Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Harish Nambiar

Uncalled for

My ambition 
Never found a 
Watering hole;
or it would have died
the majestic death of
an Urdu poet
in the head of a 
stupid acolyte.

Instead it died
on the Dadar platform
waiting for the Virar local.

Widows of Benares

(Based on a Henri Cartier Bresson photograph of the widows of Benares) 

The calligraphy of silence 
And concentric rings of water 
Ebb and eddy, in 
The black and white photograph 
Of the widows of Benares. 

Black and white 
And no truth in between either,
Just a wash, a wash 
Of moonlight; from 
The unblinking bad eye 
Of a sorrowful sky. 

Like dimmer moons 
The shaved heads catch 
Their bit of light, 
But one strains, and straining draws 
With their wrinkles 
Their deathwish on their cold faces; 
The warmth of pyrewood. 

The black and white picture 
Also lies to me 
Like a good reporter 
Tells me no story; and coerces 
My only story 
Out of me. My widow 
Is my mother. 

No shaved head. No white 
Saree. Not even a grand 
Subject. For the art 
Of black and white. 
Just one more mother. 

All art is another drug. 
The shadow it casts 
Into the dark, damp floor 
Of my heart 
Depends not on light, 
But on the height of my threshold.