What are the Things You Leave Behind?

Published in Spinning Jenny, 2010.

 

What are your intentions regarding the ginger cat sitting on the wall,

the clock ticking carefully away, the solitude

of my ripped skin? How do you intend to deal with

silence, familiar walls guarding an echoing space, unheeding strangers

walking through streets that were mine?

 

Do they haunt you: the fetid air of Farmgate with its worn footpaths,

its insane monkey crowds, the tree-lined walkways

at Dhaka University, the crows that take flight

in the green calm of Public Library evenings, the sky-high diamond

kites of the Old Town, dirt on my feet

as we traverse these stepping stones to desire?

 

Can you see him: the dreadlocked, bearded, mad old man

(his followers carrying bundles of bread

and bananas) as he walks and walks barefoot along the broad avenues so

car-choked that traffic is synonymous with standstill?

 

Through your feet I’ve discovered another city hidden within mine.

 

Yet :

the orange-yellow crowds at Boi Mela on the first day of spring

are not yours, as aren’t the lakeside vultures eyeing taut young flesh,

lemon-tea and poetry at TSC, the Nilkhet cubbyhole stores

peddling worlds of willing blue flesh, unbridled

hope, the young couples in hooded rickshaws all tongues and hands

and love…

 

All these are mine and mine alone: the coinage of

my distant grief.

Fool that I am,

I will seek the broad avenues of this city

hoping to see it in a different light –

when the sudden storms of Boishakh bang shut the windows,

when the waterlogged city streets make Dhaka impassable

when the clear Sharat sky sings it’s song of impossible days

when city smog turns into the dawn fog of winter.

 

And when the discordant calls to prayer bellow

across the evening sun

and your voice no more echoes in my mind

to what shall this city of mine be rendered in darkness and design,

What can it all mean when you no longer know the way to

the blocked alleyway of my heart?