Poetry: Jagari Mukherjee

ROOTS

Love in childhood was served
on a plantain leaf--rice
with a side of salt and lemon.
Then came the yellow lentils
and a fish and a bowl of curd.
I always added salt to the curd,
pretending that it was the paste
of magic roots consumed by
barren queens of folklore.
In summers, there was mango pickle
with plenty of sour oil.
After school, I ate on the terrace,
sharing cooked rice grains with pigeons. 

Now, after many sojourns over
lands and seas, I drink fine wine.
But few people know my secret--
I still add salt to my curd, 
hoping it to be a miracle root-paste
for a barren queen of yore.


ENTALLY*

In the rain, I search for your home.

The sun cools a bit and I take out
my orange-teal umbrella.

Water soon logs my yellow ballerinas
before I find the narrow lane
right of the roadside temple.

I had forgotten the way, but
I remember your friend's instructions 
to walk straight into
the old house with the antique 
jutting balcony and the frail railings:
the same house where I once gave 
your favorite cat a name.
Each step makes me wonder
if my insides are hollowed out
because my heart beats to the
rhythm of rain.
I imagine caressing the cat
and walking up the haunted staircase
to the room perfumed by
your books and cigarettes.
I reach the vast open door.

I imagine the earth surrendering 
to the ministrations of the sky--
brazenly--letting in the downpour.

Note: *An old area of Calcutta


SHELTER (TRIVANDRUM 2006) 

1
You think you are too old
to collect seashells.


You remember beaches bleached blond
like a movie star's tresses.
And also shores where you walk
on cinnamon sand and seek out coconut palms
for shelter.

You erase memories of a turbulent year where
pain was the theme, and buy a necklace
of green jade beads and a floral orange sarong.
Your mouth waters at the store-displayed fish
and you process the perfume of waves.
You seek peace in the sea breeze
and happiness in trinkets.


2
You feel almost normal when the steamer
zooms through backwaters and you find more
coconut palms--each frond promises shelter.
In God's own country, you try to forget
that you've walked through hell:
will peace cure all traces of your
post-traumatic stress disorder?

Perhaps you are never too old
to collect seashells.

***

Jagari is the recipient of Reuel International Prize For Poetry 2019, Jagari Mukherjee has authored three volumes of poetry. Her latest collection, The Elegant Nobody, was published by HawakalPublishers, Kolkata in January 2020.

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