The House With A Thousand Novels - Poem by Aruni Kashyap
This is a house, L-shaped,
seven-hands high; soil-veranda—
with twenty-one novels in it.
Every evening, five daughters beyond the banks,
who rested like bees in other houses,
with higher lower or equal soil-verandas
and more or lesser novels,
lift a night-black iron cauldron
so that it squats on the hearth.
This is a house, with twenty-one novels,
in episodic form, like long yarns.
In the room facing the east, where the eldest son lived
an almirah stood, with termites battling against it—
every night, along with the odious I'll-take-you-away-song
of the bespectacled inauspicious barn-owl;
proud, filled to the neck, with a thousand books.
Many of them were novels.
Popular, unpopular, pulp
erotic (hidden between old "important" newspaper cuttings) .
This is a house with eight doors,
seventeen windows, no ventilators.
In summers heavy with sweat and skin
snakes creep in for coconut-water-cold soil,
coated cool with greenish cow-dung
the epidermis of the seven-hand high veranda.
Everyday someone comes in—
leaving rippling traces forever
like generational earthquakes:
A wailing woman leaves a story of oppression, licensedrape, barrenness, adultery;
A married daughter, beyond the banks, comes back to
A worker runs away, digging up hidden gold jewellery
from one of these story-ridden rooms.
This is a house, with
a thousand serialised novels
floating in the heavy air.
Someone shrieks everyday.
Someone reads the caws of the crow and expects guests.
Picks up a mosquito from the milk and prays that no one dies.
Lights a mustard oil lamp in the household's prayer-room singing
And children carry love letters for peanuts from here, from there,
leaving traces of story
to be ruminated forever:
At night, around winter-fires,
the chewing and grinding of betel-nuts,
while lifting the iron cauldron.
This is a house with a thousand novels
(or more) .
Every window or a room that mourns for a vent
treasures a story in it, which
no worker can run away with;
more precious than gold
buried deep enough, deeper than
a spring, a well
so that it lives forever and grows
like tears, hair and serialised novels in journals;
inadequate to live anymore
in a wooden almirah eroded by termites.
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