Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Laksmisree Banerjee


Haria is not allowed 
to cross our threshold
or enter the thirty-three million
doors of our gods.

He can hardly combat 

His dreamy eyes clouded, dark, are
folded and supplicant like 
the green, timid under-creeper.

The brooms of cactus-life
help him to clean our dirt with
the breath of a hopeful vigilance 
for a simple flash of instant salvation
with a lurking fear of a ruthless eternity
of god knows what,
never leaving his heart.  

He sweeps our outside verandahs, porches,
the dusty pathways, the lavatories,
cleans our sullied bins and grimy cesspools,
frittering away his doomed hours
on the dim margins of hope
which never arrives.

Our Brahmin cook with 
a noose of a sacred thread
around his neck,
pounds painful thunders on him 
driving him away like a street dog.

Peahen Passions

To make my small point
I do not need to flirt with
Your fanned, oversized, ruffled, 
Exotically anarchic, coloured feathers 
On your empty crown.

My grace talks, walks, 
States and remains stable with
My puny, almost invisible top-knot
Riding on a formidable foothold
Of regal infinitude.

The sense-blurring beauty
Of corn-strewn, dusty tracks,
The green aesthetics of 
The torn foliage and mud around me 
Make my statement.

The muffled hues of my world,
My dainty, wobbling gait 
With a sureness of trodding
Despite the slime and dirt sucking me in,
Have an intensity, a conviction.

If you care to smoothen 
Your great, chaotic headgear,
You may perhaps, still see 
The revelling leaves in the storm,
Still feel the bliss of the pot-holed roads,
Or the laughing oysters merging in love
With the endless equity 
Of the seas.

Gandhi at the Cross Roads

He grew and grew like a huge banyan
with knotted roots
and a leafy shade
for us to sit under 
and introspect.

He now stands at the crossroads
spectacled in stone, 
piercing through the dimness
of truth
in iconic distance
in the labyrinths of history.

The vendor still fights
under the sun, 
under the load
of his wares,
the slum dweller
still droops in death 
inebriate in poverty,
the capitalist still
swoons in exultant vulgarity
bought from the sweat and blood
of the down-and-outs.

The Mahatma
in his statuesque immobility
carved in rocky apathy
at the traffic signal
remains forever forgotten
in the quagmire of life.