Baisali Chatterjee Dutt

Five Poems

A Dozen Steps to Silence Doubt in a Volatile Lover’s Mind

Wipe your giggle off the wind.
Erase the light in your eyes.
Read poetry in secret;
          write it on the breath trapped in your lungs
           and be careful not to exhale.
          be in the mood, always.
Moan meaningfully.
Stroke his hair
                        till he falls asleep.
Be careful to time your breath 
                                                   to his snores.

Shut off the lights
inside your head
and silence your mother's warning,
             your sister's disapproval,
             your father's disappointment 
             your best friend's disgust.

Chew on oleanders to bear it
                                    bear it
                                    bear it.

With Empty Hands We Ask

You don’t understand.
We want to live
where our neighbours are people,
not scavengers
who refuse to meet our eyes
as they look for survival
amongst dustbins and debris;
where our fathers 
are not beasts of burden,
ploughing unyielding lands,
their spines cracking under whips
and cruel tongues;
where our mothers 
don’t have to shed their skin 
into our gruel,
day after day after day.
You don’t understand 
what it’s like to wonder
whether the water you drink
will kill you today,
whether the new pool of blood
will be your own.
You don’t understand.
You don’t understand 
what it’s like to keep vigil near windows,
wondering if they’ll come for your sister
and when they do,
whether they’ll sling her across their shoulders,
drag her by her hair
or simply point and say « Come. »
To look at your brother
from under lowered eyelashes,
wondering if he’s tall enough 
to be marched away with a gun in his hands.
We promise we’ll leave our songs behind.
We’ll bury our stories
behind the wall
along with our roots, souls, and soil.
We’ll come empty
save with doves 
beating in our chests.
All this for our daily bread
that our stomachs may know peace.
You don’t understand.
We just want to live
our beans are not rationed,
our breaths not measured.
We just want to live.
Please understand.

Several Wars

My Earth, 
                my body,
my country, 
                    my body,
my sex,
             my body --

and pillaged
every day,
there are several wars raging,
We fight for a piece of sky
because our oceans are burning,
                our lands dying,
                our blood drying.

The gods of war
bear several names
and they sit back
and make bets 
against our winning,
              our dying,
              our beating the crap out of each other
so that we can lay our carcasses down 
at their altar of mirth.

We hide to sew soul to skin,
break our own bones 
so that when caught,
we are already half-dead .
We take comfort in being masters of our own pain
if not of our Earth,
                               our body,
               our country,
                                   our body,
               our sex,
                            our body.

We own nothing.
Not even our ashes.

Quiet Desperation


Love's needs must be met
by Love alone.
But on nights
wrung dry of streetlights
and Old Monk,
and songs
wrenched from broken guitars,
Lust will fill in nicely.

My suicidal heart
will rush where fools boldly tread.
I try to hold it 
in my palm,
laced with arsenic.

My suicidal heart
rushes towards the wall
again and again,
yet you remain unmoved.
and bruised,
it staggers like a drunk monkey
towards an outstretched hand
offering a paracetamol 
well past it's expiry date;
any hand will do,
any drug is welcome.

Your indifference, 
and thus I am numb
to the sharp edges of your words.

Ours is a boundless history,
our grieving hearts in continuous flight mode.
We've adapted for survival
in the many tricks up our sleeves
and needles in our pockets.

If you should die before me,
I will to sing your memory the songs 
of your childhood.
But if I should go first,
please crack my body open
and give my bones another life.
I promise to do better
the second time round.

From the Dingy Apartment Everywhere

Between the space of your last grunt 
                                                          and first snore,
there is much to do.
I must first peel off 
the layer
 of your daily humiliations
and the dust
of your road-rage 
which you pound into me,
yet innocently,
for you don’t know 
                               any other way;
you don’t know
                               any better.
I must grab 
my soul 
and pull her out of my body,
the way
babies are forcefully yanked
from their tired mothers’ wombs
by cold,
invasive hands.
I will shake the bones out
and leave them for later;
my soul must be attended to
My wrinkled,
       crinkled skin
shall lie near your feet,
while I dunk my soul
in a bucket of Dettol water
and wring her out
to dry.
And then,
I shall hang her from our bedroom window
so that dogs can bark at it,
children throw stones at it
and poor passers-by
can guess its weight in gold.
what if a lizard eats it?
What unbearable truths
will it whisper into your ear at night
when you lie in bed,
grabbing for me
and I am not there?
When all you will be left with
is a bag of a body,
the bones ground into atta
for your daily meal?
Will you bang your fists
against the night sky
and scream
the swear words
meant for others
but which you gifted to me
Will you
allow yourself
to be eaten
by a lizard on the ledge
or sucked dry
by a hoard of mosquitoes –
or have you already been pummelled
into the innards 
of the city
by dirty soles,
cracked heels
and the weight of your crushed dreams?
‘From the Dingy Apartment Everywhere’ was first published in the online magazine, ‘Algebra of Owls’ in July 2016 and won the Reader’s Choice Award for the month.) 
Baisali Chatterjee Dutt is a domesticated nomad who writes, edits, dabbles in theater and teaches. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies and magazines, print as well as online. Her latest novella in verse, “Three is a Lonely Number”, is available on Amazon Kindle. Currently she is the Drama teacher at Sri Sri Academy, Kolkata. She has also co-curated two popular drama and writers’ fests in the city. Born in New York, schooled in Bangalore, with college in Delhi, Baisali Chatterjee Dutt now lives in Kolkata with her family. She has an MA in French from Jawaharlal Nehru University.You can find her gazing at the clouds and the moon with deep longing. She eats chocolate by the bucketful. She has two teenage boys. Ergo the chocolate. By the bucketful.