Volume Four, Issue 4

Abhijit Sarmah


‘… till now, it has not been explored what happened to the little princess of the Tipam king who accompanied Ramani Gabharu to Dhaka.’
             —Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, In Search of a Lost Ahom Princess

(Do I have to go with Nangsen, Swargadeo?)
                           when the body arrived at dawn draped in cheap plastic
                           the old father grabbed his hatchet and walked into the forest—
                           in another account, they still wait on the banks of Burhi Dihing
                           and tally Nahor blossoms and sporadic gunshots till there is
                           no herder to guide the blind cattle home. Now there are only
                           erected vestiges of history here in this valley covered with
                           carcasses of young women and men, the air gravid with
                           forgotten Oi Nitoms and tea-brown streams brimming with
                           skeins of rotten dreams leaching into coppery shadows
(Do the memories of Nangsen like termites
eat up your heart, Swargadeo?)
                           yet when suave rebels slink into villages, young widows weave
                           talisman clothes overnight and croon the sagas of valiant men whose
                           gore washed the heaths of Kuhiarbari and the thighs of Brahmaputra
                           till the moon mottled with mountain clouds canter down the horizon.
                                        For days to follow
                                                                  military through damp routes arrive
                                        like shoals of catfish and take their turns at
                                                                  shredding open expectant mothers,
                                        foxhunting children through charred hayfields
                                                                  barred properly with translators
                                        or like vultures clawing stiff remains until
                                                                  they become dark sandstones—
(What do we do with our bodies moistened
with wizened clouds, Swargadeo?)
                           then quietness ripples in stirring against the flanks of purple wastes and
                           caresses the memories overrun with gravel stones. The summer rain that
                           blows the ember: glassy pellets of stars travelling the length of an apology.

Nangsen: (also known as Romoni Gabhoru) daughter of Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha. Swargadeo: (m. ruler of heaven) the kings of the Ahom dynasty were called Swargadeo by their subjects. Burhi Dihing: a tributary of Brahmaputra River in Upper Assam. Nahor: Mesua ferrea L. Oi Nitom: love songs of the Mishing Community. Kuhiarbari: a place in Assam where Nara king Siu-Run-Pha and Ahom king Siu-Dang-Pha fought in the 14th century.

For You Left Like Bordoisila*

                                               …who could make out
what way from here your lights are?

             —Faiz Ahmed Faiz

for you left like Bordoisila passing
a sleeping city on its way at dawn
I ransacked our copse of memories
for relics of late autumn twilights
             & pounded antonyms—
             now in every city I drive into
there is always a verse ready to whittle
my impatience into endless hours of trying
not to willingly drown myself in confessions.
so I thaw into souks & watch
             sponge lilies in dirty tubs metrically
             sway their trunks to the cries of
white pigeons burning their feathers into wax—

      [forgive me for not knowing wrecked spirits
      from spring butterflies, parting from waiting]

Under the scarlet glow of summer skies
I amend every thickened sliver of cold noun
to an irrelevant pronoun till the seam between them
is a tremble—             in this small cist
of withering seasons there is no taste for symmetry

the sky here is an unfolding spread of asphalt
inching towards a parched moon.

Bordoisila: A severe cyclonic storm that marks the incoming monsoon season in Assam, India

Abhijit Sarmah: “Currently based in the North-eastern Indian state of Assam, I am a research fellow in the Department of English, University of Dibrugarh. I am also the author of a collection of poetry titled Dying With a Little Patience (2020) as well as a chapbook titled The Voice Under Silence (2016). My poems have previously appeared in South 85 Journal, Salmon Creek Journal, The Scriblerus, Not Very Quiet among many others.”

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