India Poetry Magazine –

"You or I" by Sumana Sinhababu


Title image shows a large number of birds lifting off from and flying near to a rooptop balcony.

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Published January 15th, 2024

You or I

by Sumana Sinhababu

Once in a blue moon,
I let the moon beams
fill up my balcony,
The soft-bodied night descends on the window-glass.

They often happen to be the nights
When the sweet Jasmine comes to her full youth
And draws the serpentine desires under the feet of
Burnt out incense sticks.

On those nights,
The witching hours befall early in the evening,
And sacrifices are often made by ancient lunatic women,
And I, very unlikely,
Go back to you.

Thrusting all my attempts to escape
From the maze of memory,
Upon the ground of my delirium,
I kowtow before the obscure, blurry face,
That has lately become yours,
Just like my my mother, in front of the brass figurine of eternal love,
And my grandmother, in front of my grandfather's eternal sleep.
They touch their gods,
I don't even touch a lover,
For, their tryst brings answers
And mine only questions,
their eyes get moist at the end of prayer,
My eyes get burning
So I drag myself to the shrine,
Petrified to be in the room with the coffin of memory
That is only mine to bear.

On nights like those,
I often resume my habit of talking to the Creator,
Folded hands, smudged eyes, and a messy knot in hair,
Bring me closer to the sky,
And I,
Who once pleaded my case with a 'please',
Now mourn for an inexplicable 'why'.
There is no one greater than God to love,
The inscriptions tell so,
But if I hadn't been in the secret chamber
Of God's heart either,
Why should I pick him and not you?

There is love even in the process of unloving,
As before dozing of to sleep,
I often sit in front the window and wander
While the faint light of street lamps
Get caught in the web of darkness on my wall,
I try to solve an incident,
Tougher than the arithmetic equations,
For I want an answer where,
Present would be equal to past,
In pain and pleasure.
Most of the time,
Despair comes faster than the solution.
Despair, who cooks rotis on the Tawa
In the evening
Despair who gathers flowers in early morning
And dip them in holy water,
Despair who saves hall mark gold bangles
And age-old wine-red kanjivaram for me,
Despair, who sleeps with me on my bed,
Without a 'lihaaf' over its pale body.

On nights like those,
I stop calling you a liar
Who lied about myself to me
Or a malicious spirit
Who came to disarray what I had gathered for years,
I try to be brave and mutter under my breath
"It was I, not you. It was God, not us.
It was the divinity, not the devil."
Forsaken togetherness wants to corrupt my heart,
I know better than to surrender.

Nights like them come very occasionally,
and when they do,
I silently cope with them,
Blaming God, in coarse language
Not you.

About the Poet
Sumana Sinhababu resides in Bankura, West Bengal, India.
Read the poet's biography on Sumana Sinhababu's Artist Page.

This poem is included in Comet #1, published in the Wax Poetry and Art Library.

Previously published in India Poetry Magazine:
That Figure Next to the Water Filter

by Arbas Ali

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