Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 4



Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay




identity crisis as country song

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place pronounce
the return of the cowboy hat,
nothing ain’t the same no more
but indefinite meaningless longing:
outlaw breath, outsider bloody
houses getting torn down, built over—
i will be living in my truck soon
or what does home mean,
if it changes?

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place pronounce
the return of the yee haw,
nothing ain’t the same no more;
things have changed, i say,
like the old man with the shotgun.
house is no transparent vehicle;
it fatally flaws; fingerpickin’
on the old porch swing,
heartbreakin’ in the streets

i am not done writing about leaving

date of entry into u.s.: 12/12/2003
naturalization date: 10/30/2015
white people explain things to me:

i don’t see myself;

now this ain’t my story to tell:
i have dark skin, and not from
the country sun; i loved my city then

i am not done writing about leaving

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place pronounce
                           the return:
the Kacey Musgraves to my Johnny Cash
nothing ain’t the same no more—
this place done got too big for its britches,
mind you; there’s a line to take pictures
with the angel wings, save this town,
the Koch brothers took our train,
now how are we gonna get somewhere?

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place pronounce
                           the return:
Honky Tonk Tuesdays and whiter skin,
nothing ain’t the same no more—
not from around these parts, so go back
to where you came from (now how does that feel?)
i know no one wants to hear opinions these days,
portraits and pawning off this frontier state,
tragic, aggressive, no offense. but thank you,

i am not done writing about leaving

sure, i didn’t grow up with brisket but aloo bhaja
at the temple; when i realize they leave me out,
my friend says i am having an “identity day”

i don’t see myself;

hold me like you hold your drink;
stop me from hollerin’ as it is too soon,
sentimental bastard, laugh it off

i am not done writing about leaving

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place, you want funny
poems; sorry to kill the mood.
what’s wrong with not loving my country?
city lost its Sun, laugh it off anyways:
spilt milk fallin’, wipin’, bulldozin’
the people that say they will stay are the first to go
it’s a good way of missing something,
old town road, trampling on and away,
city rebrands itself on the backs of strangers.

you who have spent your whole lives
renouncing this place, speak of new Nashville
like Jamestown, pillaging earth, placing tall
and skinnies like plantations or jailhouses.
Dolly said it’s ok if you take my man but
please don’t; Woody said this land is yours
but it’s mine too. front lawn fascism,
dogs, and bachelorette bars; am i too old
for this place? one more breakup, another
dollar, one last look in the rearview mirror

and we leave
and we never stay





coller, to stick

The word collage comes from this French word, something about lingering, persisting, enduring in places, unable to move. Perhaps, then, life is a series of such moments, in succession, all pointing to the same idea. Like the jazz at the Afro Beat Show we went to or the works of Synthetic Cubism in the Modern Art Museum, collage ruminates in experience, with the tangible physical aspect unmoving and the emotional discovery embedded in time or place. Henri Bergson once said that “the pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” This makes me think of the Parisian cathedrals—how empty and ancient. Yet they are monoliths of architecture, of faith, of people. If memory, then, is founded on things that change our lives, we must draw the line between this memory and fabrication, like Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Once experience becomes fabrication itself, memory becomes a dreamlike conjunction. We visited Jean-Paul Sartre’s grave, and I thought of his line in Nausea: “The self-taught man dreams for a moment.” If our education is an accumulation of dreams hand in hand with knowledge, then the air of a new city becomes both right under our feet and a million miles away, both close and far. If this city, this new day, this new night, if these can be foreign, then everything is. If one desires spontaneity, one can find that in the ordinary: on a small farm in Normandy or in the backs of airplane seats. If one desires epiphany, one can stumble upon that in fusion, juxtaposition, free-association. The collision of newness and familiarity, the thought of a previous time in a present one, the way a different place reminds you of love. These insights or transformations are impressionistic as we experience time as linear and forward moving but experience memory as reconstructed. These are my personal memories, experiences, epiphanies, however fabricated, all reminding me of the place and people I left behind whether that be Nashville or Paris, all changing. Yet these will stay and stick with me, persisting, enduring in places, unable to move.

the farm at Normandy:

watch out; there are lions
in the wheat, a quiet pastoral
symphony, the sad mule
left out in the meadow:
a refrain walking through

steps cannot be retrieved
once they are taken, webs
pulled out of the way;
we are a strange kind
of animal, spinning a thread
of our own, spiders climb
like they can fly, nothing new!

who goes here in the clear,
the other side of the field:
someone i do not know,
some one fear of the other,
alien feet footsteps

i wish you were here instead
of these strangers; look
how quickly they walk;
you would walk slow with me,
the mud on my shoes

there are plenty of places elsewhere
to hurry, there are plenty of places
to rest if one takes the time, a breath
of the woods, let them walk without
you, let you walk without you too

gray cats made of smoke slink,
stone walls from the war, fruit
from the orchard sticky, no one sees,
the rush of the creek is the quickest
sound in the wild, affixed to the bank

like the lines of apple trees glued
down in place, cutouts of thistles,
overgrown weeds, honey spoons
when you can still hear the bees

do not trust those who are not trees,
they will uproot by themselves,
hurried, unsettled, not tied down
to any earth, wish sticky nectar,
bedrock raw of foreign sweat

they want to tell ghost stories,
the haunts in hollows, but we,
apparition of moment previous,
a figment of stupor, a journey
in repeat, a green purgatory but
garden of Eden, sin of man
or release, almost a half-forgotten
vision rising up from the ground

casual aggression, laughs and wooden
chair squeaks, someone looking at you,
you looking at me like the dirt
under fingernails, still dancing
the smell in your nose, tickling,
the worry, or sleep, bigger in dreams

i’d rather not say any more, not out loud
at least, the shiver down my spine,
my mouth so free, the swell of us,
exploding leaves, kiss from the sun,
head in your grass, i want to stay

catch the year, make me full,
in every sense, life so old,
the way it flowers, the trigger,
a certain kind of critical mass,
a human movement, collective start
but only when ready, the French
nighttime, warm in a cold place,
the end of the feast on the way
home, never to be the same again,
i have lost my words for the time,
a longing, a presence, stubborn

airplane there and back:

seven hours of uncharted time, i gained
suspension, what have we been doing here
like everything contrasts Paris, and I know
you different, window can go through
but a sky cannot, gravity less feet

leave a place and finally
have someone to come back to,
the American Dream, voice of cream
the morning after, slippery buttered
toast at the only place to eat,
Waffle House kings and queens;
here, on the precipice of old
and young, the black and white tile
creeps into the shifting movements
of our feet, the light trailing over
the silverware; everyone so conceptual
and I think of you, cured, trembling
at the thought of your father who believes
in God and the bottle, and I cry first time
in front of someone I don’t know yet

the past and memory are the flip sides
of the same coin, they both cling—
I write this more like an unsent missile,
kind of like waking up next to you
smelling and speaking of nightmare,
there are no sunny side up’s suspended
in this sky; I am slowly inching far
from you, close to you, and it reminds me
of your self-doubt cradled in its swing,
you call home everyday while I pinch
the note you gave me and hope
you are taking care of yourself

you said once that everything in life
that’s not living is an approximation
of what it’s like to be living, and
I wonder, one more chance, lost in Paris,
about what good means and why
you crave it like a high—stumbling
over words—but then I remember,
I want you like, come down, landing strip
the bombs, that would be too redundant
over instant coffee or another espresso,
choking on, volcano out laughs, little
eruptions, a brutal freedom

yet they used to sell indulgences
on these streets, the gift shops
in the cathedrals, but I cannot moderate
the feel for you and maybe I should
but there is no use in trying when
the metro continues to leave so I sin
for you and for me too and for the people
on this airplane who have somewhere to be
and the people on the ground, waiting

it’s only fair for me to watch you burn,
but it is not fair that I am an ocean away
and can’t burn with you (burn ourselves,
our shelters, our epic of proportions,
my own Odyssey), Paris was burning too
long ago for memory and I accidentally
lost the note you gave me; you are home,
and I still want return, individual meaning,
some middle like something always
to be given up, hurtling towards endless loss
always telling you what to do, living in objects
or with them, the last fire built: I would lose
you ten times over to have you again

nothing is definite, not history or time,
but you already knew that and what we leave
behind, I cried just enough into the Paris nights
(must go back; cry more), tangled in hotel sheets,
unburdened in an odd way—a funny thing—
how things are forced to change and how easy
we throw that away—we are not trophies




This audio embed includes two poems: "ghazal, a rebirth" and "ghazal, interrupted." We publish "ghazal, interrupted" below. For a full selection of Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay's audio work, check out her Bandcamp page.


ghazal, interrupted

I try not to think of what my neighbors would say.
They have yet to learn to pronounce my name.
                             –Solmaz Sharif

Curving back within myself I create again and again.
                             –Bhagavad Gita, (9:8)

they used to say it loud, round in the mouth, stuck in your teeth, my name
there was an evening somewhere, once before time gave, a new life unnamed

something about i don’t know how to say, trapped under, white man’s grammar:
symbolic annihilation and erasure, please don’t make me say it again!

yes, i want that time back, that with which i’ve listened, stories on knees,
uproot, seize, like a flower growing in a weird place, a weed without a name

a memory in vertical, a poem, collapsed into each other, my eternal defeat
and what is your revolution now? your fear, you lethargic, empty complaint

all i remember is what others say, though they hear me better far away, despite
self, despise this place, and shut me up, your old flame, tell me what’s in a name

but no matter, i faith to nothing, not my master’s tongue or his pale child; love
makes one determined, determines one: kolkata, its daknam, which i betrayed

i return, inheritance whom i hold, those that do not slip, to win this time, lagna-
jita, where i belong? no mistake. where i’m known yet again by my given name



Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay: "I am the author of the books this is our war (Penmanship Press, Brooklyn, 2016) and everything is always leaving (M.C. Sarkar & Sons, Kolkata, 2019), along with my latest poetry album release i don’t know anyone here in 2020. An Indian-born poet raised in Nashville, Tennessee, I am a recent graduate of English at Belmont University. I was the first Nashville Youth Poet Laureate and the 2016 Poet Ambassador for the Southeast. Find my work in Poetry Society of America, Nashville Arts Magazine, and Connecticut River Review, among others. As a recent Pushcart Prize nominee, I am epic poem collage stranger and break-up with America tour—on self-imposed exile from New Nashville; I don't know anyone here."




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