The Song of Kamala Sundari

They came in a boat for Kamala Sundari

sieving water layer by layer

when the wind rose

the oars were legs, also their hands when stretched

The boats they built later were not for her

the waters they slashed was a mingled song

Kamala Sundari stared in death when they came

her face marigold her body wooden planks

Badar Badar Ghazi Ghazi

Badar Badar Ghazi Ghazi

And Kamala Sundari gazed outside for long

a little window past the halflong orchards

past the Cherrapunji clouds of clamour

past those roads where boats became legs

water was dust and greens were tangled lines

amid all, her steps each a slash on the seas

Legs that grew to be tall buildings

little buildings concrete buildings

legs that became pillars, posts and pipes

standing in an acid moon they were shadows

with legs that forgot to have their feet

toes that could wriggle out of mossy pools

Badar Badar Ghazi Ghazi

Badar Badar Ghazi Ghazi

And Kamala Sundari sang first in a whisper

she then sang out loud, forgetting the words

because words were off on their legs by then

becoming oars, rowing boats in a frantic grace

they were all expected to be so beautiful

just like Kamala Sundari, were expected to go

from town to town, boring into root to root –

Oh so frantic, oh so hundred-oared.

Nabina Das, a 2012 Charles Wallace Fellow, University of Stirling, UK, and a 2012 Sangam House Fiction Fellow, has a poetry collection Into the Migrant City (Writers Workshop, Kolkata; cited one of the best readings of 2015) and a short fiction collection The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped (LiFi Publications, Delhi). Published widely nationally and internationally, her debut poetry collection Blue Vessel(Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) was listed as one of best of 2012 and her first novel Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, Delhi) was longlisted for the Vodafone-Crossword awards 2011. A 2011 Rutgers University MFA, a 2007 Joan Jakobson (Wesleyan University) and a Julio Lobo fiction scholar (Lesley University), and a journalist and mediaperson for about 10 years, Nabina teaches Creative Writing in classrooms and workshops.

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