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Echoes of the Heart

Echoes of the Heart

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We share a few poems from Basudhara Roy’s third poetry collection, Inhabiting, where she explores themes such as memory, love, loss, and the human condition. With a keen eye for detail and an ear for rhythm, Roy weaves together vivid images and precise language to create a world that is both familiar and mysterious. Her poems are characterized by a sense of longing and a deep appreciation for the beauty and complexity of life.

By Basudhara Roy

Return

At the day’s end, I return to myself,

in my heart a hollow yawning to be filled.

All that was asked, I have faithfully given,

breathlessly met life’s every claim till

 

my tired hands now carry nothing

that is owed, nothing that has ever

not been mine. For every story told,

there will always be more, each teller

 

a kite-runner clutching fast a string

till in a dotted sky of rival kites,

the vision dissolves and the tale is released

to seek wings across opinion’s sea.

 

I will sit tonight under my tree of words,

empty-handed, empty-hearted, ask it to describe

this exhaustion, this gash, this herb, this surfeit

with the world and never having enough to hold.

 

Between

Of the two I would willingly

have given myself over to,

one cannot take me, one won’t.

 

Between them, the soul craves to

untether its ache of belonging,

suspend for a while all claim on

 

the self and be led as a dry leaf by

the wind. But of the two winds I

would gladly have sweep me off,

 

one cannot blow me away, one won’t.

Buried within itself, each body is at

some moment a dark cage to run away

 

from till someone arrived to light its

lamps and set in its deepawali, each

neglected corner aglow. But of the

 

two in whose oils I would readily turn

flaming wick, one cannot ignite me,

one won’t. And even as I hear your

 

persisting summons at the door and

know you come to dust and inhabit

a faltering, forgotten prayer and even

 

as I pretend that you are the perfect

acrostic come in-between my lines,

animated with the will of the first,

 

sans the other’s limitations, I would

still keep you waiting at the threshold,

unsummoned, unmitigated, whole.

 

Bad Weather

One must allow for bad weather

except that, with you, the weather

is mostly bad. Bad seasons run

down your skin, the better ones

determinedly burrow in and rise

locust-like, to claim your ease.

 

Memory, in you, is an unwanted

thing. It stains calm, seizes well-lit

halls to transform into a choking

cubicle of two by two where your

voice is sliced, peeled, where strange

things, unwarranted, are done to you.

 

In a language of loss known alone

to you, you pitch a belated scream,

see children drowning, call for dead

aunts, catch babies petering out in

blood. Fires from funeral pyres long

quenched, find fiery home in your eyes.

 

Entire neighbourhoods come alive

in hushed origami afternoons. Between

relapses and remissions, your colours

become flints. There is woodsmoke in

your breath. I recede, under your catatonic

gaze, to be part of it, consumed into the kiln

 

of your memories, just another brick.

That pestle of truth in your hands you

are out to crush hours with, will not be

relinquished today. I try to rise above

your storm, make you gulp water, inject

sanity into your veins, sedate you to sleep.

 

In your drugged dreams, the deer beckons

you to its edge, you write odes on grass leaves.

You shall wake to a clearer day, tomorrow

stretching out in your eager hands like a gift,

a saree you shall long to drape till its sequins

call and your bad weather catches up again.

 

A Story of Water

For love’s sake I bade my pupils

under eye-lids’ petals hold fast

an ocean as night holds darkness,

beauty deceit, pain truth, as water

in its formlessness holds the world’s

shapes but though chasmophilic

this water is, its love for liberty

defies every other love.

 

Averse to containment,

it traverses loam sand silt gravel,

fills into whatever offers desire’s concavity

to its caprice magnanimity turbulence,

surrendering finally to one whose vast need

is beyond surfeit, whose want does not

incarcerate, only draws in

by a hungry song of its longing.

 

Postscript:

 

You cannot exile water,

cannot ask for parentage paper birthmark,

 cannot read its fury on a monitor

or put a stethoscope to its heart.

 

You cannot force abduct wed water.

To know water you must let it come and go,

gush through your thighs, enter like prejudice

your heart, drink from your bones.

 

And only when water has left can you know

its gifts in you like salt, like semen, like rain.

 

 

Percipience

I make a note to tell you how my sky

is loud with light so that no matter

which way you look, there is no escaping its glare,

its arched eyebrows like a patriarch’s

awakened to the doubt that he is not god.

 

See Also
Christmas in Nagaland

The sun’s sheer wealth is out on display,

its tresses in their complacency,

falling wild upon my prayers

and I am drenched in more gold

than I can ever hope to hold and keep.

 

Be fair, I am told.

There’s no running away from the dance.

The seasons follow each other in close succession

and every colour will ask for its song.

What if I don’t sing, I want to ask.

 

Over my head, a cluster of falling tamarind leaves

pirouette gleefully in the breeze,

learning to dance

and the bougainvillea across the road blushes

even as its blossoms kiss the grass.

 

Sound melts into forgetting.

Loss heals into memory.

Every song has an end and a successor.

No two songs are the same.

No two moments either.

 

I relearn under this determined sun

that the opposite of light isn’t always dark.

In some seasons, it is shade.

In much the same way, the opposite of more is hardly less

but sometimes, just enough.

 

Inhabiting

I am standing in the sun today,

inviting its gold to travel

through my pores

 

the way languid butter traverses

toast. In my depths are

continents unlit

 

like incessant polar nights

amnesiac of light’s hope.

The key is not to shine

 

on their reluctance but to

inhabit this darkness –

wide, whole, cognizant

 

of life’s endodermal facts,

beating unsure like an

anxious sparrow’s

 

arrhythmic heart. It is to find

words for forgetting,

to find sufficiency

 

for what is frayed, disfigured,

flawed. It is to agree with

what seasons bring,

 

to make peace with what,

irrevocably, has been lost.

Poised on this

 

moment’s axis, I notice that

day and night are hardly

binaries and that the soul

 

is forever in equinox,

its luminosity forever equal to,

forever an intuition of its dark.

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