Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Gayatri Majumdar

light shift

My heart is the inside 
of an empty blue fridge;
cold, white, and with 
a low steady hum. . .
outside the night waits for 
a certain something
not really sure for what. . .
maybe it strains to hear
a bird song, or open its eyes
to something uncurling and leaf. . .

Then there is the kettle
fuming, steaming, and gurgling,
and I think, is it over?

A brown cow across the road
outside the boundary wall
has been mooing all morning; 
it is tied with a short rope
and can hardly move -
she craves fresh air and a mouthful of grass,
both in short supply around here.
Draw me within your long arms
and let me stay there
for the rest of the day.

My stuff still unpacked lies all about 
this place - the TV on the floor
pushed against the wall; 
and you know I still enter this room
from the creaking iron back door, not 
able to access the main entrance yet.
The only constant in my life 
is something I cannot put
in a box or into words; 
this thing lugs me about
wherever it will.

Now the light from the laptop
makes patterns of blue and orange
on the wall opposite my bed,
CSNY sings "our house,"
but all I can hear lying here beside you
is the silence in the light shift . . .

Tribute to Revolutionaries

I envy your courage, sisters; 
you who have no voice chew bullets during your lunch break
(spit out pins of the grenades of your patience) 
and I, mull, shake my head and nurse my broken years, 
and am still unable to identify 
the enemy. My words are deceptive,
they tighten the noose around my silence
and I spill the beans into this apple pie and ice creamed void.

Sisters, I salute you
and no matter how long it takes
I will wait until I look back at every wrong (with anger);
Sisters, let my admiration for you
protect you and your children from harm -
let the blood of your angels
color the square 
in another red; 
let the chanting (raze the prisons filled with the fearful 
to the ground).

Where (how) do I begin? Where is the hammer,
the sickle - the tools I can work with tonight? 
The only possession I have bears the number 
of a soldier drafted in someone else's war;
I revolt, sign petitions, write slogans
but they have, some say, plans to bomb the bases
after the aerial recee; survey the air and water we breathe 
and feed us leftovers of some superpower's gallantry. 

Sisters, do not take shelter from the storms
that will rise and wreck the smirks off
those who stomp the waking hours of men
and women who wait and cannot hope;
who sleep in a 10X12, sharing it with 10 other men
(near New Delhi station for rupees 500)
and others, who have no darn idea of how
words can empower (some of them can even read),
or to take the 9 am metro (or bicycle) to work.
You stand up to the dirty scoundrels, sisters; burst into light
(and a song) and reclaim the square for us, us who have succumbed to
the morphine-induced painlessness (happiness, some say), numb and unable
to shed this thick skin (or tears). I wait there with you (behind your eyes),
borrowing your strength and promise not to fail. 

Outside the square, there is space
where all your tears will feed 
a million stars.

My sisters, stand your ground, your water and fire.
We will shove out this thing blocking our view,
together; we need no guns, no arrows, no stones
to blow their cover and golden-chewed paper crowns.

(First published in A Hudson View)