Poems by Mallika Bhaumik

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Of city tales and crayon images

The mid morning buzz is about to mellow when the fish vendor’s familiar voice sweeps
the lanes and by lanes of a South Kolkata neighbourhood. A feverish child’s eyes follow him from a window-side bed.

He shouts out the names of fish he has in his aluminium degchi. The decibel and urgency of his voice matches the rush of announcement of local trains at Sealdah station.

The fish vendor carries the stench of the silvery scales on to the city asphalt. His eyes scan the balconies and windows of houses for prospective buyers. A hand waving at him from a small window of a broad walled yellow house, makes him squint.

The cats walk behind the fish vendor with shinning eyes. He is like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, luring them to walk on. They walk feeling certain of his generosity to toss away some remains to them.

The weighing scale goes down as the body of a fish rides on it. The still eyes of the fish has left the ripples of river song by the ghat, they stare at nothing, they are like the dead of Gaza. The residue of their story gets descaled, sliced and cut

In a parallel world – the feverish child, the fish, the fish vendor, the cats are crayon wishes on a white page. They laugh and play and ride a Ferris wheel on a sun lit day.

Degchi ~container
Sealdah ~a busy railway station in the city of Kolkata
Ghat ~ bank


 

Jump

Sometimes a place has an uncanny way of knowing a part of you that remains under
wraps
tricking the hawk eyes of the world.
It is like a pact of secrecy between two old cronies; buried and merged with the earth.

Your ancestral house in the suburb,
its sprawling terrace teeming with boisterous voices; bunking school to make paper dreams crisscross the sky,
the shouting and booing, the rush and laughter rippling over the edge,
till a timid cousin fell off
and no one noticed how, there was none to tell the tale.
Only you and the corner of the terrace saw his lean body being flung out in the air.
Since then, the mad uncle of your father have followed you with an unearthly owl gaze.
But that was a long time back and then he too was gone.
Years later, when you’ve artfully navigated through the success routes of life
and built yourself a nest in the big city,
it knocks like an uninvited guest on a quiet Friday evening.
The dots of light on the flyover whoosh past, the colours of the billboards blur.
Time turns fluid.
You gulp down the void of a sudden disappearance from your wine glass,
then throw your gym trained body off the lonely balcony of your swanky high-rise apartment.
You leave no note and let everyone wonder as to what made you jump.


 

October ~ home and homelessness

October
…when going home and homelessness
are siblings who run by each other’s side,
painting a pretty picture of autumn,
– revealing colours,
re opening what we keep folded,
letters of another October from another land,
the drenched grass bed,
a dash of the orange sun holding a smile,
it’s fleeting fragrance singing a prelude to Uma’s homecoming.

The rust and chrome script a tale of another Uma,
one who cannot go to her mother’s place,
for whom, home is a dull pain; nagging
– its geography throbbing beneath the weight of deadlines

And October can get emotional and messy at times.
The image of a brick house waiting at the end of the crooked lane suddenly tumbles out…
inhabits the moment, seeps through the porous landmass of her body, fills up her senses.
The illusion of home rushes past
some nameless sorrow floats with each automated announcement,
the doors of loss open and shut.
Between livelihood and living, birthing wishes and recycling them,
a lifetime has elapsed.
A kohl rimmed dusk looks on plaintively
as she stumbles out of the evening metro and loses herself in the crowd.

Uma ~ another name of Goddess Durga
Uma’s homecoming ~ indicates Durga Puja celebrated by Bengalis in the month of October.


 

Appetite

Her body crack opens
A language flows
through marshy wet lands
she moans for him, misses his ruffian touch
on her flesh,
pulsating
heaving
going deep deep into the night
The river widens, the fish of fantasy swims upstream
leaving her famished.
She touches the swell of her breasts
Loosens the drawstring of her salwar
Feels the dampness in between the stem of her legs
the heat of noon spreads within the geometry of her mosquito net

Finally, at daybreak, she sits down to eat
Her wide bottom resting on bricks
a mouthful of chapati with slurps of slurry lentil, a bite of green chili,
belching out the scent of onion,
she feeds her bulging belly
and the growing egg therein.


 

About the Author

Mallika Bhaumik was a nominee for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry in the year 2019. Her poetry, short stories, essays, articles, travelogues and interviews have been published in various e-mags and journals. She received the Reuel International prize for her debut poetry book Echoes (2017) published by Authorspress (New Delhi). Her second book of poems How not to remember has been published by Hawakal Publishers(2019). She lives and writes from Kolkata (India).