133 Bethune Row

‘kalkatte kā jo zikr kiyā tū ne ham-nashīñ 
ik tiir mere siine meñ maarā ki haa.e haa.e’

– Mirza Ghalib 

Let me roam the empty streets of old Kalkatta
in winter nights
like an ancient Persian camel, Ghalib!
Round and round I go
into the blind alleys of soul
like a petitioner from Dilli, history’s mainland,
before an adjudication of the remaining sorrows.

All bars are closed for the day;
they have their reasons to close their doors
Like a tired vistiwala of Elliot Road,
no one waits forever
to fill up a naïve heart’s all four chambers
Only a confused December night knocks
at Ghalib’s rented haveli door at 133 Bethune Row, locked
since Mirza left for Dilli with a scratch in his soul.

Tap, tap, tap. Pause. Are you home, Mirza!
No one answers
A whiff of chhatim greets. A poet’s last fragrance.

His verses, perfumed and chhatim white,
are shredded only by love and the moonlight
like celestial attires
made of finest katan cloth still left to dry
from the rounded balconies of his red haveli
in Kalkatta, an aging metropolis, bidding time
for Mirza’s homecoming.

Our east and west, north and south merge
for nothing on a December night
at the end of sorrow
Like an empty haveli in Kalkatta in winter
at 133 Bethune Row.

Sekhar Banerjee is a Pushcart Award and Best of the Net nominated poet. The Fern-gatherers’ Association (Red River, 2021) is his latest collection of poems. He has been published in Stand Magazine, Indian Literature, The Bitter Oleander, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Lake, Better Than Starbucks, Muse India, The Bangalore Review, Kitaab, Better Than Starbucks, Madras Courier, Narrow Road, Thimble Literary Magazine, The Tiger Moth Review, LiveWire, Outlook and elsewhere. He lives in Kolkata, India.

Featured image: Mirza Ghalib. Photo: Wikimedia Commons