The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

Two Poems

Painting: Draupadi Vastrakshepam, Raja Ravi Varma

By Sohini Chatterjee

Draupadi 

Born of Fire, charred by it
Cursed with boons
And other gashes
A woman is as strong as
Her fate scrapped off from scriptures
To define history with ignoble deeds.

Karna has colonized your heart
But it is Arjuna you embrace tonight
Since the burden of piety weighs
Heavier than inner perfidies
And you labour under, guileless.
Palaces have no mercy for beating hearts
As kings masquerade as fathers and brothers.
Pay for your life with some blood.

Five husbands and nowhere to go
When honour lies scattered and splintered in fine cotton
And imperial glory is lost in deafening silence and lowered gazes
Of men committed to greatness and acquiescence in equal measure,
Impervious to and trampling upon paradoxes.

Wails form an ocean, domes and minarets howl,
He who rises from it
Cannot be found in her blood
Neither in her bedchamber.
Krishna salvages “honour” but it would never be enough.
Blood gushes out as a curse from her mouth
Promises of love tears at her entrails
Burns like fire in her heart
And incinerates her forever.
For such is the fate befitting women who dream of vengeance,
So Vyasa declares: Kurukshetra would be caused by her.
Born of no man but undone by them
Draupadi’s story is every woman’s.

***

The Political Geography of Love 

There is a familiar face I’ve never seen
That has me forgetting the rhythm
of my steps down the stairs;
over and over again
through the tumult of tortured times
Season after season through seasons’ mislaid grime
Through months of empty stares of neglect at the night sky
In relentless pursuit of answers to my “why”.

The Arabian Sea is rudderless and flows ad nauseum;
intransigent,
Between your being and mine;
Like the winter sun and evening star,
Like tireless tides and a crescent moon
Like ebbs at dusk and the mirth of dawn,
Like a lover’s kiss and footsteps on the sand.
The world’s treasures and those otherworldly, inundating,
Hang their head in shame
For this sham estrangement
Is as blasé as it is strange.

We speak through waves
We speak through poems, brushstrokes, and sketches
Of your life and mine. At daybreak
colours spill over borders, and brushes
Lose route, then, find their strength at will.
Again and again and another time, till
We become one; breathless,
Never having felt more alive.
So your greys and blacks become mine
And my incandescent rainbow claims you
Wounds and sores heal in deference
To the frenzy of our outlandish hope.
Let Death Not Do Us Part
Let the World Rue Its Rules in Our Name
Miriam, there is truth in this tale
Of absconding fairies and absent apparitions.
So Miriam listens and her canvas is whole
Every brushstroke is a poet’s lore.
But also a ploy, a ruse and a subterfuge
To draw me close to the shore
From where I watch waves galore
And become a wordsmith again.

Amidst the crowd of treaties and maps and politics
of fences and wires across the rugged terrain
called heart called the earth, Miriam,
we are not alone. But chaperoned
by depths of oblivion and fear of the unknown.
Our story has been told through desperate times
across disparate borders and borderlands where history
scowls and sneers as you breathe
through my soul.

Bio:
Sohini Chatterjee holds an MA in International Relations and writes primarily on gender, culture and politics. Sohini identifies as a feminist and her work has previously appeared in Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, Quail Bell Magazine, Kindle Magazine, Huffington Post India, among others.

***

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

***

Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Narrating Care: Disability and Interdependence in the Indian Context’, edited by Nandini Ghosh, IDSK, Kolkata, India and Shilpaa Anand, MANUU, Hyderabad, India.

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