A new lock on the old door
Where aunty once stood before.
A wordless presence, a calm silent
Witness to the sun’s moods of the day.
Sometimes, she would
Peer at goings-on below- a grandchild
Swinging in the park nearby, or playing truant
The vegetable vendor on his daily round,
At the foot of our battered stairs.
Sometimes, there would be nobody
But the sun.
And she would
Soak it all in – the sun, the glint of light that ran from
A corner of her eye to the empty house inside.
The two men – father and son-
The five girls married.
The girls ran houses themselves. Grown up now
With children of their own. Only a grandchild
Was her world now. The kid came as a baby, stayed on…
Sometimes, she would ask if
We had an extra gas cylinder
To keep the kitchen fires warm. Sometimes we did.
There wasn’t much to say.
I couldn’t find the words to say it.
The Namaste of morning and
Evening, a nod of affirmation, acknowledgment that the
Weather was fine among neighbours who had so little
In common – but who shared what they had, little or more.
Even the kindness of watering the plants when
One of us was away – was affection. That was all that mattered.
That someone was around. To hear, cries of help.
Around, even if not there.
Plants have no enemies, she would say.
The long-leafed wonders that grace our commonplace.
Something was serenely rugged about her. A long-stalked
Canaa glistening in winter, in salwar kameez.
Sometimes a hint of kajal. But mostly, quiet, understated.
Almost like a word long forgotten, that came to
The corner of the mind, and then was
Whisked away. Suddenly. Without warning. Just when
The bird was about to fly. Not from ledge to ledge,
But to sky.
Today, the son is about to marry. The house is coated
With the smell of paint. His sisters are here.
But not her. The ache of the house
Is silent, but this is a silence
That does not echo. It is a void, endless,
One can only go down…
We too will be away for a few days.
A marriage in our family too,
In a different city.
This time our plants will lie unattended.
Though it is already, belatedly,
They will still need some water
To steer themselves through the
Fog of day.
As I leave, I hear prayer- solemn wedding prayer,
At the other door,
But no laughter,
It is all quiet as before.
Something left unsaid.
Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poems have appeared in publications in India, Nepal, the UK, Hong Kong, South Africa, Kenya and the USA, including Forty under Forty: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.