Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Sampurna Chattarji

Where Do I Put This Love

for Calcutta, the city I left behind

Where do I put this love, this open need for gentleness?

Put it in a closed place.
Some place small, 
like a little tin box, the kind you hid under the bed, 
a tight, closed, small and secret space 
hidden in a darkness bigger, darker, safer.
Some place closed and small,
like a fist, holding nothing more momentous 
than a curl perhaps, a coin, a piece of chocolate quickly 
melting, a vein, the place where lines cross, 
put there by someone bigger, wiser, safer.
Some place warm and closed and small
like the O of your mouth, closing around a sticky red sweet, 
a word you have just learnt, a breath 
you have just taken and are holding, 
for the time when you might feel bigger, stronger, safer.

Or put it out in the open.
By a window, perhaps, with branches in it, 
and two nests, crows, a couple minding their own business, 
their eggs waiting to hatch into the open.
In the living room, on the centre table, 
next to the large glass bowl of cut flowers, 
attracting no attention, invisible 
next to that headiness, the smell 
of wanting to be elsewhere in those flagrant petals, 
back where they belong, somewhere out in the open.
The wide-open open, a field, a paddy field, 
green from eye to sky, the sky a circle 
around your thrown-back head, trying to see 
behind, beyond the circumference of the earth, 
the way the horizon curves and curves, closed and continuous 
circling endlessly into the open.

Open or closed, it flutters, 
heart, wing, eyelash, pulse, beat, tremor, 
turning slowly inwards, outwards, onwards, 
looking for sun, shade, sorrow, looking 
for a place it might finally rest, contained 
and uncontainable. 

 [From Absent Muses, Poetrywala, 2010]

No Shape Is More Constant

for Revathy Gopal (1947-2007)

No shape is more constant 
than the breast.
Beast, wrest 
from suckling mouths.
Wolf cub, dog dug, 
see what your body can do.
Prophecies the shape of breasts.
The strawberry mark, 
the brown aureole, the blue mole. 
The man who woke up one morning 
to find he was a giant breast.
Rest your tired head 
before you go.


Under your fingers 
the silent knob 
of stone
grown out of flesh.
Feel against the breast bone 
the crushing weight of 
cave whose mouth needs stopping, 
crushing sleeping head 
with rock,
pass out of urban legend 
into other lores of shock.


You were a marked woman 
before you became a man.
Your nipples marked you out: 	
incipient woman, you, 
until you went the other way.
Don't say you didn't get a chance.
On your chest 
your commemorative breasts, 	
marking time 
from forgotten days.


Take my poisoned breast, little god.
The end is known to me.
So hard to play a demon 
when you're a woman to begin with.
Bluer than poison, your lips, 
harder than rock.
Break my hardened heart, little god.


Shifting, the planets are.
Cupolas of sky, minarets of rain.
Cupped between his hands, 
right breast and left, each named, 
like favourite dogs.
Dog dugs, wolf cubs.		
Only a flesh wound.
A clean break. 
Better gone than growing.
Cave at the mouth of the stone. 	
Cut off your breast, Amazon.
Get ready to draw your bow.

[From Absent Muses, Poetrywala, 2010]