- Cuttack, and: Leaving
Ancient town: your narrow lanes leading me to Kathajodi once and Mahanadi now, troubled me too much last night; the night didn’t know.
I’ve always been attracted by your mosquitoes and flies— my close companions in peace and happiness.
Day is friendship, company, loud talk, a long, muted dialogue with myself. Night is loneliness, long. How long can lovers sit together without a word exchanged? [End Page 130]
for Shantanu Mohapatra
Who has woken me from a mere one-hour sleep? To a night in a winter that separates Dhenkanal from the town where I was born and grew up until the fond earth was well past forty-two?
I clearly remember, there wasn’t any dream, nor is there a wish to have one now. As someone would have said, Sleep is legal tender. What then had arrived here that couldn’t wait a while longer?
Grandmother: you are remembered by one of the many who knew you, but how much, how differently! My friends, who loved your unkempt words, my widowed mother’s modest recipes are today far from themselves and me:
their sadnesses are too many to be with me for a night’s halt. Our frail mailboxes burst at their seams with old, outdated checks of love, and all the world’s banks are closed.
Now, the long-distance, early-morning buses have begun sounding near my doorstep on their way to Cuttack, where I lost my past, on the Janmashtami night one August. [End Page 131]
There is a long day to go. And then one more night of not wanting to go to bed at all. I’m tired from being woken up. [End Page 132]
Bibhu Padhi has published seven books. His poems have appeared in journals in India, the United States, Canada, and the uk, such as Indian Literature, Chandrabhaga, The New Criterion, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Poet Lore, Poetry, Antigonish Review, and Queen’s Quarterly. They have been included in several anthologies, most recently The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen.
note: Kathajodi and Mahanadi are rivers encircling the thousand-year-old Indian town of Cuttack in the state of Orissa, on the Indian east coast.