Sunil Gangopadhyay Poems

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Neera, sometimes, it seems
you are more distant
than even the day I was born.


With ease I make a million flowers bloom,
All at once I light up some suns, moons, stars,
In a passing whim I blow out the moonlight

A Truth Bound Sentiment

This hand has touched Neera's face,
could I use this hand to commit a sin,
ever again?
In the late evening glow

This Hand Has Touched

This golden figurine- oh dear, will she ceaselessly crumble away,
In the night, in the sun, in the rain in the arms of another man?
Her nipples two bared switches,- switches? Hands tremble at their touch.

Two Curses

I once spat into the sea:
no one saw me, no one knew—
The froth of the impassioned waves
swept away my spit.
Yet sometimes I am embarrassed, after so many years I can hear
the sea curse me.

On the mail train's body I once chalked
a woman's profile:
no one saw me, no one knew—
in fact even the stars in her eyes were not there.
Before the train could cross a single station, impassioned rains came—
perhaps my sketch was washed away.
Yet sometimes I am embarrassed, after so many years I can hear
the mail train curse me.

When I walk the road every day, do I trample its heart?
When I catch a woman's nipple with my teeth, am I brutalising her?
Sipping wine on wintry mornings
do I represent an exploitative class interest?
Is it a sin to embrace Saraswati's idol in the first flush of adolescence?
I am still not sure about such things.
Yet I can distinctly hear
the sea and the mail train curse me.

Translated by Pritish Nandy.


Each day for us was a day of changing birth
In the light - like pieces of broken glass in the sky -
From the horizon before me, like an exile, you advanced
with hesitant steps
Your body covered with a white swan's feathers, garland of gunja seeds round your neck
I was afraid
That wasn't a time for sightseeing, it was a time of banishment
Then the city was burning with hate, the knife in the human hand was being planted
in the human heart
Religion fed on corpses burnt in flames in buses and roads
Patriotism was being regurgitated like blood-vomit
I was imprisoned in the attic, I couldn't recognise you
Then, with a small notebook, I rose and leapt into deep blue space
You were, then, standing upon Dakshineshwar bridge,
The river in your eye's pupil
Profound silence of night-time in the town, all the schoolbells going ‘dong dong' . . .

Each day for us was a day of changing birth
Do you remember, when you, like cave-woman suddenly wounding adolescence,
Had tenderly embraced, very early at dawn, the soft, red winter sun
From the kadamba tree on Hari Ghosh Street, at the time, small shards of
diamond were slowly falling
The day's first blade-sharp tram went by, saying, Awake, Awake
As on a revolving stage, all was helter-skelter - now afternoon, now midnight,
now evening
I was, at the time, shouting out my lungs in a rally, drops of blood dripping from my nose
On all sides, hunger was flickering like a serpent-tongue
Ah! that enthralling, beggarly, imperious hunger
Like the direst circle in hell, that stomach-gnawing hunger
At certain moments, I saw, on the verandah, the anxious figure of motherhood,
eyes like a bird's
I'd dreamed that, one day, the world's mothers would serve steaming rice to all
the small, small children
Those bullets and explosions on College Street
You alighted from the bus, and, at that instant, inside, the festive gunpowder went off
With a jump, someone cleared the park railing, and lay down as an ascetic might
His face in the grass.

Each day for us was a day of changing birth
You were once Woman, you became Neera
I wore false beard and moustaches and became a clerk in a pharmacist's godown
My sandal-strap tore, I squatted before a roadside cobbler
No one could recognise me, we're all unrecognisable from the back
Sometimes I was the cobbler, and he the pedestrian
Sometimes I was the road; people walked by, treading on my breast
Sometimes I was silence and, at once, a restless roar
You gave a coin to the blind old man, in Sealdah the clock stopped ticking
So many people rushing, after getting off a train, stopped, motionless, for a few seconds
And then with a crashing sound much destruction ensued
Tear-gas smoke the police crying, the Chinese didn't want to be ‘bhai bhai'
Deflected by a handbill, people fell into a hole dug in the road - many sprained
their ankles
Three live cubs frolicked ebulliently in the gutter
A group of red-haired Englishmen left after photographing the scene on a French camera
You sat alone in the examination hall, the question paper didn't arrive
I was bent low, searching for small change in my torn pocket
You went to the flower show and flew your sari's aanchal like a flag
I lay all evening by the side of a cremation ground.

Each day for us was a day of changing birth
The body's lustre shines upon all those magic scenes
The body peeps inside the poem, sometimes it is shadow; sometimes it's the recalcitrance
of flesh and blood
Now it drowns, now comes and sits, face to face
Kalidasa's bee touched your quivering lip
I, having become grass and flower, placed my tongue upon your navel
Like Modigliani's woman, the moonlight glistens in your thighs
Once I became the child, and you the eternal Mother
At one point you were the absolute girl, an adulterous king desired you
The ocean flung powerful waves skyward
The sky was louring towards hell
A tantric was inhaling the smell of the yoni-lotus
the great illusion, unsatisfied, was saying, More, more
Ah! that playfulness, the heart's openness
In the springtime, we lay in bed and composed a hundred histories of copulation
Our arms round one another's necks, sitting unclothed by the window
at the hour of cow-dust or at dawn
A cigarette in my hand, in your hair a golden comb
The forgotten earth was returning to us, little by little; from heavenward, the soft sound
of a voice
At cow-dust or dawn, drop after drop of rainbow-coloured water in the sky
You kept staring in that direction; there was no aeroplane anywhere at that moment
Speaking in one voice with Keats, you absent-mindedly scolded Newton
That split-second was the moment of my rebirth.

Neera, our delusion ends, we once again build from sand those tiny houses of sorrow
We're still prancing about like naked children
On the seashore
Sometimes, what a splendid hiding-place, the century's jhau thickets
I can't see you, I've dipped my pen in the inkpot in your name
I haven't touched you, like a pregnant doe you melted into a mountainous kingdom
Storm after storm is blowing away entire sides of horizons
A wave of the magic wand is enough to summon from heaven waves of lightning
the earth growing in eminence
All's sound and sound's deletion, the turning of a page
The amloki fruit beneath the hands is sending out intermittent glances; it, too, glances
at me with a suppressed smile
Neera, you're alone on a faraway boat, you've spread your two wings
I'm alone in a distant mail train, can't read the name of a single station
You withdrew from the factions in the school committee, went and hid behind a door
I'm spending afternoons on a chair in a glass-ensconced room
While, on the other hand, so many tree-shadows by the river remain unoccupied
Those who'd said that revolution's at hand are now composing their memoirs
And those who were wiped out, were too much wiped out
The red-haired group's camera is still roaming the nooks and by-lanes
No one speaks of love any more
Whenever civilization hears of love, it breaks into giggles and laughter
When someone visits the bathroom to wash their face, they weep alone and splash their
face with handfuls of water
Neera, we have much further to go, don't get lost
There are many births to change, don't get lost
Neera, immortal girl, don't you get lost now!

Calcutta and I

Calcutta is a dead weight on my heart:
I must destroy her before I go.
I shall seduce her away to Haldia port
and feed her sweets spiked with arsenic—
Calcutta is a dead weight on my heart.

Calcutta counterfeits moonlight, and has learnt
to mix thorns and gravel
with her kisses.
She forgets to add sugar to tea like her tears
and has so many paramours
that even at noon her thighs separate.

How can I let you go, my charmer, so easily
to the Supreme Court at Delhi? Instead,
when dusk sets, with perfume on my heart
I shall clasp you with violence
and taxi down the strand.
You shall twist to the music in a restaurant
and slipping your sari off your shoulders
rest two cameras on your breasts—
everyone will whistle and applaud.

There is such music in your limbs, you are like a brilliant light
in the mirror, at your feet
I could bring a virgin eulogy in verse from the south of the city.
Shall I offer you a lotus on a golden tray?

You shall be murdered at midnight.

Calcutta, where can you escape my clutches?
You cannot hide in Canning Street—
and if you run down the broken lanes of Chinatown,
I shall chase you like a leopard,
leaping across the traffic lights, past miserable Burrabazar,
down Chowringhee—the convalenscent's diet—
I shall pursue you. My painful love like a strange phantom
shall track you down with vengeance.
Where can you escape? I shall turn back all the ships on the river
and switch on a powerful searchlight in the dark maidan
to grab you by your throat.

Before I escape I shall pour gunpowder in the secret ducts of your
and light a match between your thighs—
rows of mansions will be flung in the air, scattering
debris everywhere—all our lovemaking,
ornaments, the immortal universe of Chitpur shall be destroyed
in an instant.

As you have pushed me towards death,
you shall have to die with me.

By Writing a Poem

By writing a poem I shall now build a palace,
by writing a poem I shall claim a limousine,
by writing a poem though I may not be elected President
I shall demand my fistful of earth:
for eons this world has been indebted to the shepherd's song.

By writing a poem I shall claim Scotch, premium brand, and
a leg of chicken cooked in unadulterated oil, nothing less—
for this poem I shall demand countless odalisques—
or a woman whose knees I can clasp in a public place and crave

Whenever I stand at the level crossing I must hear gunfire—
after writing a poem I shall not renounce my demands—
like a pariah I shall roll in the dust near your feet,
wringing blood out of bones—I am still waiting, begging open
humanness from humankind's eyes—
from the fevered forehead, spit and phlegm I have come for this poem,
like a brutal drunk I have incinerated myself and risen from the ashes,
awake to the sound of helplessness echoing in my lonesome room
I have come to avenge everything by writing a poem.

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