Author Archives: Lopa Banerjee

About Lopa Banerjee

Lopa Banerjee has studied Creative Nonfiction at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has a Masters' in English and Journalism from Kolkata, India. She has written a a book-length collection of personal essays and also a poetry collection. She is a regular contributor to 'Cafe Dissensus', an alternate journal of literature and the arts. Her poetry and essays have also appeared at journals and anthologies including 'Fine Lines', 'About Place', 'Yahoo Voices', 'Northeast Review', 'River Poets' Journal', 'Indian Review', ‘The Mind Creative’, 'Prairie Fire' and 'Incredible Women of India'.

Darkness, the Old Friend

Souvik_pic

Darkness, the old friend, I hear him whispering.
In my hand the torchlight leaps, and shadows
Lap up at the shore. Shadows fade as I thrust the light.
And then, the truant lover, creeps back.

I talk to darkness, the old friend, as mud
And soil cling to my feet. Together we bleed
In buried wounds, scrubbing grudges and anguish.
I talk to darkness, each shade from the lightest gray
To the deepest black, forming a steely loom.

Darkness and I walk together on the earth’s ribs,
Run along its edges, break loose and roll down
To the bottom, posing as dark marbles.
Darkness and I strip off each other’s skin,
Sit down on the nakedness of rocks,
With crumbling faces, like cursed angels.

(Note: An Ekphrastic poem I had written based on a published photograph of my photographer friend Souvik Chakraborty.)

Photo Courtesy: Souvik Chakraborty. This photo of Souvik, titled ‘Dark Horizon’ has been published in the Gallery 36 of Blur Magazine, dated October 2013.

When Memories Rain

 

I don’t know when the rains started to bleed.

A taste of salty pining, a dash of

Peppered moments and memories, dancing together

Their bodies, clasped, loosening, melting, blurring.

I don’t know when my clay hands composed you,

Mold after mold, structure, shape, dimension

Nestled in the embrace of these coiled fingers,

Your cinnamon breath, blowing its fragments,

Mingling with my own, tearing me open,

The gash of my wounds, alive, and trembling still.

I don’t know when the smell of long lost love

Stark dead, ghost-white, wafts along

The interstate where the night reveals

And sea winds soar and sing, the smell

Of burnt lips entwined, slicing through

The raging night, earnest, shadowy, whispering.

I don’t know when the downpour stopped,

The blood, the tears, the salt tickling me,

Pulling me within, deeper still,

My crust and core, rising, floating

In the debris of the days, lost.

Revisiting An Old Home

The streetlights flicker,
I am caught unawares
in the fleshy orange call
of the tattered, brown dirt road.
My skin is sliced into nimble pieces,
The black tires of my homecoming
Screech, strangling the road
Like rotten banana skin.

One blink, the smell of dust
And the aroma of wet hair
And coconut oil, two blinks,
Then three, and four,
A waking up, the sharp,
shooting tremors and
The boiling, bubbling up.
The wide, gaping mouth,
The rolling waves, childlike
The froth and the fancy
of remembering my body, growing,
resting my back against
Those damp, breathing walls.

I speak a crisp, powdered language
My hunger for touch, for a caress
Burns into the skin like
A forgotten incense.
The waiting mouth of the old home
sprinkled with the remnants
of used up turmeric, cumin,
the rough hairs of
an unruly childhood
bursts wide open,
I slip down her throat
as she gags, darkened, acidic,
Slowly burning, chipping away.

(All Rights Reserved.April 25, 2015)

Note: A journey and an epiphany…to be continued….

Forlorn

 

Did I lose you somewhere
Between the hyacinth and the ribbons
The pleats and folds of my adult drape?

I know you still wait for me, my moon
As the night flutters, the unfailing rose
Drunk with solitude and honeyed longing.

I breathe shallow and deep, my eyes
Swept away by stardust, I am alone
Your milk, eager and firm, waits for me
At the shore of the night.

Between my trembling lips and voice,
Your song hides in the fugitive wind,
Slender and silent, you walk away,
Barefoot, soaking in the night’s last ashes.

Did I call you, my white hills
Breaking, sinking at the wake of dawn?
I return to the day, dust blown
Crushing sand beneath my feet,

You have sliced me to pieces,
I move, unsure, forlorn, in spirals
Of smoke as I call you out
My moorings trapped in the day, dying.

Lopa Banerjee. Written in February 2015

Kitchen Refrains: In Memory of My Mother

(1)

The oil splutters, the glittering bodies
Of paanch phoron, cumin seeds and bay leaves
Emanate a moist, fragrant breath.
The gourd and the potatoes, dancing in the
Indolent pan, with crisp coconut,
The way you always wanted
Culinary things, in their rhythmic crescendo.

Learning and unlearning a lot today,
Vacillating, flickering, in between
Recycled pots and pans, my stained fingers
Scratch in the dust, search for
My girly mouth, stuffed with morsels and juices
Of your presence in steamed rice and runny fish curries.

I have learnt your recipes well, Ma,
Drawing in the dust a diagram of
All the meals that we had shared, talking to me
Through the long sent emails, the stings,
The scrapes, the missed steps of my childhood days.

(2)

I park my eyes in the mossy courtyard,
Your foamy fingers soaking in the detergent,
My dream, a broadened highway leading me
All the way to the creek, the dirt road, the clothesline
The terrace where our evenings hunkered,
Your domestic chores stretched across
The ribs, the hemlines, the loops and curls of the house.

My eyes have taken in the ice and fog
Of all our spoken words, the lines
Curved towards hope, while I chop onions,
Peel potatoes, slice tomatoes,
Rice boiling over, gasping over the smell
Of turmeric, a chained melody that bleeds.
In the kitchen, our silences grow louder every day.

In the kitchen, my childhood photo with you
Fresh, pulpy and sweet, hovers in cinnamon breath.
I hold you between the undone folds of your silk saris
The vermilion dots of your quiet, steadfast longings,
One morning till the next, let me burn until
Your ashes become glistening silver.

I move imperfect, your daughter,
In littered, crumbling surf and sands,
Hungering for your womb, for one last time.

Notes:- ( Written in the loving memory of my dear mother on the auspicious occasion of her birthday on February 26, 2015. A tribute to her unceremonious kitchen chores, her relentless housework and our long-distance phone calls, over which we have bonded in the course of all these years. Hope she is in ultimate bliss, wherever she is now, knowing that I have learnt all the recipes she has taught me. )

(* Paanch Phoron is a medley of five whole Indian spices, consisting of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds and black mustard seeds, famously used in authentic Bengali delicacies of Banglaadesh, Eastern India and Southern Nepal, also in Assam and Orissa.)

Between This Life and the Other: The Rain

Do my dirty walls rain, still?
Dots imprinted on dark leaves, scrawling,
Pressing their heads to the crushing dust of human pain?
Do the fingers still dig into
The dark, unfathomable whole,
Beneath the ribs, the pain, stark dead, burning?

Do the primal clouds of monsoon jump in puddles, still?
Longing to steam, to cry in small streams,
Ripples and kisses, running down, the deluge
Slitting throats, trampling my primordial breast?
I have seen the skin, blood, bones
Of the rain, hung on to thirsty fingers
Licking the pickled salt of a fleshy pain.
Is it mine, still?
Forgot its name since we last held hands.

Does it still rumble, growl inside,
The billowing cloud-fire, the necklace of grief?
The night, jumping, leaping, sticking her tongue out
For one last dance, entwines me,
Stumbling over, as I listen to mourning ghosts,
Moving around, in circles, the earth
A whisper of sprinkled ashes of pain?

The smoke, a translucent fusion,
Do I drink it whole? The murky waters
Ruminating on the slumber-buried drone of pain.
Do I shake it off like old dust? Here it comes back
Peels and hums amid grinning, littered rain.

The bird rests beneath the rusted bricks and walls
The flash of cool light, of rain, long gone.
The heart of the wind beating amid the dead leaves in rain,
I stand, smothered between the damp walls,
Breaking and sinking, birdlike, aflame, drowning.

A World Without Poetry

A world without poetry,
The concrete hammering of mails
The infusion of programmed chores
A day, yet another day shedding it’s leaf
In parched, scheduled coldness.

Collective tangling of prosaic voices
Barbecue in the summer heat,
Disjointed company of drunk folks
Stinking of the corporate fumes.

Shattered raindrops, where do I hide you
In the luscious spread of weekend delicacies?
The shrieking yells of perfumed bodies,
The flashy make-up of the powdered night
Hides you like submissive dirt.

The deep chasm of naked arms bleed
My unwritten lines buried under
The daily litany of unanswered applications,
Unsolicited proposals, boxed and sealed
Never caring for a reply, a nod, an assaurance.

A world without poetry dies and lives
Every day, crafty, stoic, plastered,
Waking in hopes of a startling twist
Of a delicate, lyrical opulence.

Watching Over, The Night

 

The flesh of the night hangs loose, stale,

Around the cryptic cities where I roam.

My skull, the tautness of my skin,

My bones, joints, the fatty cells

And flesh in between, the conduits of my blood

All dried, nibbled on, burnt away,

The pitch dark sky creeps, moonless,

Laughing with its vicious fangs.

 

Glowing was the night as we had soaked in

The sweetest breaths of her descent.

The night had shone in our bodies.

The two of us, young lovers, brimming with moonlight

In the city bus, gazing from the window

At the luscious asphalt sky.

We were returning home from a feast of a film

The flawless, vital light of the night wrapped us

Wandering, shadow-like.

 

Nearby somewhere, that night, black owls screeched

Serpents crawled over us, coiled around me in

Vehement strokes and shoving. The window

Of our moon-watching banged shut, inside the bolted bus

The smothering, the cussing, the shoving

Bathed me in blood. Far into the night,

The pallid moon crooned feverishly.

They kicked away my body, and

That of my bleeding lover boy.

Together, in the naked city streets

The pestilence of death hovered,

As we moaned—ragged, rickety, forlorn.

 

The nation adorned me with a name, ‘Nirbhaya’,

‘The Fearless’, a martyrdom I never really wanted.

I slowly died, my music died out in the hospital room.

The tongue of the moon licked away

The residues of my rotted flesh.

My blood crystalized. My parents kissed me between

The dead veins of my forehead, and burnt my body,

Or whatever remained in the name of it.

 

Stripped off the flesh, skin and bones,

My arid spirit roams, a nightmare

In the wavy, tangled wind.

Thump, thump, thump—my unseen footsteps

Crush the dark night’s crevices

I am loved much where I belong now,

Sheltered, in the dense canopy of the sky.

Deep inside, I bleed every night,

I wander, in the dark womb of the cities

In the dead of the night, I whisk and burn,

Speed across buses, autos flaring with huge flashlights

I know—somewhere inside every city’s dark trenches,

A woman is breaking into million shards.

My molten essence strolls and stomps,

Whispers my story in wrinkled corners,

Every woman’s living nightmare.

Footnotes:The poem originated from unfathomable pain, remembering the shameful ‘Nirbhaya’ incident of gang rape in New Delhi, India, in December 2012.

 

Let the Night Sing

Shadows creeping,
The fangs of the night unfold,
Faint footsteps resound,
Silvery beams of moonlight.
The dark woods,
Dense canopy of trees,
The pitch black,
Skin slicing through
Silhouetted darkness.
Twinkling stars
Hissing sound,
Let the moon stay,
Let us make love.

Lopa Banerjee. February 9, 2015

Don’t Tell Me: A Plea

Don’t tell me when you come back to me
Frost-bitten, smitten with the wind-drift,
Bespattered with mud, and slain,
That I did’nt wait for you long enough.
My ashes, kept intact,
The morsels of my deepest elements,
The fluid warmth
Of the deep, dark trenches
Of my being–have frozen, nude and barren,
In the waiting.

Don’t tell me that I lie and exaggerate
When I say you clenched and unclenched,
As I gagged and loosened my mouth
On you, with myths and high-flying tales
Of love, and fortitude.
You have never known when waiting
Becomes a crashing glass,
A staring into space, a beautiful scar.

My nights grow in the crumbling brick walls
The chimney smoke blowing,
Dark patches in the ashen sky.
Layer upon layer, the unopened boxes
Of my taut, mellowed wants,
The pastel shades worn, bust to waist,
Waist to hip, hip to thighs and ankles
Looked at, devoured, turned away,
Stark dead, grinning,
With banana skins and muggy air.

Don’t tell me you didn’t find me
Amid the thin film of sunlight
In the dark, arid room.
I waited, customarily,
Glittering, darkening in my prayers.

Copyright: Lopa Banerjee. February 1, 2015

Note: A humble dedication to the unwavering, undying spirits of women who bear the onslaught of patriarchy, every single day, unfailingly.