We went to watch birds
in the backwaters of Chennai.
Left-over ocean in brackish lakes
where the water hyacinth is
slowly squeezing-out its living air,
where rushes of wild reeds
hold on to residues of smoke
from exhausts of cars on the highway.
Holding on to what ought to have been let go.
Held on by what has nowhere else to go.
But even in this we find a small paradise.
On an island of mud and rocks – an acacia tree.
On its branches – egrets and cormorants,
dipping pin tails swimming close by.
Purple herons swoop in, and overhead –
a scoop of pelicans fly.
Driving back, we stop at the Koovum river
not speaking of the effluents it carries
– the sins of others, not dredging bottoms,
not holding grudges. We see
one dead fish and a sunset painted in storks.
Borne by some conviction that survives
the poison of our city, the birds come back
to perch on its edges.
Their magnificence at odds with our nature
like the flapping of goose wings in wooden clappers
like the wound-up cuckoo bird on a short spring.
on a lemon tree
Dark Sal leaves,
on the grass, with
them (bare foot
bare soul) me.
Long ago the plates
of our planet moved apart.
The Tethys sea drowned
leaving behind its light still
rippling on rocks.
Long ago the plates
of our planet moved apart
and came closer to us.
Keeping for us the impression
of water on rocks, bringing us
signs, marks of memory
not our own. Keeping us,
if we’d believe, in the deep time
held in the bones of a living earth.
Like plates of the planet moved
apart, of drownings we don’t
yet speak, it isn’t for us to know
what will become. If the patter
of playful feet, if the touch of
small hands will learn from
impressions of scars not their own
of our light and our dark,
of our time. Not what we
variably recall of our lived lives,
but what we know in our bones
without proof as our Tethys seas.
Anannya Dasgupta is a poet and artist who lives in Chennai. She is the author of a book of poems Between Sure Places. Her poetry can also be found in Hakara, All Roads Will Lead You Home, Wasafiri, Pyrenees Fountain, Ponder Savant and South Florida Poetry Journal among others.