Genealogy Poem by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra



I recognize my father's wooden skin
The sun in the west lights up his bald bones
I see his face and then his broken pair of shoes
His voice comes through, an empty sleeve.
Birds merge with the blue like thin strokes.
Each man is an unfinished fiction
And I'm the last survivor of what was a family;
They left in a caravan, none saw them
Slip through the two hands.
The dial spreads on the roof
Alarms put alarms to sleep
Led by invisible mules I take a path across
The mountains, my alchemies trailing behind
Like leather-bound nightmares;
There isn't a lost city in sight, the map I had
Preserved drifts apart like the continents it showed.


My shadow falls on the sun and the sun
Cannot reach my shadow; near the central home
Of nomad and lean horse I pick up
A wheel, a migratory arrow, a numeral.
The seed is still firm. Dreams
Pitch their tents along the rim.
I climb Sugar Mountain
My mother is walking into the horizon
Fire breaks out in the nests
Trees laden with the remnants of squirrels
Turn into scarecrows
The seed sends down another merciless root;
My alembic distills these fairytales
Acids, riddles, the danger in flowers
I must never touch pollen or look
Into a watchmaker's shop at twilight.


My journey has been this anchor
The off-white cliff a sail
Fowl and dragons play near the shores
My sea-wrecked ancestors left.
I call out to the raven, "My harem, my black rose
The clock's slave, keeper of no man's land between us"
And the raven, a tear hung above his massive pupil,
Covers my long hair with petals.
Only once did I twist the monotonous pendulum
To enter the rituals at the bottom of twelve seas
Unghostlike voices curdled my blood, the colour
Of my scorpion changed from scarlet
To scarlet; I didn't mean to threaten you
Or disturb your peace I know nothing of
But you - living in these fables, branches
And somehow icebergs - tell me, whose seed I carry.

[From: Nine Enclosures]

Bijay Kant Dubey 22 August 2020

It is a poem of genealogy, family genealogy and history which Mehrotra is telling here in this poem, even taking us back to Lahore, the Partition drama which he might heard it later on and the journey from there to be to where he is now. There is something of course of dislocation, displacement and immigration which none but he has come to feel and mark it and all that he alludes and refers to symbolically said as an anecdote.

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Bijay Kant Dubey 21 August 2020

Genealogy, he is reading his genealogy, telling about the journey from Lahore in a rather sad tone taking us to the Partition scenarios and dismemberment of people to people contacts and uprooting of the roots of nativity resulting in painful displacement and dislocation difficult to be felt and put into words.None but they could say who undertook the tedious, tempestuous journey. How was it Lahore? What did it become in the aftermath of?

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Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Lahore / British India (Pakistan)
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