The Size Of A Child’s Coffin
Syria: A country with not enough land to hide The blame, the shame, and the pain of 18”, 24”, and 36” coffins, So, the dead lie like a stairway to heaven, 150 plump, dimpled, cold steps to a better world A country too small to bury The infant bodies in its bowels, So, the dead children rise and swell From the valley of ashes and rubble Like a sea of waves, (en)shrouded in white
I walked down a boggy path this afternoon, fortified In borrowed wellingtons, With an umbrella too feeble to fight the wind, And a mind too far gone from home. The road got more difficult and I shall not lie, In moments of fleeting sanity I did wonder why Where When What How - I digress - I did wonder where I was going, What I was looking for, Why. In answer, the dense forest and the Seamus Heaney landscape Led to a sudden clearing and I saw a postcard before my eyes. Mountains, Black, brown, charcoal, ochre, flaming green, carmine, Cloud grey, sunshine mountains across the loch Stretched against the painted sky. As it started raining, Colours, washed from the canvas of this sky, Drenched me And I realised That the postcard was real. So I cried. Beauty that brilliant can sometimes hurt the eyes. I bent down in the rain to Collect leaves, pick up fallen flowers, gather mushrooms: I'm a hoarder, I amass memories To fossilise them in me. Yet, I know, some day when I'm gone They'll scatter away my scattered treasures: My Arden Macbeth, Baba's stories, maple leaves from Beijing, Shingles from the shore of Loch Lomond, Red telephone booth magnets from London, Bookmarks from San Fran, Ma’s haiku written to me from Dhaka, A pressed hydrangea from Bhutan. Still, I collect Autumn leaves. Does a tree cry when tossing its leaves aside? Or when its leaves die? I thought, let me try To be a tree. I too was born free And then chained By hopes, dreams, fashions, fears, loves, tears. So, I began to strip: Boots Socks Belt Keychain Denims Muffler Sweater Shirt Spectacles Silver anklet Gold ring Underclothes Inhibitions And took a dook in the ice cold brook. As the water burnt my skin I let my heart meander (Tired of chasing fame and failure) From the banks of the Clyde To old Calcutta, With a speed that even light has never known. But then the discordant sound of a car Broke the symphony of the wild winds And the architecture of my dreams. How long had I been in the water? Where had I traveled to? In that dot of a moment I had been infinite. Memories can distort topography and time. Memories can wear you down + it’s tiresome to dream. So, I put on my clothes, I put on my smile, I put on my mask, And readied my accent, Preparing to meet the world again: Is the word pronounced lulla-bees, or is it lulla-byes?
There is a river in Canning, called Matla (n., meaning: intoxicated/ the first couplet in a ghazal). I would like to be her, some day: a drunk roaring raging raving poem of a river Our rivers never get judged.
Somrita Urni Ganguly is a professor, and award-winning poet and literary translator. She was a Fulbright Doctoral Research Fellow at Brown University, and is an alumna of the University of East Anglia’s International Literary Translation and Creative Writing Summer School.
Somrita served as a judge for the PEN America Translation Prize, and the Women Empowered-India’s Kamala Das Poetry Award. She was an Expert Reader for the English PEN Translation Grant, and the National Endowment for the Arts Translation Grant offered by the US federal government. She is currently Head of the Department of English, Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, University of Calcutta. Her work has been showcased at the London Book Fair and features in various national and international journals.
Somrita edited the first anthology of food poems, Quesadilla and Other Adventures (2019), and translated Firesongs (2019), Shakuni: Master of the Game (2019), and The Midnight Sun: Love Lyrics and Farewell Songs (2018), among others. She was recently awarded the WE-Glowing Diamond certificate, and is a recipient of the Sarojini Dutta Memorial Prize (2011), and Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund Award (2013).