“The Night of Bone and Paper” by Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee


The night is as still as paper
—Uttaran Das Gupta

The night is a hard bone you cannot
Chew, an anguish stuck in your throat.
The night is reams of paper burning
In a crematorium, weightless bones
Fly into a sleepless neighbourhood.
The dead are too close to breathe, to
Ignore, to forget, to sleep. The dead
Roam in all directions, the air is full
Of shreds of bone-paper, the dead
Are finally able to breathe, without
Cylinders, they fall like black snow
Over alien windows, the night burns
In their memory, the dead look for
Shelter, they cannot find their way
Back home. They could not breathe
When alive, now we who are alive
Breathe their bodies of burnt paper.
The dead write on the city’s stifled
Air, words that catch your breath,
They write what we dread, they write
What we write on the night’s paper.

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2021


Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee: “The long night in Delhi, described with poetic precision by Uttaran Das Gupta, refuses to leave the minds and hearts of those who have lost their loved ones. I return to the night that doesn’t leave the city. I take the striking imagery in Das Gupta’s poem to explore what disturbs the still night of paper. This poem is (also) an acknowledgement of, and a response to, Das Gupta’s sombre poem.” (web)

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