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- by Sonia Mukherjee

Anatomy of Causation

Into being, the radiance of this universe
lets things come. Action to unravel onto quiet. As when the pointed wing-tip
of a trying bird carves fluid, resonating galaxies on the still, suffering body of water.

Underneath, water creatures look on. Duck from the silver sparkle debris of their trembling silk sky. Wait for chameleon dissolving of walls. Listen. The bird here is not apathetic either. She has tasted damp concrete and ether. In her last sky-house, constellations kept to themselves
their chalky narrative lines. Unannounced vibrations might fly her to another
exchange, she knows. But now she is merely collecting herself, preening wet
feathers from seductive touch of an unfamiliar charmeuse
lover who will never be hers. Later, prophecies will
follow as the sole response left for us,
the fishes, and other resilient
clay beings.

But at this gut sliver of a second
when action meets repose, eyes
neglect their lugubrious home
of lid, time refuses to be
weighed, a wispy carcass of wing
forces itself upon water, and a
feathered knife newly glistens,
anything is possible, even
for surrender to become as spectacular as conquest.

Calcutta II

Dawn is near, and you’re running the camel to the slaughterhouse.

Have I drawn strings callously open on this burlesque show?
Earlier tonight in a discotheque gazelle women with vibrating phones and flailing limbs were exposing dramas in a different light.
Still, this sturdy dark lady with sand dune bends, gradual gait like the drenching then drying of your cobblestone streets in the floods
Could have been another.
The whore in the red-light district who makes you take off shoes when coming in
Her musky red walls with breath of palm liquor and incense.
When you cry.. an infant after lovemaking she cradles you between breasts,
And you could stone her face anonymous for the shameful solace of it.

In the monsoons your temples are kathakali dancers, their massive
Umbrella skirts-- pyramid cluster of stone steps.
When bathed in holy water, centuries old, are renewed again.
During many a damp night your fingers travel down this attire,
You are undone and whole.
The leper on the landing reaching for you with cauliflower hands
Runs you home to scrub yourself dirty, hard for redemption,
And the temples turn to stone.
Have I dug my toes too deep into your soil?
This city,
I can only see
When I do not want to.

Dawn nears, and you’re running the whore to the slaughterhouse.
Her oiled, jasmine hair curtains wet-bark skin
Red-wedding powder ornaments forehead and feet.
She feels the pull of her breasts, this beauty, smiles.
Tonight she is lighter than you.
Each passing hour creates a ghost,
Her anklets chime like temple bells
And you are weary, burdened
By the weight of your will.
I know.
Freedom carves labyrinths in us,
And you’ve just started to forget the foreboding pull of shackles.

It is four am.
The first rain of the season has undressed the city raw in mud.
By the Hooghly river, paper boats are dancing.
In gutters, your castaways: cigarette packs, wayward kites, unread poems
Swim downstream.
Somewhere a college student is up with his laptop preparing for the board exams.
His professor is awake too.
Tomorrow his publication comes out predicting the surge in stock markets.
In Tollygunge somewhere, a grandmother plants Tulsi seeds in the courtyard,
While somewhere else, an artisan molds the hips of Goddess Kali
From clay blessed by the Ganges.
Dawn, and you’re giving yourself to the sacrifice.
Corpses of cows, dogs, crows litter the road,
Rancid smell of flesh wafts in the air.

They’d kept reminding you,
After so much time, you’re still all animal and heart.

If I unveil you unexpectedly, Calcutta, will you neglect me?
If I still see my savage face burning, radiant in your eyes.

When you came calm, it was

Naïve wings, half-alive,
I will show you the baby birds,
chirp and tongue tender still.
I pretended then.
I did not move them.
Crimson cloth chrysanthemums,
eggs nestled in manufactured twigs.
You are here, asking.
I will tell you the story of the sparrow,
who made nest a wreath I had bought
from a flea market.
Are we not, each of us, seeking, envisioning?
Suddenly sobbing savagely for gashes in the other’s skin.
Do we not look to the oblivion with trembling mouths,
and gaping limbs?
Once, you pointed,
"there we live, between Nostradamus and Galileo,
deciphering things as we go."
We looked at the sky in wonder.
We were, then.
You come here clean wanting no bandages.
As if to say that the cardinal with wings clipped
never knew the hardships of flight.