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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Three Poems -- Dipika Mukherjee

Update : 29 Apr 2022, 03:07 PM

The Dialect of Distant Harbors

 

Bengali is my father tongue. It’s true my mother speaks

Bengali and crooned Phule phule dhole dhole

over sleepy infant heads, but it was my father

who grounded Bengali, watered curlicues of text, 

weeded enunciation through teenage years

when English whispered, Put your head on my shoulder.

When Indian schools spat out Vernacular,

as the dark peasant destined for penury, English 

strutted like a boss. But my father recited Tagore, the Bengali sibilants a song 

on his tongue, Bohu din dhore, bohu krosh dure:

I have traveled miles, spent years afar,

seen mountains and oceans new,

but I haven't seen, outside my door,

paddy glinting in morning dew.


Bengali is the seventh most spoken language of our world.


It will not disappear by my neglect, nor Bengali poets writing in English.

 

It is impervious to our mad dashes and enjambments, our stutters in severed 

tongues. Yet I fear the absences from the vocabulary of my children—


Seventh most spoken language of the world, but its majesty unfelt  

in this foreign tongue I continue to write in, to reach you . . .

                                                                                                                                                                                    . . . to reach you.

 

Bengali is still my magic chalice

refilled by the dialects of distant harbors.


Wanderlust Ghazal

My language is a Bedouin thief, delighting in foreign sands; 

It understands the erasure of monks, the ritual of palimpsests.


English has no word for Hemanta. No, not Autumn, nor Winter.

No Harvest Goddess in a veil of mists opaquely drawn.

 

The evening lamp in her hand gleams lambent through the fog;

Her voice merges into the howling wind. With abundance, desolation.

 

Every year, Mount Kinabalu is still wreathed in monsoon clouds.

Cloud messengers may be different, but some still speak of love.


Malay lascars sang of narrow boats, with pineapples stacked too high; 

A grievous vastness to this world, beyond human experience.

 

Wanderlust is a disease. Incurable. Deep from within, it chortles, 

The light of the moon cannot be rooted, Dipika, do not even try!


Sleep

The floor is red cement, cool

in Calcutta heat, the borders black

diamonds under bare feet.

A fierce grandfatherly snore

and the newsprint whirs

to the floor, stirred by a fan.

Up the steps, creeping past

the mezzanine. The women’s room

reveals itself by a hushed giggle. 

 

They are four on the ancient teak

bed in a disarray of muslin

petticoats, unhooked blouses,

and jasmine-scented hair spread

on white pillows, arranged as

a Tetris of female forms. Mashi

stirs slightly, pats the empty space

to cuddle into bare midriff.


My mother is not my mother;

she is happy.

 

The room paan-infused, opiates

stupefy the breeze. Chest curves 

rising and falling. Buzz of flies,

the murmur of summer somnolence. 

 

I pry open traitorous eyes again

and again, until a gentle rain

pitches me into dreams.

                                               


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