What Were We Talking About Just Now? Poem by Nilmani Phookan

What Were We Talking About Just Now?


What were we talking about just now?
About stone being hard, water cold,
About fire burning
And peacocks spreading their plumes
About what the world's first dawn was like
And why a sweet fruit becomes bitter
The moment it is in the mouth

about the sky flaring up
Like a live ember
Just four minutes to midnight

About the earth slowly turning to sand
And the shadow of bamboo clumps
Turning to ash


No, I don't remember anything at all now
Did you tell me a moment ago
That you love me?

The Love that is dedicated
Only to mankind
And only to destitute children
Or to what lies hidden
Amid the thirsty weeds
At the bottom of the sea
Or in a chunk of coal

Was that what you spoke of
On that midnight
As you shed silent tears?

In all these days
I couldn't find a life
That I could call my own
Or a death that was all for myself

Who is it that nibbles to pieces
My days and nights?
How do I tide over this gory time?

Who is that having some celebration
So early in the evening?
And who among the dead
Will attend it?

How many times did
The calf skin moo?
And how many times did they return
Reddened with blood?

What did they see on their return
When they looked back?
And who did they not see
On that lonely labyrinthine path?

Like the wind
The horses are wheeling about the courtyard.
Listen to their neighing.

Last night, a poet like you
With a low voice
Passed away -

One who had realized
That there was nothing in his poetry
Nothing more profound
Than the chirping of the cricket

What we were talking about
Just a moment ago
About water being cold, stone being hard
And about peacocks spreading their plumes.

[From: Alop Agote Ami Ki Katha Pati Ashilo; Publisher: Student's Store, Guwahati, 2003]

Nilmani Phookan

Nilmani Phookan

Dergaon, Golaghat, Assam / India
Error Success