Swadesh Deepak*, sir

by Samartha Vashishtha

I know you, sir

wanting the end of the world

to be the launching pad

for your last somersault.

I know you on days I find you home

sitting on your couch reading

maybe a book on literary art

with matchsticks for marking pages

and the chapter on Mayakovsky

skipped at first glance itself.

And on days I miss you by minutes

when you go out for your evening stroll –

a cup of tea from the roadside stall

with labourers gathering breath

and the leaky stove reminding

you / of Sylvia Plath’s stone eyes.

I know your screechy telephone set

waiting for minutes before you answer a call –

the routine drowsy hours of day

the nuero-drugs take their toll

Or a voice that rings in the ear

smooth as buttermilk

yet so harsh that you can

fall in love with it.

And I know the sin of calling out for you

when you walk down a cobbled dirty street

watching the one in the middle of the three

riding a bike - looking through the earring of his pal

at a girl feeling her purse for a pretty silver watch

Or the redemption in your greying hairline

receding to a glorious sheen of scalp

from wearing a peach coloured shirt

to a step grandmother’s funeral procession.

I know you and I know your smoke

filling the room and my lungs –

a rally of slender charminars

conspiring against God –

or the ice in your fiery eyes

that only knowing death can give.

I know you, sir

with your metaphors run amok

your wrist without a watch

walls sans a clock

though I know

one can’t know a man

till one knows how he tickles

little children’s cheeks

or paces his orgasms

panting in cold bedsheets

Like only a woman can know a man.

Samartha Vashishtha

Note: Charminar is a brand of unfiltered Indian cigarette

* Swadesh Deepak is a celebrated Hindi writer, who lived in Ambala. He lost seven years of his life to a frightening journey to the ‘darkroom’ of his mind that almost had him dead. His touching memoirs of those fateful years were published a couple of years back as the book Maine Maandu Nahin Dekha, which won tremendous critical. On June 2, 2006, Deepak left home for his routine morning walk, and went missing. All efforts to trace him have shown no results. This poem was written in 2004, and anthologized in Shadows Don't Live in Walls.

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