Four Poems

April 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm (Poetry, Sampurna Chattarji)


(or when did she grow so old?)


Can you feel her bones under your fingers?

My arms hold a smaller bundle of flesh

than they did before.

Once, she held me bundled in her arms.

Now, she barely fills the space

between my body

and her embrace.


© Sampurna Chattarji





There is a corpse in the room.

We brought it here ourselves.

Mama said, isn’t it heavier than it ought.

We were too sad to pay attention.

They were all coming to see the body.

All of them.

Some from as far away as home.

No, we were too sad to listen.

And too busy making tea.

Such a rainy morning.

The sewers had burst.

The plank outside our door was wobbling.

Mausi couldn’t find the house.

Ravi found her, sari hitched above her knees.


If only we had a telephone.

Ramabai next door is making calls for us.

The rest are coming by instinct.

This death is no surprise.

My mother, killed by her self.

Being eaten up, the doctor said.

First the breast, then the liver.

Then the lung.

Her body ate her up alive.

And now she’s dead, under that sheet.

Come, fold it back.

Whoever’s here is here.

One last look before


The corpse in the room is a stranger.

Not my mother but a man.

Heavy, tall and thickly bearded.

I told you, Mama said, but.

It was dark, and they were rude.

Take your dead and don’t argue.

A quick flick of crisp notes.


That’s what they wanted to see.

In exchange, a quick look at the corpse.

Instead, empty hands and unshed tears.

The body, thrown like a sack.

We cry out loud.


Are strangers burning our dead?


© Sampurna Chattarji




What’s Evil Eye doing squinting on the glint of a smile like that why is Evil Eye jealous of the fellows looking at me I grew a mole on my cheek to tweak Evil Eye away but why does Evil Eye keep looking what does he see Does he see a dark blue mountain lashed with light a serpent growing scales at the base of my spine does he see a fang glittering with stones or does he see a pang of fear made flesh in the hollow of my bones Does he see the inside of my skin turning purple and gentle then furious and gold does he see fever and madness evil or sadness does he see tenderness turning old does he see skies in my eyes or lies in my thighs does he see a faint shadow on the side of a wall does he see me


at all?


© Sampurna Chattarji




Sometimes it looked like a man in a kayak, sometimes like a petrel.

– Sedna myth



It is the moment

before the harpoon flies

In a second the bone white spike

will strike flesh wave weed

Black lacquered wood poised

around that act that one detachable

point of departure from its frozen

sleekness that desire for violence

and survival

The man’s face gives nothing away

Anorak and fist and boat

joined at the hip by the fluid craft

that made this fluid craft


Man and boat

waiting and flight


Unmoved the paddle rests

dreaming of other rivers


© Sampurna Chattarji



All poems reprinted here with the permission of the author, from Sight May Strike You Blind, Sampurna Chattarji, New Delhi, Sahitya Akademi, 2007. ISBN 81-260-2420-8. Pages 94. Price Rs. 50. Queries:


1 Comment

  1. ozymandiaz said,

    I, in particular, like #4. Very brazen.

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