Poems by Sudeep Sen
Our street of smoke and fences, gutters gorged
with weed and reeking, scorching iron grooves //
of rusted galvanise, a dialect forged
from burning asphalt, and a sky that moves //
with thunderhead cumuli grumbling with rain, ….
— derek walcott, Tiepolo’s Hound, Book One, (II).1
Ten years on, I came searching for
war signs of the past
expecting remnants — magazine debris,
that mark bomb wounds.
I came looking for
people past, skeletons charred,
that once housed them.
I could only find whispers --
whispers among the clamour
of a small town outpost
in full throttle --
sketching outward signs
of normalcy and life.
In that bustle
I spot war-lines of a decade ago --
though the storylines
are kept buried, wrapped
in old newsprint.
There is order amid uneasiness --
the muezzin’s cry,
the monk’s chant --
merging in their separateness.
At the bus station
black coughs of exhaust
The roads meet
and after the crossroad ritual
skating along the undotted lines
A porous garland
with cracked beads
adorns Tiger Hill.
Beyond the mountains
are dark memories,
and beyond them
no one knows,
and beyond them
no one wants to know.
Even the flight of birds
that wing over their crests
don’t know which feathers to down.
they fly, tracing perfect parabolas.
I look up
and calculate their exact arc
and find instead, a flawed theorem.
she has no english;
her lips round / in a moan ....
calligraphy of veins ....
— merlinda bobis, ‘First Night’
My syntax, tightly-wrought --
I struggle to let go,
to let go of its formality,
of my wishbone
desiring juice -- its deep marrow,
muscle, and skin.
The sentence finally pronounced --
I am greedy for long drawn-
out vowels, for consonants that
desire lust, tissue, grey-cells.
I am hungry for love,
for pleasure, for flight,
for a story essaying endlessly — words.
A comma decides to pr[e]oposition
a full-stop ... ellipses pause, to reflect --
a phrase decides not to reveal
her thoughts after all — ellipses and
semi-colons are strange bed-fellows.
Calligraphy of veins and words
require ink, the ink of breath,
of blood — corpuscles speeding
faster than the loop of serifs ...
the unresolved story of our lives
in a fast train without terminals.
I long only for italicised ellipses ...
my english is the other, the other
is really english — she has no english;
her lips round / in a moan --
oval, rich, nuanced, grammar-
drenched, etched letters of glass.
About the poet
Sudeep Sen [www.sudeepsen.net] is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio), ‘fascinated not just by language but the possibilities of language’ (Scotland on Sunday). He received a Pleiades Honour (at the Struga Poetry Festival, Macedonia) for having made “a significant contribution to contemporary world poetry”. Sen’s prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh, The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), and Fractals: New & Selected Poems|Translations 1980-2015. A new book, Blue Nude: New Selected Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in major international anthologies; and his words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Herald, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on bbc, pbs, cnn ibn, ndtv, air & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of aark arts and the editor of Atlas.