Poetry: Lopa Banerjee

Lopa Banerjee

Lopa Banerjee

The Evening Sonata

My evenings are a sonata of loneliness
Seeped in the memories of my fingers
Rooted to your fingers, in the bones conjoined
The symphony of swallowing silence.
My poetry tells me the story of the ‘Hijal kanya’,
The daughter of the wild mountains
who chatted with the brook,
and left her unfinished stories in its bosom, in the days of yore.
My evenings are the ghostly whisperings
Of the trees who carry in their bodies
The story of that daughter of the wild mountains
And her lover who wanted her, beneath the trees,
over the talking soil, under the surrendering twilight sky.
In my evenings, poetry is not a luxury
But the swirling echoes
Of Jeebanananda’s surreal, melancholy verses
that become my twilight,
Mingling with Dylan Thomas’ postmodern refrain:
‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’
I become the earth in my wanderings,
like Suranjana, whom Jeebanananda had asked
To return in the fiery night,
Amid the silvery glittering of the stars.
I become the remembrance of the ‘frail deeds
that might have danced’ in Thomas’ poem,
In my evenings, my universe is a wild,
Haywire song, the gay abandon
of an ebony ‘adivasi’ woman, as my fingers touch
The newly sprouted summer lilies
Like her eager, untamed black lover.
In my evenings, my poetry burns when
My footsteps yearn to mingle with the shadow
Of trees who know my story of making love
With that lover of yore, my flesh and being filled
With his musk of sex, that I loved so fiercely
In yet another birth.
In my evenings, my wanderings fill me
with the poetry of primal wants,
It’s the time of my shower, my copulation
With the trees, the songs of wilderness learnt and unlearnt.

My Poetry: A Metapoem

[First published in Spillwords]

My poetry was born
as mistaken scraps in your notebook
Your ferociously guarded mansion,
the unfamiliar swirling
In your oceanful of wants.
My poetry was the closely wrapped secret
Of my night sky, dense, luscious
like my Kolkata nights
Descending like the gushing cascade
from the mountains of my desires
Melting like the river of melancholy
in the vortex of your unwritten words.

My love, my verses blossomed
in the volatile unrest as the alphabet
My feminine language of romance,
The alphabet of unbridled screams,
The alphabet of salty tears of oppression
gushed out of your lush chambers
Like unknown smells, like half-cooked broth
of a nameless, turbid sea.
My words of anguish and wayward darkness
filled your manicured landscape
Your carefully crafted, sacrosanct space,
but then, today, I will set them free.

My poetry, my love, will break free
from the limiting scriptures in your notebook
And explode into million shards,
in thunderous, ravishing rain.
Like the hurricane that bursts forth
Coast to coast, like quintessential flood
That ushers as the dam of maze,
of prejudice shatters, my poetry surpasses
My flesh, my womb, my sex, my birth—
My poetry recreates itself, outside my wet, dark body,
I speak poetry, the flustered language,
Outside your celebrated confines of binaries.

True Love Meets Poetry

True love, I say, is a f**ked-up form
An intersection between flesh, rhythm and melody.
Moments of becoming, then unbecoming
Overdosed love letters and a hundred pre-deaths
Translated as rhythmic reminders
Of the best of you, the best of me, both of us
Floating in our torrid sea, learning the art
Of bleeding, learning to be free in the art of estrangement.
A true and free verse, I say, is a f**ked-up love story
An explosion of failed rhymes soaked in disorderly brine
A lover, a dancer, a king or queen of bitterness and dark melody
Striving to write stories of raging silence, the revolution of dying.
A dreamer of an embryo, swimming in the motherly belly of memories
And pain, a jazz singer entrapped in displaced music, notes flowing
Music of wounded souls, wet, amorous bodies of staggering words
Drenched in the dark rain, when it rains sometimes,
In the badlands of lethal poetry.
True love meets free verse, sonnet and the river poems of Sufi poets.
They talk about torrents and explosion, wronged births of poetry Gods
And divas, and dive in the cosmic water-bodies of soulful melancholy.
Free verse, the petrichor of rhymes are reborn in the nakedness of despair.


My grief is green with the scum of stories. 
I wish it would rise from the buoyant dark of my neck
Like old, unfiltered bile,
Spread across my trails
like liquid tales of desperation.
But like a steady, insistent rhythm,
It stays on in my zillion caustic breaths,
The green settles in my poison-friendly throat
And I sink, in daily dribbles, in the rubble of my chores.
The green, they say, is the color of melancholy.
Unanimously, they contend and I know
My skin peels itself, loosening over the edge.
My melancholy stream dances within my rims and crests,
I am a mountain of cracked earth and raging silence
Overlooking a green river where unseen fungi
Of a warrior woman stretch across continents.

Oh Men, Comrades!

[Radical feminism is a topic very close to my heart, and many of my poems are centered on my expressions as a feminist poet and thinker. I chose to write this poem, focusing on a woman's body, her longings and her expressions as a feminist scribe/poet/artist.]

My love, we sing a different song,
Born into the revolution of female birth.
We have labored in war, as your thorn of love
pierced our core, made us bleed.

Oh men, comrades or rhythmic reminders—
Did the thorn pierce your hearts too?
Our radical feminism holds us in transitions,
From the haunted sadness of thwarted births
To the restlessness of love letters and coquetry,
From the Radha led astray by Krishna’s flute
To the Kunti bearing Karna, her first love-child,
Tears, epic-like silences, the wet world of wombs,
Blooming anew with pleasures fought for,
Traded with momentous strife.

Oh men, comrades, we hear you’ve carved our destinies,
Rowed our boats since our mothers have borne us.
We hear your love is our elixir, your scornful abuses
Our poison. Comrades, we don’t know who chose you
As our unsolicited Gods, in this colonized, unaccustomed earth.
Our radical feminism is our desire to be whole,
Between nameless atoms and the magic of our sculpted presence.

Oh men, comrades in our twilight sky of unending love,
We have been scalded by your liberated, sunlit bodies,
The smug embrace of your masculine arms, the pride
Of us love-sick women, cocooning our nihilism.
Comrades, our souls have been nourished by your fire, your ice,
Our radical feminism—the naivete and necessity
Our grandmothers and their grandmothers never knew,
The skin of sex and the crescendo of our revolution
Our daughters and their daughters and their daughters will adorn.

I crave to fight and make love, comrade, as sports played by equals—
My love, I hope to merge your roof with my sky,
Your temple with my shrine, your water with my earth.
We, the remnants of blood and earth are changing,
Our rivers gushing, forcing down before you.
Our radical feminism is not a style statement of postmodern longings.
Wasn’t the blood of disrobed Draupadi feminism enough?
Were the coarse wars and solitude of the oldest women scribes
The earliest jargons of feminism?
Wasn’t the enraged, trembling body of Sita
Returning to Mother Earth’s core a feminist chanting?
Didn’t the bold strokes of women, and men
entering their moist core
In Khajuraho, in Konark sow the earliest seeds
of feminism blossoms?
Oh men, comrades, let your mothers teach you
to strip your pride
With your first baby steps, to come to us
with a new love born within you,
A wet, nourishing love of the Ardha-narishwar,
the half-man, the half-woman,
Embracing our spirits warm, our cogent fire,
The palimpsest of our scars.

Letter To Myself

Dear August-born,
Do not be the burning sage as you
Sit on the bed soaking in the morning sun
And the washed remnants of your dreams
Of the night gone by. Instead, just hang on
To your wrinkled sleepwear and do your laundry
Listening to the hollow whispers of the washer.

Dear August rain,
Do not hold on to songs in your head
That can never turn into a hopeful refrain
A delectable orchestra. Instead, bolt the doors
Carefully when the thunderstorm breaks open
Into your pastures, echoing your birth-name
That everybody forgot, including you.

Dear August-queen,
Do not forget that ‘queen’ is just a perfunctory word
And it gives you no privilege in a world where
You have floated in a dark, tepid sea of pettiness, betrayals
And only words and art have kept you from falling apart,
And there is the sweet, sacred ambrosia of love
But loveless evenings, lonely strolls in sidewalks gave you succor.

If only you can thank the August rain, the road trips with false lovers,
The unflattering mirrors, the ditched playgrounds, the old notepads
Of burnt poetry, the stench of abuses,
You can embrace your fire and ember.
You can be the revolution, the upheaval, the threadbare dance
You can be the defiant poem, the silence of ruffled nights
That you’ve always dreamt of being.

Radha-Krishna love

Her scarlet-red petals meet the deep blue cloudburst
of his tumultuous rain.
Within her, the cosmos of a hungry love, a surrender
Deeper than the depths of the luscious waters of Yamuna.
And he, the enticing dark torrent and glorious flame of Vrindaban,
Melts with her jasmine-bloom, filled with verdant longing
A love born before the beginning of Time, slipping through
The rims and crests of their thousand lovelorn days and nights.

She, the Radha of the elemental thirst, cloud and raindrops
Falling on Krishna’s pensive, earthen flute.
He, the dark Shyam, the astute Krishna of the centuries of her wants,
Filling the parched rivers of her being with his devouring ocean.
She doesn’t know the dark undone of their destinies intertwined,
The sound of his flute uncoils her, a liberation divine.
Radha, the nectar and the sweet ambrosia of the saga of unbridled love,
Krishna, the elixir and poison-ivy of her amorous, engrossing ballad.

Do they still have their hearts on fire, does smoke arise on their path still?
The crescent moon pines, the birds croon their names wistfully—

The Krishna and Radha of the love-consumed Vrindaban.  

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