Poetry

13 Years: Poems from North East India I

Photo: Goirick B.

Last taxi to Sohryngkham
(An Elegy for Angeline Kharmalki)

Memory is triangular
Like frames that melt in flames
We burn to fight a cold, cold winter.
Night brings strange insects
Feeds her anxiety
Moths plan a mass suicide
Inside her mind. The windows are blur.
The humming pine winds set the score
The rain was always a part of the plan.
Until a coal truck slides and falls over
As she finally flies.

(And all our love-
Hate games
Unread letters,
And scores
Settled
In a flash)

Song of an Outsider

Shillong, in forlorn strangers you live
In misty legends, your nights they sing
In deep water lanes of shivering cold
Desires and aloneness and stories untold

Who wants to go back to those years of rumours
Of curfews, gun shots and black window covers
No we don’t need no shoot at sight
Shillong, we must
We must stop this fight.

Shillong, you gave us memories we store.
With every page we turn, we cull more
Shillong, you live in all of us,
All we hope is to live in you.

Sunny Hill
(A walk with Avner Pariat)

Gods and devils wait by the side of a lake that bleeds
hate, sometimes love.
And hate is just hate
love remains love,
as I walk with my friend
watching the houses where we were burnt.

And identity is just identity
And majorities will have all the fun
And minorities are at their place
And minorities are at their place
dying, dying, asserting
their foolish religious prime.

Sometimes, I do not mind when I am called a Dkhar.
when I travel in leather covered autos to NEHU
to meet my comrades,
to drink the evening among pines,
for this is the fight
we have to fight,
yes, yes, we must resist this fight
until an earthquake sends love letters
to Jaintias, Pnars, Khasis
and us Non Tribals alike
to shakes us up
to bring love
to bring life when faced with death
and our grandmothers will always chant
and those drummers from the temple will drum the fear out of us
And the holy chants will echo, will echo
through the frost and the forests of a broken January.

I suck my thumb, my kindergarten cigarettes
the cold air heaves through my lungs
And I eat my worries with my Jadoh
and drink your worries with my Jhol.

I hope, I hope, we will see a day when people mourn, when people mourn
for both sides and carry the weight of death
over their shoulders
in the name of love
in the name of hate
in the name of hate
in the name of hate
that surrounds us.

Chatla Blues

Baul Banshi in the evening sky
Memories of my father’s eyes.
Chatla flows from shore to shore
hides secrets of lullabies.

I don’t sing of love no more
though my Duitara loves to cry
I sleep by the banks, with fireflies
On silver-dust-Bhatiyali nights

On fishing nets, I rest my faith
By selling fish, I write my fate
On Bhuras I sail, I spend my day
Walk village streets, on the market day

I can’t read, I can’t write
I don’t know the world outside
All I wish is to live and die
In this soil, where my grandfathers died

In rain, I sing of my mother
Sometimes I wish to see her 
But rain can sweep away memories
and bring back horrors of dead water.

This evening when I went to the bazaar,
Some Babus came in a white motor car
They lined us up, and asked for some papers
They said we were ‘D- voters’

When my turn came, I could not speak
So they pulled me over to the police jeep
I cried for mercy, I cried in pain
I tried to tell them it was a mistake

They said they are taking me away
to a bloody camp of bullets and oil,
they said they are making me a stranger
to my own soil 

They are taking me away
from the banks of my Chatla—
They are taking me away—

Confusion
(Conversations with Avner Pariat)

It seems like this ordeal never ends
Three decades of love, fear, misery, continuous losing
Lifelessness,
Corroding memories, voice.

People grow old, the skin wears out
Blue nerves appear. Hair falls.
All seasons turn to fall
The shine,
face wears off. Innocence stripped and buried
Love becomes the body,
Hunger, cleaning.

Too many deaths have made me weak
This existence, meaningless
This misery, meaningless
My body aches
My teeth bleed.

We have lost as a race.
Our generation has failed us.

“Post Modern or Communist?”
“Brahman or Kayastha na Dalit?”
“Single or Married?”
“Veg or Non Veg?”
“Modi or Aam Aadmi Party?”
“CPM na CPI ML?”
“Stalinist or Trotskyist”
“Silchar na Karimganj”
“Ghoti na Bangal?”
“Sexy na Behenji”
“Iathuh ia nga phi dei u Khasi ne u Pnar”
“Ôxômiya niki?”

I smoke three packets
Of Goldflake Superstar everyday to feel sick,
I do not fall sick.

Winds rush in through
The wooden window
Of my house inside the forests of my dreams
Over that hill.

There are no breathing men
Only nights to skin the truth
And let the river make noise
Until it is time to sleep.

A Town Lost

Drunk-walks in Shillong rain through the waterlogged roads and pavements at night, running away from the crowd, traffic jams and newly acquired fascinations of shopping malls with plastic waterfalls, for Shillong is too cold for Subway anyway — and Dukan Ja and Sha would do to keep me warm and light my wet cigarettes; but when you search for your favorite tiny coffee corner, all you find is a big fat retail giant monstrously chic for your taste — and the streets are filled with obnoxious tourists who come to dirty and buy, as if vacations meant shopping — so you run in rain— and escape the filth that has taken over this dream — to forget, to remember friends you have lost and friends you have found to lose again.—you run, you walk, you take a drag, try hard not to wet your smoke— and those pine trees, they eat memories — through time and rusted pages of alternate realities — and you walk through the night on streets that leads to sky, neatly stitched tin roofs, clotheslines, wooden houses that hang on the hills of Lumparing, oh Lumparing! and further up at Upper Shillong where Phyll still lives — as clouds dance like patterns in your windows media player, listening to random Bollywood song that oozes out of a black and yellow Maruti 800 which use to strictly play Classic rock, few years back, until Reality TV came and danced over the crops of music that this town was. May be, only the direct diction of vernacular hip-hop revolution can now clean this noise now.

In the name of identity

The guardian of identity
You write cheap poetry, spend a thousand evenings
out of key.

Suffocated inside harmoniums, you drive in the air
through the fishy lungs of this middle aged instrument.
It shapes chords you cannot fathom.
Rabindranath Tagore heaves through your nose
with a nasal gentleness of bhoddrotta

“Hindu Bengalis, Hindu Bengalis, Hindu Bengalis”
A tsunami of sentiments hide
age old stories of betrayal :
Of trucks of ginger exchanged for mirrors in Lushai hills
Of cultures distorted and laughed at, in the name of civilisation and written script
Of molestation and small eyes and easy sex and those middle class prejudice
Of age-old superiority over people who eat what you do not eat
Of years of cheap pranks on Manipuri Dadis who have walked many afternoons with heavy weight of sackful of muri on their shoulders
Of doctrines of untouchability and your shit cleaners from Nagapatty

Now it flows like blood. It burns your letters,
your children, and your brothers. It burns your civilized clerical pride.
A tongue cut further in religion.
“Hindu Bengalis, Hindu Bengalis, Hindu Bengalis”

You have made yourself a stranger to your own.
It kills you naked, on rainy streets. You do not have a home.
It takes away your jobs and stores them in bureaucratic containers.
Containers, where once you use to hide.
Containers, that made you the bhodro middle class
I know you have suffered many holocausts.

You have taken your chance
in every chance you got
Now your hands are dry
Let’s eat mud?

Ethno-fascist kkk

ratlike rat like rat
ratlike rat like rat
ratlike rat like rat like like
ratlike rat like ratlikerat
ratlike rat like ratlikeratlike
ratlike rat like ratlikelike
 
I will never forget
the face you made
I will never forget
the face you made
I will never forget
the face you made
 
ratlike rat like rat
ratlike rat like rat
ratlike rat like rat like like
ratlike rat like ratlikerat
ratlike rat like ratlikeratlike
ratlike rat like ratlikelike
 
He is the chief.
Minister of ministry published.
Senior politburo primary,
With a major in assholery.

Across the wall of my house in Silchar was Meghalaya

That rented house where we stayed at Rangirkhari
shared my school’s boys hostel’s wall. Children of clouds
from far away villages would come to live there.
My landlord hated them
And called them evil
for they stole all the coconuts.

The children of dark folklore,
My friends,
they knew how to climb trees,
in the darkness of the night.
For they spoke the language of the trees.
They sang of secrets to the night.

I must confess, I did try to bribe them with guavas.
So that they save me from my school bullies
But they stayed with me
even without an incentive

For we were the similar kinds
One, not in tongue, but in voice
The middle benchers
are never noteworthy

Their earth skinned mothers
could not feed them
in spite of the hard work they endured
These were times of acute hunger
So they sent their children to the lowlands
to spread the name of Jesus.

Pujo

Saraswati dances to a peppy Bollywood song these days.
Chetan Bhagat has found his way to her third hand.
Seven divine notes dance reckless under disco lights.
Forty-seven poets commit suicide
Every night.

Definitions

Some people choose the road not taken.
Some stories remain untold
Some live the way it is
Some, as Ma told.

Most daughters however marry
And give life to their womb.
Good sons bring home money
And bury Pa n Mum.

Bad boys hit the road
Groove into the wild
Bad girls make love
With the voodoo’s child

Good boys hit the road
Groove into the wild
Good girls make love
With the voodoo’s child

Time however passes,
and tide takes its turn
Children go to school,
Kites float under the sun
Birds come back home,
The river rolls on,
The black kitten keeps weeping,
As the church bell tolls.

And it goes on and on
Until the rain wets the stone
Clay all over,
A name unknown.

Lost in Time

We shed tears below the full moon.
The lemon yellow shine
Sparkled up our tear drops

Crazy Goosebumps shivered our skin
As the west wind blew across our parched souls.

In that lost Sunday
We sat still
unmoved
Close enough
To lose ourselves
In each other’s fragrance.

Yet another moment to store
The leftovers of fragrance that decorated our lives
Kept safe in our minds
For a grayscale slide show,
To roll
In front of our eyes
Many years later

When we would be
Lost in time.


Goirick Brahmachari’s debut collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) won the Muse India – Satish Verma Young Writer Award (Poetry) 2016. He is also the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2016. Other collections of verses by Brahmachari include joining the dots, 2016, Wet Radio and Other Poems, 2017 and A Broken Exit, 2019. He is currently working on two collaborative volume of verses titled The Nightwalkers along with Debarshi Mitra and Non Tribal/ Tribal with Avner Pariat. His poems and essays have appeared in various journals, magazines, blogs and pamphlets.