This is a very personal poem... I feel infinitely better having it posted for my blog readers. Death, dying, decay etc. have occupied a portion of my mind lately. Hope to derive strength from my readers' supportive reading, so please do comment:
You shirt flutters in the afternoon air
On a clothesline in the yard, sweat evaporating as
You sit under the toiling rotating fan under a humid roof
In your undershirt, smiling.
From you boots (Ma allowed you to keep them on) drop
Dust and grey grass, scatter in the musty breeze
On our living room rug.
Ma couldn't stop exclaiming: boots in this heat, you must be crazy!
You must be crazy, I reflect now,
To take your own life.
We are your little cousins who stare in bubbling adoration
As you tap your boots and strum a lonely guitar
Sing with eyes eying the wooden beams above that define
Our human menagerie, outline the ceiling.
Similar wooden beams where
One day you would sling your shirt in a loop.
Or was it the bright scarf you wore one placid winter
Working on tomatoes in your precious patch?
We giggled around ecstatic in touching the red round forms
And squished ourselves with blood of fruits while you sung.
The tunes stutter in my ears
As though they were butterfly wings broken and stuck
Still throbbing with the music of life that wished to live.
So young, yet you sing of pain! Ma had exclaimed.
You must have been pained
To die while we still hummed your song.
You let me play the strings once
You let me touch your colors that kept you busy through night
I marveled at your sculptures so lifelike
Perhaps life was elsewhere for you, I think.
Love is everything, it’s all up there, you had said winking
Before you were gone that summer day, waving at us kids,
Shirt back on. We practiced the springy steps you taught
And howled to see you go, Hawaiian guitar and all.
‘It’s all up there’ meant nothing to us then
Until we heard you were dead, my dead cousin.
They had brought your body down, flower dangling from a twig
Laid you beside your friendless guitar
Ma told us after many years the meaning of your songs –
He was a child of another world, she said, shy and alone.
About FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA (Cedar Books, New Delhi); By Nabina Das
"Fittingly for a poet, Nabina’s novel also has a strong lyrical core. 'Footprints in the Bajra' takes the homely image of the millet field as its central metaphor. ... But the novel is less a thriller about guerrilla action than a subtly colored character study of a fascinating group of individuals who intersect at various points in their lives ..." -- DEBRA CASTILLO, author, editor and distinguished professor (Cornell University, April 17, 2010).