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Green Integer Review

No. 6 (Dec 2006)
Poetry & Fiction, Interviews, Essays & Reviews, Bios, Links
Douglas Messerli, Editor

Ranjit Hoskote

To the Sanskrit Poets
Canticle for a Bridge
Travelling Light
The Postman’s Last Song for the Moon
To Name the Sea
The Archaeologist at Noon

To the Sanskrit Poets

Leave something behind: a trace of cloud
on a plate, a pair of white birds


shot by a hunter, an emerald brooch
that a shrub snatched from a princess in flight


or the archer’s last prayer, spoken minutes before
his brother’s arrow found his throat.


Leave us these threads to unravel, embroider:
secret messages inked in white


on white beneath the unsettled weeks
of postcards and air letters


that jam the mailbox while we’re away.
Leave us the jigsaw of previous lives.




Canticle for a Bridge

A waver in the glass.
Heliotrope petals on the river.
He touches her drawings again.


Ten years have passed
since the bridge-builder buried his bride.
His spans are silent as rock


but the waters echo
with the flapping of a thousand wings.
Speak to me, he says,


in one tongue only.




Travelling Light
for Baiju Parthan

Eat slowly. Read what you can by available light.
Take nothing with you
except the sky stencilled in the window


to picture the next stage in this journey
that will carry you past the poplars of home,
past scrub and palms to the unyielding sea.


And when the train stops at the last beach,
forget the harmony of the spheres
that you thought to find in hard things and fluent.


Put your bag down and look
at the reef that gashes
through the ocean’s tablecloth


and the meteors that light up
the moon’s silences.




for Nancy

Our lives are voices in two heads.
The rest is background music.


In this city of high walls, the scores of abandoned music
flutter in the streets and my torn-out Aztec heart
comes to rest, a blind girl’s paperweight.


Blindfold palmist, you’ve stitched our hands together,
completing accounts that the waking mind abandoned
to the faultless needlework of dream.


We lie embroidered on the mimosa.
I need no gauge of motives to tell me
why it has rained.


Clouds darken the windows, the lamps are lit.
You carry the incense from room to room.
I flare briefly, then go out,
a lamp you lit and forgot to trim.


Raw colours grate against the mind’s palette.
The mirror promises only the dark.
The eyes that have glowed would rest on the mirror,
smoky lamps afloat on a clouded stream.


Forget the star maps of the Old Kingdom.
Dress yourself in night.
Trust me:
our hands can see in the dark.





I am outside the mystery, the boy thinks,
his eyes frozen on the lilac cloud


that hovers above him, the backcloth apricot sky
soundless. The cloud’s wings beat low,


tousling his hair, wetting his eyes,
opening his mouth. After it has melted


in rain, in thunder, this cloud, the boy
will find it again, veined and marbled on his tongue.




The Postman’s Last Song for the Moon
for Jeet Thayil

You glide in plain view, gravity’s nearest slave,
floating outside our windows, just out of reach,
an ice fruit we’d love to pluck
from the sky’s jet branches.
What stops us is we know
the tides would roar and lunge, break their contract if we did:
wall-high waves rushing houses and stores, vaulting over gates,
an army of madmen dancing on drowned asphalt.


Rain-wrapped, fog-tangled, how easily we forget
oceans that have dried and shrunk
to ravines where the eye never settles,
the heart now never goes. Like the Sea of Tranquillity:
so wildly utopian we gave it to you,
tattooed it on your skin’s acceptance.
Safe behind glass and our chartreuse curtains,
we watch it float by on full-moon nights and smile.


The mortgage of our nights and days is so quickly claimed.
You measure breath in the centuries it takes
to carve a pensive ellipse through space.
Messages conveyed, you dip below mouldy clouds
or submit with reluctance to an eclipse,
never more than half deciphered.
You keep your dark side hidden as you shine,
a riddle orbiting in the wide-open eye.


Sickle of the harvest, lantern of our last rooms!
Green moon of January nights,
you’ll bark at our windows,
a dog begging for a bone
long after we’ve gone.
Other voices will wake up to answer:
survivors from the minefields of sleep,
they will pelt you with curses, extradite you to memory.




To Name a Sea

Honour the translator,
survivor of cadence:


struck by lightning,
he lives to tell the tale.


Rudderless, no mast:
he steers the boat of tomorrow


across a sea that has no walls.
Dip a seine in its water, you cannot hold


the water. By what name
shall we call its cresting blues?


By what name
shall we haul it in?


Strophe upon strophe
they strike us, the waves.




The Archaeologist at Noon

Despite the perfection of the reflected sun
which burns the water that holds it


Despite the perfection of the bullet-holed clock
that spoke its last twelve and turned to stone


Despite the perfection of the pause between a cabbage
and the shadow it casts on the grey-tiled floor


Despite the perfection with which the creeper’s roots
dig below the rock on which the house stands


You search for your true name, scrabbling in grass
that’s drying to nothing in the perfection of the sun’s gaze



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Born in 1969, Ranjit Hoskote, who writes in English, is a Bombay-based poet, cultural theorist and independent curator of contemporary art. He is the author of ten books, including four collections of poetry, four studies of art and artists, a translation of the poet Vasant Dahake, and an anthology of fourteen contemporary Indian poets. His poems have recently been published in German translation. Hoskote is currently working on a translation of the Kashmiri saint-poet Lal Ded and on his next book of poems.


Copyright ©2006 by Ranjit Hoskote and Green Integer.

Green Integer Review
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   No. 4, Aug-Oct 2006
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   No. 7, Feb 2007
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   No. 9, Jun-Oct 2007
   No. 10 Nov-Dec 2007
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