Blank mountain sky,
Dark matter below.
The moment clear and black
A voice rings from the other side,
Telephone on dark wall –
Pitch and bitumen.
What are your exact coordinates?
A long breath, a sigh.
A gruff voice –
Looking for fish eye in swirling water.
One who talks less, works more.
A voice that does not tell stories.
We shovel our heads looking for an answer
Futile lessons of geometry
Never learnt at school.
Someone grimaced – in dark humour:
Somewhere so deep you never can reach,
Before being hushed, by the rest of us.
92 degrees. Someone else spoke out,
A guess. He could well be counting stars.
East or west?
No point sending them the wrong way
In a circle.
There was still a triangle of comfort
The waters hadn't seeped in,
We dangled, fingers and toes, on the last
Of those perches. The wall held firm.
Stuck in a world of no tomorrow.
The gods will arrive, we whispered,
Lead us children to tomorrow…
Hope arrives, in cranes and planes,
Voices muffled, mumbles and grumbles.
The dark earth echoing.
We were scooped up, one by one,
We lay in the common dust.
A wise man, one of us, but who had seen
Giant wheels move,
In earth and sky,
They always knew,
Where we were.
They could see us from a great bird in the sky
How our destinies hung, like bats upside down,
On the black wall.
But they still wanted to know.
We said we didn't know. We also asked:
How can the great bird see what's inside earth?
He had no reply.
This was like throwing pebbles in the water.
We were asking questions like our kids who go to school,
And tumble on the red sunset earth.
How many stars? They are…
He said our questions smoke like a forest fire.
All he knew, was what we all knew.
We felt bad, being in the middle of not knowing.
No one knew – anything. Only the elephant remembered.
We knew those big men in Dilli, in
The dry dust of Dilli, swim different.
What we didn't know – was – what we didn't know.
Watching those distant stars we call our neighbours,
Like the birds at our doorstep. Like morning.
* * *
Feeling drips through the night
Faces scream silence,
Patient as the last wall to fall.
Make way for the wounded, they need places.
We the living
Seeking joy in a heartbeat's murmur
The storm clearing
The poor doctor, so troubled
I left my heart with him
* * *
The waters swelling
Head above weather,
We backstroke glacial,
The long ambling reach,
All time ours.
Ruined buildings, silent witness.
Someone whispers: Manhattan.
We enter the fifty-first floor through a window,
Wriggle out dark like fishes
A scientist among us murmurs,
Digging up history:
We knew this for a hundred years
Yet nobody did anything.
We keep swirling, mermaids of the
Future. Earth is a forlorn shore.
Soon we will touch the sky
And wade our dreams with those distant stars.
~ Amlanjyoti Goswami's poems have appeared in publications in India, Africa, UK and USA, including in the recent anthology 40 under 40: An anthology of post-globalisation poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). He grew up in Guwahati and lives in Delhi.