Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Sudeep Sen


for Leela Samson

Spaces in the electric air divide themselves
   in circular rhythms, as the slender 
grace of your arms and bell-tied ankles
 describe a geometric topography, real, cosmic,
 one that once reverberated continually in
a prescribed courtyard of an ancient temple

in South India. As your eyelids flit and flirt, and
    match the subtle abhinaya in a flutter
of eye-lashes, the pupils create an 
 unusual focus, a sight only ciliary muscles 
 blessed and cloaked in celestial kaajal 
could possibly enact.

The raw brightness of kanjeevaram silk, of
    your breath, and the nobility of antique silver
adorns you and your dance, reminding us of
the treasure chest that is only 
half-exposed, disclosed just enough, barely -
for art in its purest form never reveals all.

Even after the arc-lights have long faded,
    the audience, now invisible, have stayed over.
Here, I can still see your pirouettes, frozen 
 as time-lapse exposures, feel
 the murmuring shadow of an accompanist's 
intricate raag in this theatre of darkness, 

a darkness where oblique memories of my
    quiet Kalakshetra days filter,
matching your very own of another time,
 where darkness itself is sleeping light,
 light that merges, reshapes, and ignites,
dancing delicately in the half-light.

But it is this sacred darkness that endures,
    melting light with desire, desire that simmers
and sparks the radiance of your
 quiet femininity, as the female dancer 
 now illuminates everything visible: clear,
poetic, passionate, and ice-pure.

The line-end rhyme-scheme - a b a c c a ... d b d e e d ... f b f g g f ... - maps and mirrors the actual classical dance step-pattern and beat - ta dhin ta thaye thaye ta. Left-hand margin indentations match the same scheme and form.


Ten years on, I came searching for
       war signs of the past
expecting remnants - magazine debris,
unexploded shells, 
             that mark bomb wounds.
I came looking for 
                     ghosts -
people past, skeletons charred,
              that once housed them.
I could only find whispers -
        whispers among the clamour 
of a small town outpost
                in full throttle -		
everyday chores
       sketching outward signs
of normality and life.
In that bustle
I spot war-lines of a decade ago,
though the storylines 
       are kept buried, wrapped  
in old newsprint.
There is order amid uneasiness -
                the muezzin's cry,					
the monk's chant -
merging in their separateness.
At the bus station
        black coughs of exhaust	
smoke-screens everything.
              The roads meet		
and after the crossroad ritual
skating along the undotted lines
               of control.						 
A porous garland
       with cracked beads			 
adorns Tiger Hill.
       Beyond the mountains		 
                     are dark memories,								 
and beyond them
             no one knows,						 
                    and beyond them 										
no one wants to know.
Even the flight of birds
                that wing over their crests							
don't know which feathers to down.
they fly, tracing perfect parabolas.
I look up
and calculate their exact arc 
and find instead, 	a flawed theorem.