Anindita Sengupta’s full-length collection of poems City of Water was published by Sahitya Akademi earlier this year. Her work has previously been published in several journals including Eclectica, NthPosition, Quay, Yellow Medicine Review, Origami Condom, Pratilipi, Cha: An Asian Journal, Kritya, and Muse India. It has also appeared in the anthologies Mosaic (Unisun, 2008), Not A Muse (Haven Books, 2009), and Poetry with Prakriti (Prakriti Foundation, 2010). In 2008, she received the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing and in 2010, she received a writer’s fellowship from the Charles Wallace India Trust for the University of Kent, England. She has contributed articles to The Guardian (UK), The Hindu, Outlook Traveler and Bangalore Mirror. She is also founder-editor of Ultra Violet, a site for contemporary feminism in India.
A fuchsia scatter in the courtyard:
the bougainvillea dishevels.
Sheila and I squat on the back porch
where the clothesline frays in the wind.
Elephant grass gnaws at cement
and a spider silks the windows shut.
‘Weeds have outgrown
mangoes this year,’ she says,
rubbing her sheared head
with one hand. I light a cigarette.
We drag quick and sharp,
as if you’ll still tap down
the garden path, find us there,
shame us with a frown.
The house falls in flecks—
our clutch of childhood
now wasteland, warm dust,
I came to find the essence of it,
to taste on my tongue its whiteness
like sugar crystals.
I came for the blur and hurry,
the blurry hurl, the hurly-burly
I rattled up in a red jeep, battling
eyes open against wind.
Past my window flew bits of paper,
tin cans, a shirt from a forgotten clothesline.
I hunkered down, gripped the wheel,
and pressed my big toe
on the accelerator. (Speed was essential.
It would distract me from fear.)
I came for the infinite moment.
I came to chill the tornado’s coil
around me like a giant python.
I came to risk blood.
I came to inhale the un-breathable breath
and fill up like a balloon.
I came to burst or rise,
to dazzle through air like Dorothy,
to dissolve like stardust.
I came to find that one moment
when nothing mattered. Not sex
or sin or ache. Not even love.
There are things a storm can do to you, darling,
that you wouldn’t imagine.
We left Bombay to start over
We left Bombay to start over.
It was tumbling rain and vegetarians.
Strings of sausage, once hung like rosaries
at grocery stores, were replaced with rows
of frozen peas. Orange flags had gagged
lesbian flicks. Between polls and pools,
we didn’t know which was dirtier.
A stampede was due.
We left because there was money to be made
in a city with thighs of steel. We left
because hope is tiny and lodges
between a man’s ribs like cancer. But mostly,
we left because we were promised things.
We flew south like geese, twigged a nest
in the outsider neighborhood.
Flyovers flayed the city
but none would hook us across.
We didn’t know that then.
I sat in cafés, scrabbled for love,
stashed postcards like stamps,
tried to stop sneezing.
There comes a time
when home and home
begin to sound the same.
That hasn’t happened yet.
But I’m told a decade’s