Vignettes of a South African Township called Mdantsane

Thursday, December 8, 2011



many aeons back
when rock changed faces
many a times and clan men
resisted irrefutably
the sky always gave way
to unhindered horizons
to newer lives
in dust torn
each time we passed the long
languorous tunnels of
each time we found
ourselves on ledges
of looming betrayal
the fort grew taller and higher
overlapping many a skin
many a shadow
many a summers
and i thought
perhaps one day
you would tell me a secret
of holding the lizard
in my grip
of a moment
knee deep in a drying river
of your breath
navigating a stronghold
of refute
you told me
the ruddy earth would also change
the peacocks would be no more
fungus and fern would darken
such agreements
such love
and we would remain torn
answerable only to the wind.

why did we run away each time the
sun changed surfaces
why did we cross eye storms
ensnared long hidden stars
why did we eclipse in patterns
of lip talk on your neck
why did we turn one and only one
burnt one single night
why did we then never die
why did the fort
keep silent

beneath us
deep down
stayed the dargah
the mad man danced
looked at us
in sightless eyes
we had seen him before
much before
when the hot wind
blew away advancing
and departing reasons
a maratha willingness to melt away
at each nightend
we saw him still
shaking his head
his hands sang the song
of the next blitz
the dead around in cavernous
holes never slept
we knew
the rainriver
would storm down
in crypts and crevices
in sultry memory lanes
weather broken thickets
on to those
living and buried
we knew then
it was the moment
of a quiet dismissal
of unhastened departures.

families left for far shores
and houses sprung up on
rusty dreams
a dishevelled robe dragging
a far innocence
hands sought to hold a
and eyes stored tears
on your lips i saw a murmur
loves disparity rootless in
undefined times
i told you the stillness of the fort
stillness of our drifting
stillness of the riversong
stillness of an everydaysky
we lived
shattering long drawn thoughts
in strange dawns
old gwalior.

Poem and Ink Drawing by Amitabh Mitra