Lemonade and Other Poems

    By Susmita Bhattacharya

    Lemonade

    [Squeeze lime into a tall glass.
    Pour cold water. Two spoons of sugar.
    A pinch of black salt.
    Add ice-cubes and a sprig of mint.]

    The lemonade sweats on the table.
    Your eyes are fixed on mine. Below us,
    the city heaves with its night-time traffic.
    The thunder of trains with commuters
    Leaning out from the open doorways
    hanging on to their lives.

    You tip the vodka in, daring me to
    take a sip. The key remains on the table.
    Room 501. A waiter sidles past, his sleazy eyes
    run all over me. I look at my watch and
    follow the trails of condensation slinking
    down the glass.

    Slowly, I reach for the lemonade, you smile
    in encouragement. But ‘accidentally’
    I knock the glass over.
    All over your shirt.
    All over the keys.
    All over your smile.

    I grab my bag and run. The train
    thunders past with its night-time crowd.
    This time, I am hanging from the door,
    Hanging on to my life.
    Hanging you out to dry.

    I will never drink lemonade again.

    The Lymphatic System

    (inspired by ‘Blood’, by Celeste Herriotts)
    Like a spiderweb you
    spread into the outer reaches of an
    archipelago.
    You are the Gangetic delta, delivering
    a labyrinth of life-giving sap.
    You assess every intruder.
    Overcome. Digest them with the wrath
    of a hungry tarantula, wrapping them close
    in your lace blanket.
    Then spit out their calciferous carcass.

    You spin. You weave threads of immunity in
    someone’s universe.
    A meteor shower of resilience.

    I feel you.

    Knitting

    (Inspired by Sarah Filmer’s exhibition, Knitting the Walls, at God’s House Tower, Southampton 2022)
    The boys protest about the latest project at school.
    ‘Boys don’t knit. Our mothers do. Our grandmothers do.’
    The teacher bangs the duster on the desk and tells the
    ‘Shut up! The whole class will have to knit a scarf for your SUPW.’
    ‘Some Useful Periods Wasted,’ shouts a boy and
    promptly receives a piece of chalk
    bulls eye on his forehead.

    Teach me how to knit, I ask Aaji. She sits me down with
    her needles and baby blue wool. But her arthritic fingers
    give up on her. She watches the cricket match instead.

    Teach me to knit, I ask my Ma. But she is stirring the chicken curry
    with one hand and reading Shakespeare with the other.
    I’m sorry,’ she says, I have to plan this lesson for tomorrow.

    I will teach you how to knit, says my father. He’s found me sitting
    on the doorstep, looking like the world has given up on me.
    But how can you? You’re a boy – and Boys Don’t Knit.

    He smiles and sets to work. Knit and purl.
    Knit and purl. The needles clack as he speeds up his act.
    I stare at him, dumbfounded.

    Should I be proud of him? A man who can knit?

    I didn’t understand it then, but now
    sitting in a room with knitted walls, surrounded by yarns
    of wool and words, of history and emotions
    Three ducks in knitted vests flying into a woolly sunset.
    Poets sitting together sharing our stories,
    and me
    telling a story of how my father taught me how to knit.

    And by doing that, he taught me so much more.

    Susmita Bhattacharya is an Indian-born writer. Her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind (Parthian, 2015), was long listed at the 2018 Mumbai Film Festival. Her short story collection, Table Manners (Dahlia Publishing, 2018), won the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection and was featured on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Her poems have been featured on Mechanic’s Institute Review, Janus Literary Journal, No News Poetry Anthology etc. She is a creative writing lecturer in the UK.

    Social Handles:
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    Twitter:  Susmitatweets 
    Linktree:  susmita_bhattacharya 

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