Lopa Banerjee, U S A

[For my grandmother who was the first one to call me a feminist when I was only thirteen]

Grandmother mine,
I am the legacy of your progeny,
The flesh and bones of your seed, your flesh,
The slow death of your sounds,
drenched in threatened subservience.
I wake, roam around your ancient seas
Birth life, rattle loud, screaming against
Supremacist songs.

This is how I survive—
Cooing your Bengali rain songs,
Building my cocoon around overdose of memories
Your horror stories of leaving behind
The torn, shaken Bangladesh.
The river Padma,
Mothering my girlhood revolution.

I am the forbidden dance,
The onset of new seasons
The distant language
The thirst and the rhythm
Of a revolution
which you had learnt well to deny.

Grandmother mine,
I am the déjà vu of your centuries of stories
The unborn cadence of your language
You had wrapped with crushing silence.
I am the importunate one, inhaling hot oil
In your airless room where you sometimes spoke
Of matriarchs and feminists-to-be,
Of nomads whom your cracked earth
Could no longer sustain, or shelter.

I wake, between continents
The skin of my ancestors planted in my embryo.
I am the renewed song of your thirst,
The hunger of my mother,
Dressed up in a liberation song.

This is how I survive—
Chopping and screwing old definitions
Of the womb, making claims on my body,
Writing down its verses in blood and dark ink.

 (Written especially for the #womenshistorymonth in March)


The more you will talk behind my back
The more my fire will burn.
The more you will take me for granted
And write me off and crush my art and dissent
The stronger they will rear their heads
And resurface in their undaunted forms.
The more you force me to shed tears
And surrender my accursed, black moon,
pierce its crust and core in thousand pieces,
gaslighting and choking me,
The more I will come back, in ripples,
In torrential downpour, in brave, startling truths,
in an undying manifesto.
For truths cannot be slaughtered,
Art and dissent cannot wipe off from
The face of this earth, without burning,
Without flickering, without knocking you hard, for once,
without ripping off
Your own damned, infected pettiness.
For the truths that Maya, Sylvia, Simone, Jamaica,
Kamala, Taslima, Mahasweta have taught me unawares
Have instilled in me, will come out,
From the womb of my thoughts
From the web of my consciousness
And spill over, in spurts
Whether you throttle me
Refuse to hear me out
Pretend I do not exist
Write me down as a colossal waste.
I exist, a minuscule, shameless revolution
Floating in a tiny, raging bottle of wants.

(Kamala: Kamala Das, the very famous, spirited Indian author and poet from Kerala
Taslima: Taslima Nasrin, the fiery, feisty woman poet and novelist/memoirist from Bangladesh who had been exiled from her own country for writing hard, indigestible truths about women, patriarchy and religious fanaticism in Bangladesh. Mahasweta: ‘Padma Shri’ Mahasweta Devi, the famous Indian feminist author of Bengal, India with exemplary work on the ‘adivasi’ tribe residing in the fringes of the state, and a recipient of the Gnanpith Award and  Sahitya Akademi Award)


[My tribute to the woman who creates art from the confines of her home]

I stand at the window
Of a commonplace home.
The cosmos outside is often
A bare-bone silence of barren streets
But in my private palette,
I crave to give birth to a masterpiece.

I am reborn a hundred times
As I stand at the window
Of a commonplace home.
My gaze wraps around the painted concrete,
The flesh of the spring blooming
And the many deaths
I remember, the many lives
Breaking open in an unfettered jazz
As I stand at the window
Of a commonplace home.

I must go away from the drizzling rain,
The desperation and naïveté of gazing
And standing at the window
Of a commonplace home.
The tomfoolery can wait,
The fish burns in the oven,
The water runs and overflows
The bathroom sink.
The trash bag stinks.

The stream-of-consciousness,
The unsung music,
The unwritten poetry
Of the window shall be revisited
By yet another ghost of mine,
Yet another day.
The naked window,
The threadbare, unfamiliar me
Will then try to give birth
To yet another masterpiece
Standing at the window
Of a commonplace home.

Lopamudra Banerjee is an Indian-Bengali poet and author living in Texas, USA. She is the author of the Journey Awards 2015 winning memoir ‘Thwarted Escape’, and the critically acclaimed poetry collection ‘Woman and Her Muse’. She has translated Nobel laureate Tagore’s selected works of fiction as ‘The Broken Home and Other Stories’. ‘Muffled Moans Unleashed: An Anthology on Abuse and Gender Violence’, co-edited by her (with Dr. Santosh Bakaya) is her latest work. Among her upcoming works, she has a poetry film in collaboration with two other women poets. A recipient of the Woman Achiever Award 2018 instituted by International Women’s Short Film Festival, The Reuel International Prize for poetry (2017) and for translation (2016), she wears many hats. She is also a featured poet/artist performing poetry/spoken words in Texas (at Dark Moon Poetry, Houston Poetry Fest, among others).

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