NABINA DAS

Cipher

This blue on my arm
a lonely nail mark
to see it turn
to a dirty fawn
of neighborhood trash and dump
is sad like standing in the snow
or being in a car circling
a street corner over
and over again
not finding
the right door
the right you
right on the eyebrows of a dream
this sudden what-to-do
this is new
faces at the coffee shop
arms over glass counters
these are never you
also the blues and blacks of pages
are always words from far beyond
and yet
suddenly it all reads like a sign.

Searching that light, that room

his hands were on mine and the light was green from dawn or perhaps the cooing of his mouth. he’s a baby and i’m a baby, only his legs are taller than mine and hands are on the buttons of my head or heart that i have not yet learnt to recognize. in the green sheen of the deadened day light I searched for my mother’s eyes which he had not brought along on his front-open shirt front and we lapsed. we counted jellyfish on our buttons and fingers and let our baby-mouths gape at half-light of happenings. I’m a child of the shadow, i said, and at that he seemed happy in his virtual grace. a tv screen throbbed in front of us, one of us searching the remote and the other who had found the grip. a dog barked. a video cooed.

All things become islands…

“…before my senses” – Cesare Pavese

a burmese flower-vine-scented window
her adopted transistor
with foreign voices
teaching opera or love

in that middle world of slant
and half rhymes
the knowables are the dice,
the chicken neck her father wrings
or (running away from) the sudden naked neighbor’s urgent plea

for an uncorrupt poetic audience she has
a teenage follower, a poet, whose
claims of verses are just embarrassed glee
he should say, but doesn’t, that he
likes her poetry but then he
likes her more, the sandal fragrance
from her arms, the pubescent thighs of gooseberry bright

the poet at puberty is the lone eucalyptus
seeing everything with understanding eyes
but understanding only tiny morsels
like the milk and jaggery
and flattened rice she forgets to finish in monsoon climes

her afternoons loll from reading
the forbidden kama sutra
trees in amorous green
limbs taut like cow-stead twines

the choice is to love and learn from
the death of tagore’s
mellow heroines
or the silly erotica of (they don’t call puberty by its name!) bollywood silver screen songs

metaphors are sometimes stars and a common sun
old words that caress her secret rhyme and swoon
before a passion for solitude comes by
in a grown-up’s haste.

and the senses? they are islanded already
they become calm

the poet at puberty is mixed up about flesh
and aroused verses as to how they mix
meters in tongues as she half-pedals a bike
through a yellow road — a cluster of variegated words
to ride, to race a straight line and back home when comes the night.

(“The following poems are from Nabina’s collection INTO THE MIGRANT CITY, published from Writers Workshop, Kolkata.”)


Nabina Das,  is a Hyderabad-based poet and writer with twoPS pic fiction books and two poetry collections. She teaches Creative Writing in workshops and to students at University of Hyderabad.