Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)

An Urban Inquiry: Three poems

by Rheea Mukherjee

Inquiry (1)

In this city I shall prevail, find myself within throngs of people searching for the same fish to boil in their Sunday fish curry.

      I won't pay the taxi man, although I'll tell him my story.

I'll sweat out these summers in return for a monsoon that won't flood .I'll condense my ambition into the size of a green pea and when it bursts within my hungry lips, it overwhelms you with the potency of nutmeg.

I'll pick the old man off the road, buy him another bottle, he'll be dead in a week.

I'll gather enough entertainment to last me a week, when boredom sets I'll walk around a park that takes twenty-four laps to figure a mile.

 I shall prevail, amongst lopsided sidewalks and strays that lick dust. I'll buy melted ice cream from a man with a cart. From there I can see the malls that sell flowerily perfume; I am told it smells like what this city used to.

Inquiry (2)

There was a man killed in a rural area, the exact place I don't recall. There was a sense of injustice, and the general sense of poverty one gathers from a village setting. It makes one feel a smidge of pity and a disheartened moment may conquer the heart for a second, perhaps two.

Listen, the problem with pity is this: pity clogs the city; then poverty thickens it. It ferments our atmosphere sour with an unpleasant smell. Instead, to distract us,
we allow newspapers to transform into colorful magazines and potatoes from a dying mans farm curl into fried delights. You see we have our own problems in the city; we walk on streets where tar has retained such blazing heat, it keeps our toes off the ground.

Inquiry (3)

      These tin sheets consider
cooing lullabies and sighs exhaled as thickly as dust that coats these streets burdened with tin against tin.

These walls are smoldered
       in sweat concentrated, a viscous jelly spreading upon a surface of refuge.

      Allow this kerosene fueled lamp to illuminate
this infant on her mother's green cottoned lap. Infant sleeps within the rhythm of dreams nourished by mother, nourished by heat, nourished by confinement.
       Kerosene smells like this
       a betel leaf chewed, a tea boiled violently on a fire as ferocious as her eyes.
       She claims this as her palace of tin, nourished by the wages of a man
       who romances concrete and sleeps with cement.            .  

If you ask her to leave she cannot
She came to accept billboards larger than plots of land. She watches concrete expand,  mesmerized by its vastness, like a view of an ocean from feet in sand. Instead of waves, concrete encroaches, nudging, soon crashing like high tide.

     She walks on rubble   
     in order to nourish herself with dreams of  tin that cannot collapse upon her child, who  
     is wanton with the pleasures of milk, nourished by the tin sheets that are walls.           
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