‘My toes pirouette on the waves’: A new book of poems blurs the boundaries of place and time

Translation

He translates her,
not in the language he speaks
or in the script she writes,
but in their unfulfilled
mad rush into one another’s eyes
when they make love.

He translates her earlobe
into a winged mountain
that unburdens her wounded heart.

He translates her nose into the bugle
to summon the dying dreams
from her lap.

He translates her nipples
into the script of needles
which stitches her broken nights
with the sunbeams of a jovial day.

He translates her hair
into the language of dancing,
mustard flowers of her afternoon,
when the sun leaves with its decaying youth
leaving a thousand stars blooming in
her soil.

He translates
her lips into honey pots
where the bees mortgage
their lives and his tongue hums
the ocean in her triangle.

Their ship sails forth for the discovery
of the deserted lighthouse
in her canyon.


He is Both

I call him my Majnu.
I suck his breasts,
they taste like my own milk
that I feed my sons every day,
my sons of many wombs.

I call him Laila sometimes.
He rubs my navel and places
a hot water bottle on my abdomen.

On days of cramp,
he massages my thighs.

I call him both Majnu and Laila.

On days when he sits beside me, he
listens to my stories and cries with me.
When I explode in pleasure,
he licks my sweat and
sings a lullaby till I
fall into a deep sleep.

He smells like the father that I
never had.

He is Laila
or Majnu
or both.

He is my lover.


Alphabets of Longing

My alphabets are all dipped in your sweat.
In your absence, I roam in every corner
of my room with you in my longing.
Every word of the book that lies open
on my table dances in the madness
of our lovemaking.
And I become a Greek goddess
trampling a thousand seas
running towards you.
The sand on my breasts scattered in the air
cover the jealous sun.
Like an ace dancer, my toes pirouette on the waves.
And I sing a folk song that was sung by a pir who
was beheaded for loving a eunuch.
I can smell the flowers that might have grown in his grave
and the petals of the flowers that knit you and me
in a single yarn of the alphabets of our longing.


Joy, Dance, Life

Her long absence
is the Snow of Kars
burdened with childhood memories
and the lifelong pursuit of
adulthood.

For a glimpse of her
a mad heart pummels
the impenetrable snow
of absent time
with the hammer of love.

She is not a diva
or a goddess incarcerated
in rituals, shackled with divinity.

She is fresh air
mad river
a lonely boatman’s song
a common woman sitting on a staircase
draped in the aura of rangoli.

She is
joy, dance, life.


House Arrest

Sharp 6 am a cup of green tea
with a teaspoon of
honey or sugar without fail.
Breakfast at ten.
Tiffin for office and school
and then cleaning the gas oven.
All stand in constant vigilance:
Days. Nights. Dreams.

Years disappear in the layered
dust of the harmonium.
The wrinkles smell of chillies.
The dreams are sieged and packed
in airtight containers of various
shapes and smell.

The rough scrubby hands
can’t cross the webs of smuts.
The dead spider grins in a somersault
in her cell.

The day her house arrest ends
four men in white
march with her and dump her
in her own country.

A nameless cactus grows in her grave.
It smells of coriander, the spice she loves most.
A country of her own.


Moumita Alam is a poet from West Bengal. Her first poetry collection, The Musings of the Dark was published in 2020.

Excerpted with permission from Poems at Daybreak, Moumita Alam, Red River Publications.

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