Poetry: Prabhu S. Guptara

Prabhu Guptara

We’re just back from a very good break away.
Not too far. But away.
After all these months, wonderful. 
We sat in the living rooms of both my brother and my sister to socialise.
Real people. In real homes. 

“Attention! …  Dismiss!”

A full-throated command to a drilled mass,
I remember dimly from parade grounds,

The assembled drumbeat of feet 
Disintegrating into hubbub, obscurity and must.

But today’s command’s for individuals who turn their backs 
To go boldly where facts lead them astray 

From the gathered might of the river.

So it is that two men, smiling, frowning, angry, polite,
Speak to me, their minds and lips nimble, 

Far from skirmishing with anything that might sound 
Even vaguely like those words strong,

Separate me from the field 
Where I with them had struggled and toiled.

Fair? No, sir!
Hurts?  Yes, sir!  

Under orders to turn the other cheek!
(Really, sir?)

Reluctance turns me round and about
Spins me dizzy, till I do, 

From assisting strength, stagger to attention, 
Take the deepest breath, 
Softly whisper “Dismiss”, 

And shake from my feet the dust.


Sometimes a poem springs full grown,
Flows from my pen as might a stream.

But only sometimes. My luck demands 
Cut, and trim, and tack, and glue, and tape, 
Before the work’s in shape to fly.

But since I am an amateur
Working hard on other things,

My life is like some crackleware:
Poems peep and dash,

Daring me to catch them as in kabaddi.
Once when I thought I’d grabbed an arm, 

He’d twisted to escape, and all 
I held was nothing more, 

Though nothing less,
Than a few poor threads of sleeve.

Those fragments weave!  To form
A home, a robe, a pair of wings.

NOTE: Kabaddi is an Indian game of tag; Western games of tag are mostly to do with touch; kabaddi involves grabbing hold of the person and preventing her/him from escaping for a certain period of time.

Bio: Prabhu’s poems have been published since the 1960s, in magazines and anthologies. Two collections of his poems were published in the 1970s by Writers Workshop, Calcutta, India. He edited An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Religious Poetry in English, as well as Selected Poems of Leela Dharmaraj.  In January 2017, Skylark Publications, UK, chose him Poet of the Month, and he is included in Debrett’s People of Today.

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