A collection of poems by Madhura Banerjee
The graphite that paints you against the dead pianist’s fingers of winter poplars
Comes from the same pencil that etches the geographic boundary you stand on –
When the river is swollen from the tears of the PirPanjal
And the sandy nostalgia of feet anticipating the border
Is washed off the sockets of the river rocks,
The latter is submerged by a summer ignorance of quarrels;
When your dreams break free,
Runaway strings of wool off the needles of the night,
With winds that blow chinar leaves into the vermillion envy of dawn,
You etch a new path with the same old feet
Down to where the valley would cradle you for the nymph your phiran unmakes.
Why must you let your mind be a compass for truth,
When you love the way the wind is spiced either way,
Dusty from the West,
Muddy from the North,
Smoky from the East?
No, let the fir forests and snow-scarved valleys converge
Into this carbonated truth of life,
Where the light of day is trapped into the inevitability of furious creation,
To crystallize every graphite line marking boundaries uncrossed
Into the kind of truth whispered,
In the midst of willing winds,
From poplar to poplar.
The Jazz Hour
(In tribute to the golden hours of mid-dusk in Darjeeling, which the natives named “the jazz hour”)
For the love of paint-cans knocked over
By hungover feet caught mid-rhythm,
For the love of the overflowing of colour into colour,
Let us pile our sorrows in the dusty granary of the gramophone,
To relive them, mixed and crossed over, with the burst of jazz.
I can tell you about the leaf-shadows
Trembling in the golden vein of downhill Chowrasta –
I can tell you about the shape
The fairylight-bound bosom of the town silhouette took –
Like the midnight comfort of two bodies between verses.
If thoughts arrived as quickly as words do,
And tears trailed the path left by songs,
If confessions were as penetrating as twilight,
Then heartache would disappear beneath the cape of the sun,
And refrain from living on in our darkness.
Aren’t our raggedy stitched souls
Clipped on the line of the horizon
With sunset colours finger-painted on by mistrals,
For our broken patchwork to be crisp,
Sturdy, clean – for even a day or two?
The worth of everything is measured in memories,
And we are mere shadows beneath street lamps,
Whose dandelion light sometimes look like conical mountain peaks;
It is not in the pictures, but in the metaphors gestating in it,
That I carry the jazz hour along with me.
Infinity In My Teacup
Sometime, when the wicker of the incandescent dusk, perched
On the incense limbs of the Himalayan cypress,
Spilled the blue aroma of faraway desire,
All over the candle-lit mist of the valley –
Then, in the saucer of mountain-lost souls,
I found infinity in the fumes of my teacup.
Oriental rooftops stood, like waves in mid-tide, carrying
Paperboats from across the hills, floating in the rain,
Against the frayed Mall Road sun, flowing
Into pressed rhododendrons on young monks’ robes;
When the fog lay broken into faded colours of leaves and skin,
I learned how the stars sewed the mistrals into one verse.
Sometime, when the knocking of the wooden windchimes
Willed me so distant yet so close,
With faint bakery smells and the perfume of unfurling wildflowers,
Pinecone souls split open and the night overflowed;
Against Darjeeling’s matchbox town, the moon
Lit a flame to the rainwashed range of snow.