The Question / Where It All Began / A Quietness of Magic


The Question

You cannot doubt he has led 

a charmed life. Such is the glint in his hardened 

eyes, pupil ebbing as he prattles along, hands 

on steering wheel along a wiry bridge 

over the gurgling Ganges, the water flowing 

with the gentle tapestry only a timeless river 

can master. After his inexplicable acceptance 

of the very first fare we offered, he won us over 

with a solid twenty minutes of unerring silence. 

But when one of us starts talking about visiting 

Lakshman Jhula the next morning, the floodgates 

open and he dives headfast catching the current 

flush on his wily tongue. His velocity, the car’s 

velocity. Slapstick avalanche, he goes on about 

his sons and the holy land. His words provoke 

a theatre of impossibility—if this conversation 

will ever come back to mein ways so different

from ones with friends and lovers, yet, another wet 

page in a closed book, the one made up of faces 

of strangers, the one glued together by the baritone 

of language that lurks behind seatbelts and unsoftened 

elbows. When we’re about to reach, he asks, his tonal 

register hushing into notoriety, if we have ever had 

shaadi ke ladoo, if we have ever tasted 

the fruits of marriage. When we feign ignorance, 

he answers himself: do it after marriage, 

then you can do it anytime you want

The river on both sides muscles fast into rapids, rocks 

disappearing into the cacophony of silent monogamy 

far beyond the company of men governing

the fecundity of water. The roads squeal, wincing 

to the familiar music of inflated tires on holy land. 

Where it all began

Trusting my instincts leads to pain. Is hurt a shortcut 

to conscientious living? From the sills beyond cups of coffee 

and cries, cicadas hum, a pigeon coos masquerading a spicy 

tune buzzing into the dam between my ears, hell yeah. My bones

roll into a balustrade, pulled by the lives I never led, a column

I lean on like an ancient phallus making of me, a periphery with lips. 

My mother recovering from sickness feeds me kheer (I don’t know

what it is about sugar)―she says this is her convalescing―  

a word I taught her a few days back is offered as pasty illumination

in a bowl. Sparrows caper at the window. Spoon after spoon,

they watch me consume, an iterative study, my saccharine mouth

will never know their interpretation of a rice pudding’s yolk― 

something to do with translation, I guess. It takes a loud television, 

an aggressive salesperson to drown out the sounds in my head. 

It takes an inundation to isolate my isolation. I hope you remember―

how a moon flooded fields for yellow spirits to rove, how we hastened

through terraces into shrubs of pleasure. You: denuder, I: stony road. 

The voices audible beyond years, a cherished feature of our anthropocene.

Wild detail lives on. A lover’s vomit stinks like mulch of the wildest

orchard. It remains impossible to summon kernels of spent odour.

Yet the sun balances itself on trees I recognize only for blessings in shade.

Here you go, the year is 1997 and I’m six, hoping for a poem to revive

from bedsheets and glazed puddles, the wet beginnings of memory.

A Quietness of Magic 

o why this scrounging for motivation       death seems comely 

like sleep       I think I’m edible dish       Lord have me some 

Tabasco      some riveting salt        take me where

my grandmother’s jowls bloom       will there be shy watchmen

at the gates of old Heaven?        I’m dying to see         if nothingness mirrors

globes in my sleep       those softened insides        my eye’s patina

when I spill tea on my tie       like ocean on surfboard

what I was doing dressed up        trying to trick 

morning into action        I will never know


my scooter stutters polyphone       the way patterns

skein surfaces       slipping destiny from one wave 

to another        mountains dancing like froth


calling onshore        my hand            flagging my elbowed mast

such evening tricks        supposed to feed the soul        but mouth 

argues with parents        banging hopeless detail on dinner table


world splinters binaries       a heart’s digital voice

the hello of being           mother’s voice after long         I breathe like a rug

turn in me the wheels again      mouth to ear playing Chinese whispers


saying Wow, a moon       ravishing star       lover arriving, sashaying

at winter’s ripe window       mezzanine joy        stairs into goodness

beds dressing undergarments      with forgetfulness


o how magical         the making of I don’t know

is this the definition of enough?        walls prancing 

beside walls         rectangles sprinting ahead


into a theatre’s 3D vision       sky disrobing stars at dawn

you know I’d like to write a poem        without metaphors and similes

but the poem insists       a restless scattering         of moist feeling

Satya Dash’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in wildness, Passages North, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Florida Review, Pidgeonholes, Sundog Lit, and Prelude, amongst others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. His work has been twice nominated for The Orison Anthology. He spent his early years in Odisha, India and now lives in Bangalore. He tweets at: @satya043