Poetry: Lahari Mahalanabish

Lahari Mahalanabish
The Predator

Where the craggy bank zigzags
like the pell-mell gait of the prey
and the river fumes like the sweat 
on its velvety skin

where the dragon-neck tendrils 
are smoked by fiery breaths,
petals wither; stamens snap; 
blackened pollens pepper dry stumps

where the grass-songs are muffled 
by the thud of toes and deafening heartbeat 
where the earth gouged out by two pairs 
of clawed feet 
showers on borrows

where the sunlight is bayoneted
by pointy branches until the night clings on,
the day cremated in the pent-up flames 
of rocks exasperated 
by the sluggish pace of evolution
where the swelling contours burst through the trees
a trunk arcs back like a sling before the hurl
and a swarm of leaves with stout stick-like veins
descend down the flaming layers of sky and buries
the undergrowth

where the moist air offers its last swipe 
on a sea of convulsing muscles
before a shadow stuffs itself with another,
an incessant scrunch as if the fibres 
on roots have sharpened to teeth
and the unit of time altered - from the interval between 
two heartbeats of the hunted 
to the pace of dripping blood 

waterfalls born, 
with the river leaping across eras-
from Triassic to Jurassic,
from Jurassic to Cretaceous to _
In a clearing, now the predator stands,
its long vertebra
a corrugated path of evolution,
the ribcage a basket spilling speculation,
but those sharp teeth still bore through
a mind of crammed visuals
till those huge empty sockets pass our stares  
to the other exhibits on the wall behind.

Wool and Solitude

Your tawny curtain curls around
the night like an imploring pet;
the flickering candle flame slants 
- a squinting eye,
and a rivulet of wool slips into the cleft
between knitting needles.
Your hunger doused by the cabbage soup,
oblivious to aromas from the roadside tandoor.
The minute hand ticks
sweeping across the digits, 
the gecko clicks its tongue
tapping on the cob-webbed loft door

loosened red wool traces the undulations
in the roller coaster of sound waves.

Bookshelf glass panes mirror you
when you undo the grey bun,
the nameless road wound up in it all day
trails back 
and back;
tales from a bygone era
that are stowed and replicated within the folds
of your numerous wrinkles spill out 
and mist the grudgingly sanitized walls 

memories deceptive like refractive rays -
a long slide down the slant it takes 
to land on near-truths of your youth;
the cardigan now a coarse strip –
a caterpillar clinging along the needle
 Ever since the music failed you,
only the wool underlines words from noise,
only the wool unfailingly tethers to routines,
the wool reigns in against rose-glass impossibilities
and loops into the wavering boundary
of the post-fairytale land you identify as your own.
Line repaired, lights sizzle back,
the first flicker on your man’s keen eyes
a moment’s bliss of life regained
till the brightness weighs down upon the photo frame

facing the fluorescent lamps
that would soon swarm with November bugs

what remains is only solidness of oak 
against death’s disdain
and your cardigan a burgeoning garden,
golden buttons trailing clues of a lost sun.


I pummelled your essence 
into flatness, 
I supressed and supressed
till you became weightless like
a paper, but the paper was a wrapper
sheathing my thoughts in you.

When diced into pieces, you scattered
all over me,
when drowned in spirits,
you lingered in my taste.

Uncrushed by the onslaught of memories
and untrammelled by the elephantine load 
of my daily deadlocks 
you entice me to the sea separating us,
the same sea which had left its dampness
on my bed,
the same sea which enters me at night 
pretending to be you
- throes of passion, heights of pain
till my mind turns a labyrinth
from which you can never escape.

Bio: Lahari Mahalanabish (Chatterji) is the author of the recently published short story collection Tales of the Anointed Skeletons and Love (Ukiyoto Publishing) and One Hundred Poems (Writers Workshop, 2007). Her short fiction was long-listed for the Grindstone International Short Story Prize (2020); poems were shortlisted for Mslexia Poetry Competition 2021, Erbacce Prize Poetry Competition (2009 and 2010) and short story collections for Eyelands Book Awards (2019 and 2020). She blogs at http://theserpentacursedrhyme.blogspot.com.

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