The Firebird

 

And then, they hit me, just below the belt,

woman strength

Image Courtesy: Pinterest.com

And shoved me to a corner to preach me
With their habitual sermons of sanctity,
Just when I was clasping the clay molds
To turn them into spitting images of myself,
My everyday girlfriends, sisters, dainty rivers prancing
and preening around fire-lit open courtyards.

And then, they sucked the lilting rhythms of a female fetus
Out of my hungering womb, and left me to die every day
With the barren shrieks of a hopeless nothing,
My femaleness, a tough, bottomless pit
which they entered again, and again, and again,
tirelessly, until a male offspring is borne.

……Did my river bleed when my trident perforated
demon skins? I ran, and ran, and ran
Like a beast, chased, driven away,
Until the unscathed horizon took me in.
Who is it that chases me still? The rough undone
of voyeur fists and limbs? All I have sought for
Is a man sheltering my hidden pores,
A chapati between my hungry teeth, my chapped lips.

…….And then, they smothered me dead, because as Draupadi,
My fiery red cajoled them into hostility. As Sita,
My chastity made them push their boundaries.
As Kunti, the unblemished terrains of my want
enticed them to father my legendary sons.
As the black, ‘dalit’ girl, the earth and water of my being
was a living proof of profanity, a sacrilege
that they sanctified by feasting on the tar of my flesh.

And then, you who have crushed and torn my silky petals,
You who have made me sing lust-ridden songs,
You who have taught our mothers to kill us in the womb,
To mourn our birth while their cherished sons blossom
in their milky warmth, you who have made us
The sacrificing Sati and Behula, brimming with fortitude,
You who have sold our flesh for six pence, will sit at my feet,
Prostrate, when I am the naked, elemental Kali,
at my apocalyptic best. And then, when I adorn my forehead
with the toxic blood of generations, my scarlet tongue,
spread out, larger than life, glitters, gleams with peril.

Let me be the savage cry, the dark, scraped beast
Before you call me the Goddess and the whore, yet again.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. January 27, 2016

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The Touch of a Mother

mother baby

Image source: forum.santabanta.com

 

National Poetry Writing Month

The touch of a mother, a peck on the cheeks
Light wallowing softly in a crumpled bed,
Propping the head between pillows and arms,
Nursing the face, head, clothes up the body
Of the babe, dips her lips in succulent love.
The liquid pearl of joy, brimming,
Floating downstream.

The touch of a mother, light, feathery, dense,
Encircling the night in the womb’s warm aroma.
The touch of the mother, a slow autumnal caress
Tattered, torn, burnt out eyes, fingers, lips
Tempering the spluttering spices and oil,
The sound of footsteps, shimmering waves,
Fading, resounding, watching over the night.

The touch of a mother, gulped down deep
Bubbles up in the frothy burps of memory.
The touch of a mother, imprinted in
Unopened souvenirs, forlorn lullabies.
The dust of time upon
commonplace whispers and summoning.
Slivers of raindrops and light,
A golden glow of times gone by.

Note: Dedicated to the memory of my mother and all mothers who have loved their children, unconditionally, selflessly.

Kitchen Refrains: In Memory of My Mother

In the loving memory of my dear mother Rama Bhattacharya on the auspicious occasion of her birthday today, February 26, 2015. A tribute to her unceremonious kitchen chores, her relentless housework and our long-distance phone calls, over which we have bonded over the course of all these years. Hope she is in ultimate bliss, wherever she is now, knowing that I have learnt all the recipes she has taught me. photo (43)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

The oil splutters, the glittering bodies
Of paanch phoron, cumin seeds and bay leaves
Emanate a moist, fragrant breath.
The gourd and the potatoes, dancing in the
Indolent pan, with crisp coconut,
The way you always wanted
Culinary things, in their rhythmic crescendo.

I have learnt and unlearnt a lot today,
Vacillating, flickering, in between
Recycled pots and pans, my stained fingers
Scratching in the dust, searching for
My girly mouth, stuffed with morsels and juices
Of your presence in steamed rice and runny fish curries.

I have learnt your recipes well, Ma,
Drawing in the dust a diagram of
All the meals that we had shared, talking to me
Through the long sent emails, the stings,
The scrapes, the missed steps of my childhood days.

(2)

I park my eyes in the mossy courtyard,
Your foamy fingers soaking in the detergent,
My dream, a broadened highway leading me
All the way to the creek, the dirt road, the clothesline
The terrace where our evenings hunkered,
Your domestic chores stretched across
The ribs, the hemlines, the loops and curls of the house.

My eyes have taken in the ice and fog
Of all our spoken words, the lines
Curved towards hope, while I chop onions,
Peel potatoes, slice tomatoes,
Rice boiling over, gasping over the smell
Of turmeric, a chained melody that bleeds
In a kitchen where our silences grow louder every day.

A kitchen where my childhood photo with you
Fresh, pulpy and sweet, hovers in cinnamon breath.
I hold you between the undone folds of your silk saris
The vermilion dots of your quiet, steadfast longings,
One morning till the next, let me burn until
Your ashes become glistening silver.

I move imperfect, your daughter,
In littered, crumbling surf and sands,
Hungering for your womb, for one last time.

House and the Housewife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kitchen spatula, drops of leaves
Bonfire of the soul,
The light of smoke, burning,
Twisting, dead voice of the bird,
Long lost in desired migration.

Flames of twilight, faint kisses
Fall and melt, unhappy embers,
Hurricanes of dreams hauling on,
Failed, stained with recycled anguish,
Scars of practiced jerks, moves, copulation.

Breaking into waves, sobs, poetry of want
The doll house cries, mocking,
Moist desires trampled, endless rivers of
Afflicted hours. The breasts suckled by
Mortal flame of infants, born, extracted
From the life of fire, crooning, nourished.

Whispering, shouting incoherent, bursting forth
Like a weapon, crushing like an evening song
Solitary dreams cooing, alone, like a tunnel,
Flapping wings, echoing, rising in oblivion,
Dark leaves muttering, shattered, undaunted.

A Woman I Am

images

The woman, the mother and the daughter. Image source: http://www.stressreliefwizard.org

“Which of your roles you find central to your being ? Being a mom, or daughter, or teacher, or student, a professional or a homemaker, or anything else ? Write, and then write a poem too”.

This was a weekend writing prompt that one of my virtual friends, a poet/writer had initiated in an online writing forum in Facebook dedicated to women writers/poets and/or artists. Based on her beautiful weekend writing prompt, here is my humble attempt to define myself as the mother, the daughter. The umbilical cord, long severed physically, remains within us and reshapes our life, in ways more than one.

 

A Woman I am

(1)
The umbilical cord is bespattered
With blood, mucus and a chill of pain.
The child, first a foreign growth
And then, a mirror image of her own,
A wet, moving mass, is expelled
After spasms rushing out, gushing, in waves.
In laboring, birthing, in the pain
And bliss that returns,
The daughter becomes the mother,
The mother comes to the daughter in shared wound
At birth, both are united by a raw pain of separation.
A child with a descent line, sustained with
Her life-blood and love, fingers, nails, toes,
Eyes, ears, nose, lips, trailing after her.

                              (2)
A woman I am, the umbilical cord, the conjoined life
Of my mother and me, long dried up, severed
Yet a fire in my soul that illuminates my trails.
Walking barefoot, parched and reckless,
Swimming, moving, arms wide spread
In the lost tides of time,
The cord, long lost, pulls, tugs at my womanhood
In elemental wonder. The cord is the dance,
The merry-go-round and the preciousness of love
As I writhe in pain, longing.
I am gorging in smoke and flames
As the child is borne in beauty and pain.
I am the woman, the daughter and the mother
A little nursling, I squirm, thrash, snuffle
Am unbuttoned inside milky warmth.
A woman, a lustrous being, the miracle of birth
Latches onto my being, holds onto my seraphin wings.
A woman I am, the umbilical cord beckons me.

Life Ahead: an Ode to Mothers, Babies and Mother Earth

Image

Notes for the readers: An experimental poem in four distinct segments, this poem has won the title of the ‘most creative’ piece in a writing contest hosted by Writerscafe.org. I started writing this piece in November 2009 as a sweet, feel-good gift for my daughter’s first birthday. But as the poem started unfolding in my mind, it didn’t remain a piece exclusively for me and my baby. Now, I dedicate this piece to all mothers and babies of the world, to unwanted motherhood, to starved orphans and to the throbbing life that resurrects in our Mother Earth amidst the suffocating agony of hunger, decay and the debilitating pain of humanity.

(1)

Child of delight, offspring of love

In this coarse life amidst stone, sand and soil,

I behold the softness of your misty sleep.

You float on the dreams of a silvery stream in Wonderland,

I kiss the beauty of your liquid sounds, your lifting smiles.

In whispers and living lullabies, I drink your life,

Carry your warm breath, fragrance and melodies

Show your tranquil light.

(2)

Mother of darkness, mother in gorging flames

Within you, I seek no flame of rebellion, no reformation;

I’ve walked my life on tattered soil and blackened streets,

Crumbling, decaying and scattered in dust.

Grinding and groaning in the curling smoke of memory,

I’ve sensed the skeleton of your growth,

Floating around quivering shadows of dirt and lies.

A petal bloom in glory, lust and greed of shivering nights

My heart pumps blood for you to wrap you around me,

To grow inside me, cold, parched, starving orphan.

I’ve held you in the wintry chill of thousand midnights

Endlessly waiting for a thousand splendid sunshines.

In whispered worlds of crimson blood, gore, sobs and sighs,

I seek the scarlet bliss of your blood,

A flickering flame of your shrieks awakens me.

(3)

Innocence screams, pain dances in a hungry earth

A wispy wind uttering secrets at night,

Soft murmurs hovering over a silent earth,

Howling voices of haunted longings and despair,

Scars deep in the soul, muttering and whispering

Rumors and pain.

The red rose wounds of battered infants dying

And living, breathing pain on streets of cold….

I stand alone among heaps of discarded dirt,

In a wasteland of screaming silence and barren shadows

And listen to the lullabies of a soft baby skin,

Straining through the solemn frost of a stony earth,

I follow the voice of an angel carrying divine autumn whispers;

Crossing lonely, dark streets, a sob breaks from my chest

To see a fallen tear, the want of an embrace,

The warmth of tiny fingers in soft caresses

Crushed in brittle dust.

(4)

Life ahead: calling the golden girl, calling the hapless kid.

Blessed be the breast that cuddles, milks and aches,

Blessed be the darkness of empty chests and frozen pain.

Blessed be the crimson blood of the cherubic babe

Seizing its way through dark corners of the heaving womb.

Blessed be the smile of the little boy that dances in the rain

In rasping joys, in the city streets of scarlet pain.

Blessed be the flickering flames of innocent lives

Crushed and battered by bullets under azure skies.

Mothers giving nectar and tender beds of care

Mothers giving the softest music and rhythm of life

To sleepy eyes, fragile bodies and rosy red cheeks

Dissolve in shadowed rooms in a stormy deluge.

In a different deluge, endless mothers breathe and live

In streets of cold, with cracked lips and despaired tears.

Blessed be their feet that walk through sand and freezing ice.

The life that lies ahead in a soiree of blossoms for the golden girl,

Calls out the hapless kids hidden in dust and tears.

Calls out in hunger, eagerness and pain.