Laban in Winter

I

I remembered you for your whitewashed walls and the old trees which grew in the old gardens;

This was the old world, before colour, and as a child I hated the monochrome ekra;

I shuddered behind feeble old people in their twilight chairs –

Which they had us push out into the winter-sun’s verandah;

I remembered your old people smell and the old people love for young kisses –

That world is gone now,

My grandfather is gone

And most of his nephews.

All that’s left is men stumbling in bars, secretly whispering desires to other men.

 

II

At kha-ieid‘s – under an old conifer with spiky cones – once I found a baby sparrow

I tried to protect it from the hounds –

Uncle Eric’s best mates.

Into the temple of my palms, I took it.

Suddenly from deep within me

A sudden impulse – to crush it into a feather ball – arose.

What stopped me, I wonder,

Was it the thought of blood that calmed my systole,

Was it the eventuality of squirming that blunted my lust?

Whatever it was, it quietened my mind;

I don’t know if the chick survived the season

But we both made it through that hour.

Tabula Rasa

Or, Sensations I Can Never Relive Again Because The Initial Impressions Have Faded)

Coming home on a half day and it’s raining outside. Throwing my uniform about and running into the blankets from under whose safe warmth I could watch cartoons. Listening to raindrops hit my tin roof and nodding off.

Yellow sunlight falling on the wall of a government colony house, with a dust road running along side it. Motes floating and colliding in the summer heat of Assam. My cousin’s beautiful face peeking over the top.

Bathing with my siblings and fighting for a spot in front of the fire. Spitting at it to hear the sizzle and being scolded for it. Forced to apply the sticky glycerin and scolded for trying to drink it. Feeling my PJs warm my winter skin. Fighting with my siblings over the videogame console.

Sitting in the church basement ensconced in the thick bright red jacket, which mama bought for me from Bangladesh. The other kids smell of bidis and make faces at me. Sinking further into the material.

The glow of winter night fires in the family room. Memories of wood and coal like smoke. Poking the flames incessantly to command gas out of stone like a blowtorch. Everyone crowding the fireplace. The cats enjoy the embers.