This isn’t a conventional introduction for many reasons. Because firstly, an introduction must set the tone. Because secondly, how does one talk about war without disrupting the expectations of language? Because thirdly, Mariupol in Ukraine and Meerut in India meet one night while waiting for a train. Because fourthly, some things are unspeakable except in poetry. Because fifthly, anaphora when done well, is haunting and unsettling. Because sixthly, I learnt of a place in Assam where birds of all species come to commit suicide. Because seventhly, breath is as violent as death is unreasonable. Because eighthly, fermentation is a kind of being alive and being rotten at the same time. Because ninthly, our bodies are occupied by sorrows that are not our own. 

Because tenthly, even God is looking for a fix.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine


(Meerut City Junction)

By pure chance I am waiting for God
to show me his face at 8:30 pm
one night on a train. It is the train bound
for somewhere but I am already dreaming
a long dream in a knotted fugue. Because it is March
of 2022, the only dream I can dream is that of Mariupol

perhaps it is only Meerut in the dark

its devastation already secure in ravages of time after Magadh
its kings and prime ministers have come and gone
this is where I sit waiting for God to appear
in the middle of another war
between the peeling pastel
of the houses and children
playing hopscotch


but it is only me
between barber shops next to train tracks
shaving beards in the open
holding out to this razor edge world
waiting for grace from cutthroats
it is only me
running barefoot to catch
this train—the Shatabdi Express 12018
between Dehradun and Delhi
between memory and desire
between the deadened news from March
and the cruelty of April

everyone you wanted to save
either gone or forgotten
wears a short sleeved shirt
drinks instant coffee

even the God who will appear
looks for a fix to get by tonight;
the dialectics of the times a prayer and a joke

(Fermentation: Bhagavad Dreams)

perhaps it is always an age of exodus
perhaps it is always an age for bathing in the sea
perhaps it is always an age for dying in a war

the fluidity of sorrows shared and buried
balances what will be now borne

Ashoka and Akbar come and go before
by 2062 you forget even to forget
all that remains in a fog of distant oxidisations:
yes, what you will learn is that cities will burn,
give in to entropy, will wither away
atrophied into minerals long after the anthropocene

if you wait for God to show his face
learn only to ferment the heart
become ash when there is fire
turn to mould when the rains come
become that oblong wild laughter
the rest of this is a fever dream

of powdered sugar                    of the incandescent glows
distilled into metamorphoses    of farewells
water damaged photos             become ancestral homes



Who will tell Knausgård

that the children playing dead in a classroom
are really dead

that the dead do not disappear in sanitised
cloistered spaces elsewhere

that everyone has to put drops of turmeric
into the mouth of their loved one

and of that other thing we ask the sons to do
to their fathers at the pyre?




Dawn broke and someone drove the car somewhere via Rangjuli where the sal trees were still red, their bark still mimicking dried blood more than wood. There was a slow crunching of the chill in the air and the egrets hung on to the branches, like white fruit aglow even in the midst of foggy darkness. How do they find their way to these villages no one can name? They will make their nests to have noisy chicks, the same ones who will fly to Jatinga to die when they are old. In that coded DNA is a message that sears the memory of our mango tree to the frail body of the egret being born now, who will remember this and come back for years. Only later, when it can no longer fly to the mango tree—or any other tree—does it go to Jatinga and waste away in sunlight and monsoon rain.

Like the man who once flew from Kuwait to Mumbai and then to Guwahati on the 28th of January 2008. He arrived home in a car, ate fish that his wife cooked, and fell asleep talking about the weddings of his children. Late at night, way past midnight, his wife rang up the whole neighbourhood to say that he was dead.

It calls you, mother said afterwards. There is nothing else to it.



I dream of bananas in Delhi

there—the Adriatic unfolding
in warm crumpled sheets,
the women talking of memories
of love, the man in front reading—
the sun beats down upon my brow
in a stale, dull ache

there, in the moving bus,
dreaming, I smell two bananas
rotting sweetly in Delhi
one late afternoon.


Priyam Goswami Choudhury

Priyam Goswami Choudhury is an Assamese poet who lives in Berlin.


The banner image is taken from Alberto Giacometti’s City Square (1948). Artist and writer Steven Foster has an illuminating discussion of Giacometti and his realization that seeing objects from a great distance can give us a greater insight than if they were close at hand.

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