Poetry: Srabani Bhattacharya

Srabani Bhattacharya

I moved into a beehive 
and the queen, all set 
in her way, doesn't 
welcome new stings 
I am an ant in a beehive 
and the queen bee 
plays a long and weary game 
with her drones 
Every day the search for sweetness 
dies thrice at meal times 
when she denies warmth 
deliberately. Sadistically.
Happily and it is tiring 
Exhausting to be an ant 
among drones who know 
their queen too well to stray 
or say no to a meal or two 
Every day the same protest—
meek words ignored 
at her behest. 
I am an ant 
Or was I? 
My antlers have melted 
My body is yellow 
and black and lo! 
I have wings 
now fluttering to fly with 
nowhere to go

Sultry songs of May
       After T.S. Eliot

Let us go you and I
As prayers are spread out against the sky
For the thousands on life support
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The unspoken retreats
Of restless nights in emergency wards
And sawdust public space with alcohol sprays:
Streets that follow like a slow sad playlist
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, “Is this for our sins?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room masked women come and go
Murmuring of SpO2.
The sobbing rain that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The flickering heartbeat that shivers its muzzle on the ribcage,
Throbbing its helplessness in fingers on the dial pad,
Fidgeting on queues that stretch behind medical outlets,
Let us fall upon refusals from tired notice boards,
Bent down in beseech, to chance upon a miraculous post,
of a bed available on a frantic doomscroll,
As we curl up in a ball, and try to fall asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the words we never spoke,
While we wait for the pyre to blaze;
There will be time, there will be time
To mourn the news that we meet;
There will be time to hue and cry,
And time for all the anger and the hate
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred justifications,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before accepting an unjust grief.

In the room the masked women come and go
Murmuring of SpO2.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Is it fair?” and, “Is it fair?”
Time to lash out and ask why,
For gaping voids in staggering homes—
(They will say: “How much can the leader care”)
Their morning vitamin pill, their pending vaccine,
Their PPE suits, stacked with their last wills—
(They will say: “But how much has he done before!”)
Do I dare
doubt the government?
But in this minute there is only time
For burdened bills to disburse.

For I have said them all already, said them all:
Hollow comforts evenings, mornings, afternoons,
For they measure out life with silver spoons;
Over lungs rasping with a drained drawl
Over the wails from a farther room.
To watch grey smoke rise up from the gloom.

Note: This is a pastiche of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’ first published in 1915.

The eyes are not here
All eyes and no tears makes Jack a hollow man

In a whisper or in a shout,
mornings are started with heads 
peeping at the stage 
looking for gaping eyes 
that I order shut so that I am left 
alone and have a few minutes yet  
to put on the costume and makeup, 
to plaster polished nicety on my face
For once I let slip I am awake,
there’s all sorts of prospects
served on a plate
and my average performance will begin
on the cheap stage of my room
Sometimes the foundation on my face
is too slippery, watered down 
and in want to drown all day 
to reject how every move 
of my limbs demands a reason
Even in afternoons less noisy 
with half the audience retired 
for a nap, the other half raises 
its head and creeps into the backstage 
and waits for the next act
Night time is a breathing space
until an audience member tiptoes 
and shocks me into confession. 
The eyes are back.
What is the point of mulling 
over all the escapades, 
the disputes when the prisoner 
on the stage dreads duress 
too much to find a way out. 

Note: The title and epigraph are references to T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men.

Fra la la festive season

Deck the hall with vials of alcohol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
’Tis the season of folly,
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
(of hot water and turmeric)
Troul the ancient medical carol,
(star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick)
See the flowing bowl before us,
(Of tonics and charms)
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in bitter measure,
(and watch the migrants scuffle)
While I sing of disastrous treasure,
(with deluge, cyclones, gas explosions)
Fast away the old forest passes,
into coal reserves
Hail the feud, ye rads and asses!
Of farm laws and self-reliance
Laughing, quaffing all together,
(Till laws equate regression)
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Let’s warm our toes in our warm shelters
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Note: The poem is a pastiche of the Christmas carol ‘Deck the halls’ whose English version dates back to 1862.

Oh Baby!


Oh baby, 
Married life’s getting boring.
Whatever shall we do?

Shall we fry a chop
and push her into this soup bowl
with all the meaty bits 
to float ‘round
wherever we push her to?

Aloor chop (serves two)
Aloo – stuff your chop with lofty expectations; Besan – dip it in a batter of social status competition; Green chilies – mix in finely chopped passive aggression; Garlic – sauté to remove any shard of self-identity; Oil – deep fry until the raw smell of independence goes away; Salt – to taste just how we like it.

Oh do, let’s put her in a pit 
against the other chops. 

The neighbours have a crispy one.
Their chop sailed off to 
Canada last summer.

Couldn’t we repeat 
his wondrous feat
lovingly in our chop’s ears
till we hammer her competitive?

Oh, am I a good chop no more?

Oh do, let her feel
all soggy and stale
until she sizzles to
get there too. 

However else shall we brag 
in the next social town hall
that we fried the tastiest chop of all?

Bio: A poet, editor and copywriter based in Kolkata, Srabani Bhattacharya completed her MA in English Literature from Jadavpur University in 2019. Her works have been published on LiveWire, Muse India, NOVUS Art Literary Journal, The Kali Project, Silver Birch Press and other literary spaces. She was the finalist in Wordweavers poetry contest 2021 and Five Elements of nature poetry contest, 2021.


  1. Wow I am floored. The author surely knows how to twist real life tales into words that you will only understand if you know how to read between the lines. These needs to be shared more.

    Marriage, Oh Baby and The Eyes are not here are my favourite.


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