The nights of Awadh are famous for poetry.
Sometimes the night waits at a door to say
a few words of Ghalib or Rumi in a soft whisper.
Sometimes the boisterous laughter of the night
can be heard across the windows lit with oil lamps,
whose fragrance permeates the walls under the moon,
who keeps vigil as a companion will do.
Sometimes the night gets intoxicated and walks
the lanes in faintly heard music of ghazals
and slowly fades in drowsiness into the dawn.
The days of Awadh are filled with the languor
of the chess players contemplating the movements
of armies on the chequered board as the smell
from the kitchen stoves fill the air with thoughts of a feast.
Then the day gets tired climbing and comes down
like a drop of tear descending from your eye.
And again the night stumbles in unsteadily
like a poem disinterred from one’s memory.
In this unseason season
it is inauspicious
to start anything new.
A bunch of Nilkanth
colours with blasphemy
all my closet transgressions.
I, a flower-picking girl,
hide behind my stealing eyes
a month of stolens leaves.
My worship of the buds
is a secret which bursts
a blush of ripe sacrilege.
Be gentle on me.
I imagine the life of that girl
in a short-sleeve three-quarter dress,
who watches countless trains pass by
while being stranded on her balcony.
I name her Nayantara
and imagine that she never saw
all those trains carrying dead bodies
of all those partition refugees.
History has been so kind to her.
So, while rushing back on train when I see
in the fields silhouettes of crucified trees,
I let her be, I let her be.
The Greatest Love Poem
Last night having failed to write
the greatest love poem of all times
I decide to write that failed poem
and question what is greatness.
Staring long at a gray patch of green
it seems the grays are the greens
and ungreatness a greatness
and all deceiving undeceiving.
Isn’t unbuilding walls great?
What else is I cannot say, perhaps,
all love should be common and
a poem is not meant to be great.
Your busyness begets emptiness.
In the language of imagined
people I speak… Is this the sign
of madness or just being a poet?
In the language of imagined
people I measure emptiness.
A spoken word bounces from wall
to wall to wall to wall until it comes
back to me old and tired
and debilitating as if after a long
journey into dementia.
Some words don’t return at all
and are reported missing
in the language I imagine.
Amit Shankar Saha is a widely-published award-winning poet and short story writer. He has won the Poiesis Award for Excellence in Literature, the Wordweavers Prize (both for poetry and short story), Asylum of Allusions Poetry Prize, and the Nissim International Runner-up Prize for Poetry. He has received commendable mentions in Wingword Poetry Contest and Cha ‘Void’ Poetry Contest. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets, the Assistant Secretary of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library, Chief Executive Editor of Virasat Art Publication and the Fiction Editor of Ethos Literary Journal. His poems have been included in Best Indian Poetry Anthology 2018 and he has read his poems at Sahitya Akademi, Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival and at other literary events. His collections of poems are titled Balconies of Time (Hawakal 2017), Fugitive Words (Hawakal 2019) and Illicit Poems (Pothi 2020). He has co-edited a volume of short stories titled Dynami Zois. He has a PhD in English from Calcutta University and teaches in the English Department of Seacom Skills University.