Poems by Subhro Bandopadhyay

Joaquim Mondal’s Poetry

These poems could have belonged to any illegal immigrant. In Europe. Someone who left his country on a fortnight’s visa. And years rolled by. He is unlisted in the government records of either country. If he can remain missing in his ghetto for a few more years like this, he will be declared dead. Joaquim Mondal is an ex-painter. Some middleman put him into Europe for a fee, where he works petty jobs. We met by chance, when I came to know of his poetry. These are his poems, taken not after, but from him.

You better speak, since you have come this far
like the empty sigh on a bum’s manuscript or
the whispers about someone’s failed marriage, as far as you’ve
piled up passive resistance: look no culture they have just cash, fast cash
look they drink liquor with rice with those ill-dressed damsels
I copy in the language of the tongue
in the neurons of a tape recorder, is there a Buddhist shaman inside sodium?
his violet robe has worn off, right after immigration check
a temple had asked for some donation
large empty canvas, I first apply some discolored white acrylic on the panel
then from the thick brush with a sudden gush of monastic air
rolls an empty street’s mid-day preparation
April in the flesh

To Romania’s Jenica or any of those prostitutes from Eastern Europe
I didn’t ask which country
As the conversation elongates I get a sense of the artery’s bruises.
It hurts you to see any road, any cloth or paper turn red
As pigeons push through soft October in the park, I can see
in the breeze black patches
in the seat of eyes attuned to unsleeping
Our riverine mother coast.
Characters from the book have turned into statues
that this steel rain wets
A secret journal tells me that.
As the silhouette of nakedness wets
a wing pulsed by touch
Salty and ashen air.
Stepping out of the house to see the hackneyed foam-wrapped stores
float, continuous two-way traffic into the root cellar, I return
a side-turned flight touches huddling boobs
Fluorescence from the sex-shop angling across the window
A bird made from a plain knife
On the bedside table

What do we write with
in these naked neuron receptors      acid
camera and x-rays!
1 or 2 letters from apparently engrossed cities
The narrative or uninformation
muted with eyes closed
in the crevices between rusty iron piles and the imaginary line
divorcing suicide from a rose
The man who tore away from the teeming Saturday cross-streets
hand in hand with a hooker —
I call him writing.
A summer mid-day prepares itself
as it slowly turns pages of a yellowed book, a dog cooling off in the swamp
A new couple moaning behind holidaying closed doors
Opium color on a shalik’s plume, darkness dense wet walls
Where does he go in this otherland of no-identity?[1]

How much can these troubled hands mean to earthly body?
Winter strangulates marmoreal youth
I would never wish that its meat slacken
eyes from sweatdrops turn salty
In this wronged jungle the city tightens
around throat and nerve, vomiting blood
If language dies, to absent thoughts and poets
will imagery drift
to the temporary park      an empty bench
Is not for any of us

I am not going to write about sunyata. I have hidden intimate hollers in my torn creases. Then I’ll place the rebel secrets in a terrorized season. Even the walks in the garden hide weaponry. In the dawn of evenings, a darkness cannot sleep, densifying raindrops feel like rice grains, and is that why this harvest-fair is a kind of hunger?[2]

Let someone else speak of time, of patience and apprehension from mired rhyme scrape out these burnt bright nights. Whose nest fills your head? Of the mail pile? Who would you like to read where? Your language has snapped. Burdened with history. Devoid of fiction, of intersections. In this pure winterless jatismar country dark fields open, hidden thorns and the cards of fog, and from this unfriendly wet who is it that has deserted us leaving unsealed the pout of past century, some ambitious comrade, a detached photo lyrical, suddenly a piano vines up to my ear a four quartet[3]

Those words, I’d like to sit beside. Critters from inside the grave-pit. Botched phrases make the salt of a silent tongue. It needs more scribbling. But why me? Where did I error? In my abdominal fat? On the fogged street? In the broken line of the river? In exchange these transformers, structuralist dreamers stand up amongst my angst-ridden and in order to fiercely grapple on to some hard thing, this metal pen I found, with clenched teeth and a pressured palm some firm writing calls upon

There is a jungle inside. A walker’s path and its clutter of broken picnic bottles. I don’t ask you to come barefeet, neither to clean out this trash, not an effort nor participation no acceptance or rejection, no sad sigh trends suspended in a philosophical paradox, just a proposition for a quiet pause leaning against these errored signs

If one could hide wound and incompetence behind these lines and letters. I put my hand on the bleak throb and pray for more strength. I say you need to know antiquity better of words to put them to proper use, since the evolution of the metal age, men haven’t forgotten it. Wound or incompetence is actually an animal kind. Have all signs of life. And dying?

I have arrived on the bright shore of an island. Noise didn’t let me feel the un-depths of its affection. Call these processions an act of crying. I know how faces sink and how around the rough edges of our community-skin spreads a chromium of fear.[4]

Not static flaccidity, but a womanly walk along the fruit-market. As the last sabado metro leaves, the discotheque/shelter — from these options I pick my old neighborhood. The way I step into is never homeward bound. Little homes arrested in language's temporary cauldron. Roads unrivaled, stonewashed with no asphalt. Floats in the one across the museum, music of a lesser taste, luring men into video parlors. Painting, music, letters italicized, all gravitate towards their country of origin. But what is country? Old songs? Eyes moist from the hearings? Our headcount of realities never taut with that. Who keeps the count? Wet feelings, vapor and coffin in front of dark chocolate doors. A different road rebounds from each one. Wetness hangs in the air.

A face for each moment
Newer instants only mildly tagged. With olden faces.
Secretly awake
unmindful untidy in creases and cleavages
Marks without much expression

Once I’ve seen the entire presence turn to stone. Words carving into iron and stone, and minerals into the words, immobility is sculpture. At the end of back-breaking labor, in the sun’s pile a BOW bulls-eye the city-center. Head down, I walk. Winter’s usual security tucked into my pocket. When no one’s there, god is. If is? I see with the softness of a bird’s eye, were the promises have erred? Why do we get out?

Grace in our words,
but I suffer to celebrate
At the blunt end of feelings, this country
We move towards languagelessness
Writers on the bench trying to better best best your outdated narrative
Here is mercy
For how long can life live box-bound?


Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.

1. Translation note: Shalik (Bengali): Indian blackbird with a yellow beak.

2. Translation note: Sunyata: a Sanskrit word used in both Hindu and Buddhist ancient texts. It could be used to mean “emptiness” in general but the connotations are deeper, multiple and diverse. It implies “lessness.” The word has been used by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Octavio Paz, and others.

3. Translation note: Jatismar: this word has no English equivalent. It hints at reincarnation and means someone or something who/that has the ability to remember past life.

4. Translation note: Chromium: despondency and melancholia in oriental literature have often been called “gray,” with connotations of feebleness and lightheadedness. Chromium, a gray but tough metal, is used here to refute that label. Chromium is an essential component of stainless steel, something that makes steel “stainless,” i.e., resistant to corrosion and hard.