Poems by Sampurna Chattarji
DOGS, MOBS AND ROCK CONCERTS
Bombay Diary: April 7, 2003
At 7 am today,
a pack of mad dogs rushed into a building and castrated a man.
It happened too fast for the police to be called
or the BSPCA van to rush in and take the raving canines away.
Five dogs came.
At 12 noon today,
a herd of hired goons drove up in a truck and threw flowers at a mob.
The mob, which had assembled silently all morning,
pulled the stalks out with their teeth and exploded
in a fury of pamphlets. The pamphlets read
Stay Out Outsiders and then sang themselves into a stupor.
The hired goons were fired
for failing to disburse the crowd.
At 7 pm today,
a stadium flung open its gates to the sky.
The earth rocked and the people stoned.
Enormous rubber lips turned electric blue with the sound.
On the ground, crushed between a dressed-down executive
and a made-up mother of two, an ageing Indian singer
shook his locks. In the champagne seats,
the liquor baron bubbled
tidily out of his tux.
At 7.10, 12.22 and midnight,
the city felt a tremor of longing.
Strange things had happened and passed it by.
Tomorrow all that would mark the hours would be the trains,
the 7.10, the 12.22, the midnight,
each rattling its chains,
returning thousands to their cages,
From Sight May Strike You Blind (Sahitya Akademi, 2007)
WON’T BE LONG
I have stitched the stones into my belly.
The scar is beautiful, the stitches neat.
I was taught well by the woman whose belly I came from.
The stones rub against each other.
They might even start a fire.
Flint, spark, fire.
Some people might yearn for that fire in the belly, not me.
For one, the smell of burning upsets me.
Turns my stomach, you could say.
And two, I’m a seamstress,
not a pyromaniac. No killing two birds
with one flintstone for me.
Truth is, I am dying, of love.
Call me romantic, call me a fool.
Call me a mourner, or a hearse, when it’s done.
The stove’s still warm.
It’s a long walk to the water, and this could
very well be my last wish.
If wishes were horses.
A lot of nonsense.
I’d like to go down smiling.
Make a big splash.
The stones should see to that.
And I’d like to be there when they fish me out and cut me open.
I’d like to listen to the trill of the only bird
that might weep for me, durzee,
the little tailor bird, stitching me
together with his song.
Won’t be long.
From Absent Muses (Poetrywala, 2010)
About the poet
Sampurna Chattarji is a poet, novelist, translator and children’s author. Her thirteen books include four poetry titles: The Scorpion (e-single, Harper21, 2013), Absent Muses (Poetrywala, 2010), The Fried Frog (Scholastic, 2009), Sight May Strike You Blind (Sahitya Akademi, 2007); two novels, Rupture (2009) and Land of the Well (2012), both from HarperCollins; and her short-story collection about Bombay/Mumbai, Dirty Love (Penguin, 2013). Numerous anthology appearances include 60 Indian Poets (Penguin); The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets; The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry and The Literary Review Indian Poetry Issue. Sampurna is the editor of Sweeping the Front Yard, an anthology of women’s writing. Her poetry has been translated into German, Swiss-German, Welsh, Scots, French, Gaelic, Estonian, Arabic, Portuguese, Frisian, Tamil, Manipuri, Kannada, Bangla and Bambaiyya; and her children’s fiction into Welsh and Icelandic. In 2012, she was the Charles Wallace writer-in-residence at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Selected Poems (Harper Perennial, 2014), her translation of the Bengali poet Joy Goswami’s work, was shortlisted for the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry. http://sampurnachattarji.wordpress.com/