Poem - 7 (5.2)

  Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 5, Number 2. November 2022. ISSN: 2581-7094

Taxi Rank (Oil on Canvas, 1931)

--- Ravi Shankar 


"My pictures, like music, should speak for themselves"

-         Clarice Beckett


Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clarice_Beckett_-_Taxi_Rank,_1931.jpg

A train ride from the cliffs of Beaumaris,

far from the arrays of vertebrate fossils


buried in a gravelly bed, the seal bones

and shark teeth, corals and crustaceans,


a solitary woman pulls a homemade cart

of paints in the rain. It’s hard to explain


atmosphere. Overcoats and shoegazing

umbrellas smudged in streaks of light,


hazy with the ache of waiting for a taxi

in the mist to return to care for an ailing


mother and a bank manager father who

would set ablaze most of his daughter’s


canvases, painted en plein air, soon after

she died of pneumonia. Distant intimacy


or intimate distance glistens, almost still

wet, blurry, a viola solo faintly rising


behind a windowsill no more than a story

above your head, beckoning but always


just out of reach like the memory of a trip

you have yet to take this life and never will.


Laundry Haiku 

                                                 --- Ravi Shankar  


Between my fingers 

wet cashmere in warm water: 

I can’t wring you out. 

The Shoebox

                                                 --- Ravi Shankar 

Mourning aurochs & passenger

pigeons, we nurse dreams to bring


them back through de-extinction.

Could I bring us back that way?


Splice this orchid you once inked

pink on the back of a Vietnamese


Dong bank note worth two cents

twenty years ago with this shard


of mesh torn from the black garter 

you used to wear, which I imagine


still smells faintly of you if I ration

the number of times I unearth it


from this shoebox hidden away

until I’ve forgotten that it exists.


It’s a genetic scrapheap floating

in another dimension, the pieces


of the life we could have lived 

and the one where we snuck up


to moonlit rooftops wherever

we were so you could photograph


the wooden water towers from

a bygone gas lamp era, then fall


into me on precipices under over-

hangs above a stream of traffic.


Perhaps there’s some conjunction 

of archaic units of measurement,


a distance briefer than the barley-

corn, more sustained than the spat,


brighter than a sun’s candlepower,

yet buried deeper by fathoms


in memory than anything on earth.

That’s how far I am from you now.



Saturday Morning Reruns 

                                                                                           --- Ravi Shankar 

"No single imagination is wild or crass or cheesy enough to compete with the collective mindlessness that propels our fascination forward."

                                                                                                                                                                      ― Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange

"Hiyaaah!" slobbers Hong Kong Phooey;

slurping a similar sound, a new kid clobbers

me on the neck from behind. “Chop suey!”  


Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers,

Dick Tracy and Joe Jitsu—and guess who

I always was? Behind the castle drawbars,


peering intently, so as not to misconstrue

what to do, I wouldn’t play, unless asked,

then deftly would transform—peekaboo!—


into stereotypes from cartoon broadcasts:

Hadji Singh with a jewel in my turban

or over by Squishee machine, miscast


again as Apu by some drunk on bourbon

slapping my back. Thank you…come again?

I grew up in Northern Virginia, suburban


as a kid on Growing Pains. No campaign

against Asian immigrants works as well

as Oddjob in James Bond to create disdain,


or Long Duk Dong to craft an absurd shell

of masculinity into which we are shunted.

Outsourced, a call center sitcom? Go to hell.


Interliminal Encounters: Indian and Australian writers in po(i)etic dialogue, eds Amelia Walker and Aden Burg