Wood Story before the Millennium and Now

This is a table where we used to keep a glass vase in the nineties
the sun a syruping gooseberry often tumbling out of it reckless

A wooden table, smooth-plank body of a tree dressed for our
weekend dinners. Some clutter as it happens with faces clustered

Coats of varnish and heavy-lashed lacquerware, dead-white ceramic
this will still be the same surface where we will spill the gravy
push the sparkling tea across, lick any fallen crumbs with thumbs.

Keep the fast, it gives long life
to your husband, those elderly
women will implore and
let the table carry ornate
plates of offerings you won’t easily touch
only after the moon does first
its shadow on the water on your silver tray
and then the table can sing like a cricket
all that crockery clattering
we will eat everything before
the moon-shadow devours the mind
ignoring what the women say
in fact, you will know, I only cared
about just crickets because they
love the blackness of soul just as I do.

When I close my eyes I see my aunt lissome and dark with her braid
long like those thick twines for hauling country boats to shore
she smiles and shows a tooth we were told is of the elephant, rare.

I see her supple back on the bed tossing a red plastic ball over her chest
lob and drop and lob and show the elephant-tooth smile while my uncle
sits two feet away on a table, the one they never dined on, used as a shelf
for things, littered for the most time. He dangling his black-shoed feet as
if he is a child watching the unbelievable enchantress woman’s trick
of lobbing a red-desire ball high up; the headboard of the old-fashioned bed
preventing him from leaping forward, also because I zip into the room
looking for my cousin and uncle shifts; legs undangle, the table creaks.

The life story of woods
when they come from
forests of greenness
tell of more lines and stars
than found on our palms.

I don’t remember exactly when Habib Tanveer the thespian died or when
was it bringing home wads of cash that quick dirty jobs paid was cool

money for home, food, electronics, but no song or lines; but I do remember
rehearsing one afternoon with Habib for a play we’d perform in a street
where racketeers and launderers ran their shops; they watched, we stood
on the dust as if on breadcrumb crusts strewn on a table top, hewn uneven
because no one cleaned; a china cup stayed back, the old tea leaves telling
a tale of the millennium as it should, like all things emancipated and sweetly old.
Nabina Das

16139_151547897167_5648806_nNabina Das, an MFA (Poetry) from Rutgers University, US, and an MA (Linguistics) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, has a debut poetry collection Blue Vessel (Zaporogue Press, Denmark, 2012; nominated one of the best of 2012 in India) and a novel Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, New Delhi, 2010; longlisted in the prestigious Indian prize “Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2011”). Her poetry collection Into the Migrant City is forthcoming from Writers Workshop, India. Nabina’s poetry and prose have been published in several international journals and anthologies, and she is in the peer review committee of The Four Quarters Magazine literary journal published from Northeast India. Winner of several writing residencies and fellowships, Nabina has won prizes in major Indian poetry contests and has worked in journalism and media for about 10 years. Trained in Indian classical music, she has performed in radio/TV programs and in street theater. Nabina blogs at when not writing, teaches creative writing classes and workshops, and dabbles in unschooled art on paper and broken objects.