By Debarshi Mitra & Goirick Brahmachari
Thematically, the manuscript attempts to work around the ideas associated with the term ‘Nightwalkers’, which is the title of the collection. While the literal meaning of the title may be associated with the idea of a person who walks or sleepwalks through the night, a dated connotation is also the association of the term with prostitutes and in a larger sense all deviants who refuse to conform. We also attempted to sketch the lives of those in the city who are subjected to various demands during the day (workplace or otherwise) and therefore look forward to the night to express themselves, perhaps in a way reminiscent of the famous painting ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper. Night then becomes a gateway for memories to flood in, for pause, reflection and more. It is also a way of exploring the so-called ‘underbelly’ of the city, to try and understand the lives of those rendered invisible by the market forces: the cab drivers who continue to drive during the night, the bartenders awaiting a night of revelry and the many others who are often absent from the public or literary imagination.
The poems that are collected here were written roughly between 2016 and 2019 and the central theme for the manuscript was conceived in 2018. Those were tough times of considerable strife not just for us personally but also the country and perhaps the world. This period saw a dramatic rise in student protests and environmental activism to counter widespread right wing populism and xenophobia. The poems therefore often reek of an apocalyptic despair, anxiety pertaining to the rise of surveillance states and environmental catastrophes. The poems perhaps also reflect at the same time all that is mundane and personal to our lives, an inability to participate in the movements that shaped our political and social realities, and often stray moments of illumination or significance.
Night slips in through bokeh. Night appears in narrow, forlorn streets. Her hair falls like a shadow around the empty halogen lights. Night appears tall in sleeplessness. In neighbourhood silences and disturbances. On window panes of nearby apartments when the lights go out.
In stillness. In motion. Between the yellow shades of glass and mirrors. In rain and lack of rain. In shivering cold and dripping summer. Under purple lights, she hides behind a singer who sings to an empty house. She’s with lonesome bonfires of night watchmen, ATM guards. She’s with the aloneness of truck drivers on a lonesome long ride. Like a wailing dog, creeping in like an insect. Like the smell of a burnt-out candle.
Who walks in through the empty road? Who stays awake? Who whimpers through those frail, frail moments of darkness? Who searches? Who gets lost?
Who breaks in through the sleeping apartments? Runs away with your sleep. Who scares you?
Who makes love? Who forgets? Who counts our inability?
Who? Who? …
Night falls like a dagger on our necks when there is so much to write about, through this inability to write. Under the blood moon, night appears to us in horrors of late-night news. In morning gloom. In drunken travels and unnamed relations. Momentary exchanges that last in thoughts through the night. In anger and sloth, in sounds and silences. Night appears through visions of death and dystopia. In madness and rage. Like Zen, like flowing streams of love, lies and loss. Night walks in through our sleep, steals our dreams in silver moonless skies.
Like the dark seeping into you,
like the ancient rhythm of crickets,
like the allure of strange lights in the distance,
like the long hours turning to smoke.
Night becomes that moment of pause
before the long drag, the air that is exhaled,
the smoke that is you, nights tiptoe in
like shadows from a half formed dream, like an arrow
suspended in a moment of stillness,
like the memory of your own death,
like trees in gothic masks,
like the tired gaze of a destitute, like everything
that you once knew, like a childhood highway
to nowhere, like smudged windows in the rain,
like laughter reminisced in a strange room,
like the weightlessness of it all, like Moonlight Sonata,
like the recurring waves of a sea, like an exploration
gone wrong, like an island that I once knew,
like the island that I am,
the night holds us in its stare,
the night lets us go.
– Debarshi Mitra & Goirick Brahmachari
The scent of dark
leaves behind its trace,
it is cold, it is almost freezing
I come to you
with the taste of grenade pins
on my tongue.
Filaments glow in the dark
strange constellations appear
to bodies adrift in the sea,
the network holds me in its stare.
the abyss resides just beyond
the last page of your search results.
The surge of dopamine
through the veins.
The afterglow of screens lingers
beyond the retina.
Sleep makes its way
gradually through the fog.
A lost memory resurfaces,
a voice beyond the ether,
I call out to it,
follow its trail.
The night meanders
through these crevices,
electrons move about
in uncertain trajectories.
– Debarshi Mitra
A room like an island,
the night like a lump
in the throat.
The memory of a sky
hovering over the sky,
laced with sulphur,
the occasional glimpse
in years of forgetting,
– Debarshi Mitra
(After William S Burroughs)
Thank you for all that is not
Thank you. Thank you for the words,
The air and the water.
Thank you numbness that runs through my veins
Thank you blood, bones, destruction.
Thank you dystopia. Thank you end of the world.
Thank you, friends. Thank you, lovers.
Thank you hunger, trickery, loss of ideals and faith.
Thank you. Thank you, death.
Thank you, haters. Thank you traitors.
Thank you restless allegiance of ultimate doom.
Thank you meaninglessness.
Thank you lack of words.
Thank you, this torture.
– Goirick B
I fail to articulate
this losing light,
this disappearing day
leaves every tree, being,
every non-living thing
as cold as your hate.
– Goirick B
Debarshi Mitra is a 25-year-old poet from New Delhi, India. His debut book of poems, Eternal Migrant, was published in May 2016 by Writers Workshop. His works have previously appeared in anthologies like Kaafiyana, Wifi for Breakfast and Best Indian Poetry 2018 and in poetry journals like The Scarlet Leaf Review, Thumbprint, The Punch Magazine, The Seattle Star, The Pangolin Review, Leaves of Ink, The Sunflower Collective, Coldnoon, Indiana Voice Journal, The Indian Cultural Forum among various others. He was the recipient of The Wingword Poetry Prize 2017, The Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize 2017 and was long listed for the TFA Prize 2019.
Goirick’s debut collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) won the Muse India-Satish Verma Young Writer Award (Poetry) 2016. He is the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2016. His chapbook of travel notes, Joining the Dots, was published by Nivasini Publishers, Hyderabad in 2017. He self-published his third book of poems, Wet Radio and Other Poems via KDP in 2017. His poems and essays have appeared in magazines like Berfrois, The Missing Slate, ucity review, Café Dissensus, and Nether, among others.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.