Echoes of the Heart
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
What's Your Reaction?
Basudhara Roy is a poet, academic and faculty of English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Her latest work is featured in Madras Courier, Lucy Writers Platform, Berfrois, Gitanjali and Beyond, The Aleph Review and Yearbook of Indian English Poetry 2020-21, among others.
Moving poetry. They are made to last🤍🤍