Reclaiming the Memory Fox*

(for NMB)

The stories you haven’t told me, are the ones

I miss most.

 

In trains, scant moonlight becomes my only alibi

to not look out and picture those silver splinters

lodged in your heart.

 

Old family tales gather

at the bottom of a well.

Here, Grandfather dropped his watch. Tell me.

What was he wearing?

What was that peculiar smell on his clothes?

Do you have a word for it? Any of it? Tell me.

That mole on his left cheek – did it

twitch, its three thin hairs sprouting

like black fountain.

Did his favourite book sprawl beside him,

like a universe he lost to yellow curtains

and a red, shrivelled sofa.

Tell me, did his fingers carry the smell of peas he peeled?

Fingers thin enough to drop a burning cigarette butt.

His green sweater has holes

as big as cat’s eyes.

Did he yell, shout, scream,

his head in mother’s arms

his head an oyster resisting to vomit its

one final secret

of blood and breath.

 

What time was it? We would never know.

 

So then we gather here each day,

counting ribs

of hardened sand

where we buried

a memory fox

after slaying it

with belief and innocence.

 

Sometimes Do You Remember does nothing

except sitting quietly in the room. A carcass of a green

hot water bag. A chipped, white plate. Brown socks we forgot to discard,

while returning pale body to blue sky –

 

Don’t worry.

These shall come to use

when mud congeals into memory

and he appears on our windowsill as

words written in mist.

123

dedicated to Nalini Mohan Banerjee (NMB), my grand father

*Appears in Sahitya Akademi’s anthology on contemporary Indian poetry, titled 21st Century Indian Poetry in English (Jan: Feb 2017, Edited by AJ Thomas)

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One response to “Reclaiming the Memory Fox*

  1. I hv often felt a connection to the familiar yet unknown face hanging in a photo on the wall. Never seen in person, nor met or smelt. Found this poem relatable. My favourite part – like a universe he lost to yellow curtains…
    and a red, shrivelled sofa.

    You’ve come a long way Ankush. What a fruitful journey it’s been. Congrats n best,

    Babli

    Like

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