A Missed Encounter

As Pessoa reached Durban
Gandhi was already thrown off the train
In Pietermaritzburg

Gandhi’s skin finding voice,
Pessoa was busy reading the classics
He would later abandon

“Everything is worthwhile” wrote
The poet, “if the soul is not small,” and found
Gandhi’s soul a “high example”

From street to street, Gandhi sought
The face of god in men, while even god failed
To find Pessoa out from his disguises

Not far from each other, in Durban,
Their statues echo in bronzed silence, of a
Missed encounter

If Gandhi’s candour was bald-headed,
Pessoa’s pessimism
Wore a cylindrical hat

On Pessoa’s bust, the salty sea
Measures the tears of Portugal, and Gandhi knew
The taste of salt on defiant tongues

“God wills,” wrote Gandhi,
And “God wills,” wrote Pessoa, to name
Someone else for what willed them

God willed Pessoa loneliness, and god willed
Gandhi patience, hurling them
Towards an endless row of failures

What other fate could befall them
But Akhmatova’s anguish, the melting snow
Dropping like tears
From their heavy, bronze eyelids.

Manash Bhattacharjee

About Manash Bhattacharjee

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer, translator and political science scholar. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Mudlark, The Postcolonialist, George Szirtes' Blog, Warscapes, First Proof: The Penguin Books of New Writing from India (Volume 5), The Missing Slate, The Little Magazine, and Coldnoon. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib's Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine. He is currently Adjunct Professor in the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at Ambedkar University, New Delhi.
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