Debasish Lahiri

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GALLERIES IN THE NIGHT

Abandoned by all kindly lights
To gnash their teeth
In penumbras of their own making,
What half-bitten talk
Peoples the dark galleries
Between masterpiece and masterpiece,
Restrained from lawless combat
By gilt-edged police
Or the garth of mortar?

The greatest allegories of art
Are secret journals kept
By that gossip Night
Whom no historian of art consults
As they measure time by daylight;
Though the essence of all art
Is what the twilight leaves behind in the hall;
Is the closing of the gate,
And drawing up of the bridge,
Is the third watch and the owl
And all things that dream of the soul
When the fires have burnt down,
But not the night.

FILLING IN

It’s a horrible thing
To tell and retell your days
Across the metal counter of a new day:
Gently moving your jaws,
Delicately,
So that you do not bite the head off
An innocent consonant.

Better bark it out like a canine surge,
Dog chase cars routine.
Did you ever notice that those mutts
Have so much to say
To those cars and omnibuses
That sail feelingly by?
Only,
The omnibuses were losing their mind
With papa Kronos’s bar of soap
Tickling them to the melting mood
And not dog-bitten messages
Of an apocalypse that has been.

The other day I found
This mad saunterer on the road
Gliding between omnibuses
Like a sheet between naked lovers,
Saying too much:
The telling and the retelling of the terrible.

He was chasing cars too.

The dogs blinked away flies,
Panted and licked their balls.
Even they had moved on
From the obdurate madness of living
To something more uniquely apocalyptic.

“The bitch is dead”, “The man molested”, “The sky is suddenly sitting up”,
“You’re dead too”, “Hell sank behind the red building” –

So what saunterer?
Nothing,
Except it has to be done:
The telling and the retelling.
And that is apocalypse,
Daily and unique.

And then today,
Damn it all,
I missed this mad mist between the cars
At his spot.
The dogs have long gone
And their hired replacement,
The mad man,
Has gone missing at an hour when the road
Cocks it ears,
Puckers its face.

It is five o’clock.
They have all missed their spot.
Telling.
I am having thoughts about filling in.

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is a poet & nonfiction writer based in Kolkata, India. He has three books of poetry, First Will & Testament (2012), No Waiting like Departure (2016) & Tinder Tender: Poems of Love & Loitering (forthcoming, 2018).

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