December 12, 2021

Minerva Sarma & Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

A MOMENT AGO

No, I don’t remember anything at all now
Did you tell me a moment ago
That you love me?
—Nilmani Phookan

I

There was no cloud in the sky.
A moment ago, it was wordlessly blue.
I met you on earth and looked
for you in the blue, like a letter of fate
that may drop from heaven.
You told me once, you loved me. I did not
hear you as a plane flew overhead.
You did not repeat it. It is inauspicious,
you said, to repeat what is unheard.
I let it pass. I felt you passing through me like
thread through the needle’s eye.
You were the eye of a storm that unstitched me.
I breathed the air of oblivion.

 

II

We remembered each other in road-signs,
bird-sounds, marooned by language
that separated us like islands.
It was the inflamed sun, the earth’s sodden
mouth, that sucked and sucked,
like an infant at his mother’s breast.
It was the sky that swam above us
like a giant blobfish. Was it the moment
when you said you loved me?

 

III

All words are birds by day, by night,
meteors, only time is still,
it flies nowhere. I hear your voice
in the stillness, carried away by the wind
that bends the paddy fields.
Someone broke into a song, the air
was ripe with premonitions, I couldn’t say
we had arrived, or bid farewell.
I only remember the sound of harvesting.
I confessed to the wind
what I had to tell you, in silence.

 

IV

The predicament of a stone flung
into the still water, the loneliness of a cricket
chirping; a shrill sound
pricks the thick skin of night. I lay
down, exhausted.
This night is carved in stone.
The cricket in the dark is chirping
your name, I am lost
in the cacophony of silences.
Did you, a moment ago, tell me,
you love me?

from Poets Respond
December 12, 2021

__________

Minerva Sarma & Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee: “We wrote this poem as a tribute to the 88-year-old Assamese poet, Nilmani Phookan, who has won the highest literary prize in India, the 56th Jnanpith Award. Phookan is known for his love for the French Symbolists. His poetry is earthy, with surprising turns. He subtly uses his cultural landscape in his poems. You can associate him with the old virtue of what is endearingly called a people’s poet. This poem was written across Guwahati (Minerva’s home) and Delhi (Manash’s home). Each of us wrote two sections. We leave the voices ambiguous, to emphasise the ambiguity of love. The epigraph is taken from Phookan’s poem ‘What Were We Talking About Just Now,’ translated from the Assamese by D.N. Bezbarua.” (web)

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