Two Poems


Paper T[r]ails


Paper dreams within the cover of a book,
book binds itself with the glue of a spine,

spine weaves together — dovetailed
by the grace of words — words of passion,

words of grief; words of love, hate, wisdom.
Paper crafts its papyrus origins

journeying from tree to table
through clefts, wefts, contours, textures —

transforming from wood to sheet —
white sheets born of unbleached

natural shade — a tabula rasa waiting
for ink, graphite, or sable-hair touch.

Old-fashioned switches — dormant —
now spark static electricity. Paper imagines —

crisp, letter-strewn, bookish, word-wedged.
Phrases elegantly poised, ready to trip off

a palette, exposing photographic plates —
bromide undulations of an untold story —

a narrative to be matted and mounted —
a frame freeing open its borders to dream.

Ilhan’s weathered hands, its bulbous veins
hold time and text beautifully phrased —

he is a poet and painter, lover of the sea,
light, silverfish, a sculptor of history.

Like a musician recording his lyrics —
magnetic forces marrying science

and arts — he swims on crest-troughs
of sine-graph modulations, through

physics’ precision of arithmetic and tact.
Paper dreams in stacks, between covers,

among notes left surreptitiously
between pages for someone else to read.

A stray reader may find the letters —
unframed, borderless — electric spark

seasoned words — a democracy of text —
age preserved below secret seawater.


Home In Castries

        for Derek & Sigrid
Loss of one’s family can be grave,
            graver still if one loses everyone
                                    within a very short span —

my parents and family disappeared
            in an unexpected sweep, suddenly leaving me
                                    alone in this crowded world.

In Castries, as I sauntered through
            your beautiful home —
                                    the purity of white

dominated everything —
            the flowing curtains, cushions, your white
                                    linen shirts, the sand.

Sitting on the wood-decked porch
            sharing a meal that you had cooked
                                    for me, I looked out

over the still blue of your infinity pool
            that toppled noiselessly
                                    into the rowdy ocean.

Lucent silhouette of a single Piton peak
            mimicked Gros Islet’s double to deceive me —
                                    volcano’s tropical iridescence.

I had came here in an act of friendship
            and poetry — a leap of faith on your part —
                                    though compelled to rush

back home prematurely. You both held my hand,
            told me to be angry and not sad
                                    at my brother’s misdeeds —

to expect the worst,
            perhaps not being able to see
                                    my mother alive again.

It was to be so.
            My mother greeted me
                                    dead in a Delhi morgue,

cold and brittle in sadness
            at what her younger son did —
                                    yet regal, her love for all intact.

I came here to Castries, perhaps to find
            familial ties that bound you both to me —
                                    Caz and Glyn, two brothers

I didn’t know I had — a sister in Anna, an artist in Peter,
            and a song in Boo — all born of verse and word,
                                    of love’s madness and local grace.

You are my family now —
            I am glad the acrid seawater here
                                    anointed me in your homeland.

White crocuses in your garden gave me light
            and invisible ink to write a new history,
                                    tabula rasa waiting to be peopled;

hieroglyphics, uncoded fonts
            unmasking new rules —
                                    for another epic to be written.

Sudeep Sen

Sudeep Sen is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). Sen’s prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh, and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor). Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. He is the editorial director of Aark Arts and editor of Atlas. [Photo: Priti D Sen]

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