Two Parched Poets
Two parched poets in a bustling bar
Sigh and keep forgetting who's to blame.
Where is the traveller from afar
Promised to remind them where they are?
The sign above the entrance's the same
As always, but there's a different door
Upon the hinges. No one keeps tabs
On the brassy counters anymore.
The street outside wasn't there before.
In the daily grind the pavement slabs
Are pulled up and set down, rearranged.
Later the byways and alleys lie
All over town, tanked up and deranged
Through the night in a sodden state, changed
And suited in the drawn morning, dry
As a bone. One keeps track of the trains,
The other the time, but their eyes close
And the city buckles under, lanes
Give. Tomorrow is all that remains,
Not so much where it lingers as goes.
I visited Mumbai in 2011 and 2014, and was introduced both times to the city's many faces by one who knows it as well as anyone, the poet Sampurna Chattarji. This poem is a belated response to the Mumbai I saw and the various Bombays that became visible to me only through Sampurna's eyes. As she might say, the city is in a constant state of mutation. The poem is also an adaptation of a section of a long Welsh poem I wrote in 2016, and was written as part of a collaboration with Sampurna in 2017 that lead to the publication of a collection of poems, Elsewhere Where Else / Lle Arall Ble Arall (Poetrywala, 2018).