlisted as one of the five best collections of that year by Scroll & India Today, Tinder Tender: Poems of Love & Loitering (Authors Press, 2018), Poppies in the Post & Other Poems (Authors Press, 2020), Paysages sans Verbes (Edítions Apic, 2021) and Tether that Light (Red River, 2022).