‘Chimney-sweeper’ and other poems by Sinchan Chatterjee
By: Sinchan Chatterjee
I tie a rope around my stomach
And ask to be lowered again.
I hang in the air
And wipe the four sides of the walls with care:
One layer at a time.
I sing myself a song
As I go lower and lower,
Starting from the top
Scratching the surface,
Every day I see new depths
I scrub and scrub,
I toil and toil.
Sometimes I get crushed
Between the narrowing walls.
Someday I will reach the bottom
Having swept it clean
All the way to the ground.
I am journeying through my mind
And all the darkness that has gathered
From years of ungrateful, exhausting use.
I run my fingers gently
And dream of buried memories.
Nothing passes here except for fire
Nothing stays except for soot and ash.
The Eternal Postman
Each moment is a baton
A parcel I must deliver
A letter I must carry
In my beak
From the past
To the future
The only time I can call my own
Is between the picking up
Of the feathery gift
And the setting down
Of the wingéd weight.
Selfish as we are,
We read books so we may hear about ourselves
And see our own stories
Lived by different fictional men in different climes.
We walk through their minds and trot through their thoughts
And laugh and cry and mourn and pine with them.
And at the end, we tear ourselves away from them
Drawing a line between us and them.
We put our finger to the printed page
And tell ourselves these are just words,
These are just thoughts of a person who never existed.
When our favourite heroes die and are mourned,
We breathe a heavy sigh and shed a tear
To remind ourselves we are real, we are alive.
We shut the book and turn it in our hands
And tell ourselves we are eternal because
So are the stories about us.
When I am passing over and they ask me
What one thing I want to carry with me onto the other side,
Between my palms, clasped to my chest,
I want it to be a book, reminding me
Someone somewhere is reading my story
And finding himself in it.
As the screams fade into a whisper
That floats in circles and is blown away
Like ashes from the pyre by the wind,
We wear black to mourn the death
Of the dead word on the dying mouth.
The clueless crowd chants the word a thousand times,
No longer remembering the meaning
(Did it ever contain any? the deaf man asks).
The boats come and go from shore to shore
The setting sun has burnt the oar
And we row with our fingers,
Leaving behind ripples that will be replaced.
The living are left behind to taste more of death;
The appetite is lost at the sight of a full plate.
This day, our roots have been torn from us,
Our essence has been extracted;
We will live on as hollow husks —
Faded perfume, jaded bodies,
We will walk like insomniacs sleepwalking
Until we knock at the knobless door behind all doors.
Someone else has claimed the cave in their hearts:
(The memory of flesh pulls stronger than the flesh of memory)
The sleeping word is now a dream only those awake can see.
The bridge between the two shores
Glitters in the moonlight, grows faint, and then evaporates.
Somewhere in a dusty heap of rusty scrap,
Another word is born,
And deaf men lean in and strain their ears
To hear what it means.
The round-table of thoughts inside my head
Are holding a conference
To judge which new thought they can allow entry
They do this interview
Auditioning phrases and ideas
I wonder what currency they use inside my mind
To pass bribes under the desk.
Sinchan is an Indian poet/ author. His previously published works include “In Search of a Story” (a collection of twenty short stories) and two collections of poems, titled “Plato in a Metro” (published by Writers Workshop Kolkata) and “War of the Roses” (published under the WordIt Art Fund).