Four Walls and a Door

My first refuge of solitude
Was a little room where daily knocks
Shook daydreams and nightmares

Yet I often waited for knocks to appear
With gifts
Larger than loneliness

Poets filled up shelves
More rapidly than clothes in the cupboard
Naked with waiting
Clothed in four walls I made adjustments

Friends occasionally made me forget
I was the mirror’s only face

I dug myself in writers who took over my life
I wore their obsessions
My surrogate life filling up ashtrays

To be alone is to be in a place where
You cannot be visited
Where no one has seen you or heard you

To be alone is to invent yourself
Like a stubborn child

One night I was woken from sleep
By invisible elves with half-familiar stories

I had no idea where they came from
They vanished when anyone knocked
To reappear when I was alone
The nights were roomful of ghosts and daylights
Too difficult for conservation

I never protested against my loneliness
So I never wrote on walls
I faced everything with my eyes

I grew restless about posters demanding
Someone else’s freedom or right

We rob others’ sufferings to make our politics
We wear our own sufferings like masks
The posters were a double lie

Women spoke to me like I was a little
Boy lost inside a professor
But the poets never said I needed
To be a man

The four walls of my room were built
Brick by brick where my days of long hairs
Grew brick by brick

Others make our walls for us and we
Make our solitudes inside them

I met a woman who spoke the language
Of grapes and made me dream of vineyards
She laughed stretched on a boat
The room slowly turned into a river

She jumped into another boat
The water turned into sand
And I became suspicious of grapes

Grapes returned disguised in alcohol
I took up the causes of the world
Feigning my own with liquid abuses

The baffled elves hounded me
In turn with mad stories
I banished the world and played
In the company of shadows

I too measured my life but not with
The stiffness of coffee spoons
Life was a slippery gap through fingers
Holding a cigarette

My mother couldn’t tell what was wrong
I couldn’t tell what was right
Father didn’t know what was going on
Or that he was about to die

I returned to books where characters
Hurled dark stones at the world or themselves
I found Humbert’s passion for Lolita
The story of irresistible roots

The world hid under Nabokov’s shoes
To blame the colour of his heart

I walked past young girls without disbelief
My room grew more and more dark
Darkness doesn’t have mind or mirrors
It has dreams and naked fears
Darkness doesn’t bother getting lost
Because it is already lost

Someone walked in without knocking

I gave her smoke she needed hands
She gave me stories I needed nakedness
She was running from the heart
I needed more comfort than breasts

We got nowhere
And the world got between us

I chased her as fascists were rising
And my father was dying
I realized fascism and death
Inspire love

The walls began to shake

When you are in love you want to
Break the walls down
But not if your hands are tied

My hands were tied by her face
By unknown defeats
By antibiotic silences heedful eyes

Friends drank the same alcohol
Mine alone was bitter

I wished to destroy my books
They ate me up more than the walls
I thought books were bridges to the world
What if they collapsed on me?

I wanted to forget everything I learnt
I wanted to forget I ever learnt anything
I wanted to strip myself white like the
Bare walls around me

From the dark well of the mirror I caught
The elves streaming out one night
Did I hide them there?
There was no time for such questions

With tied hands a dark face an alcoholic
Mouth I kept stripping and shouting
For the end of fascism my father’s suffering
Also for love

Shouts unlike prayers are sometimes heard

Fascism was defeated father died
Love arrived painfully
Following death on the way

Where did you go? What made you return?
Did someone show you the way? Or are you here
By chance?

In love you don’t ask for answers
You answer for what are not questions

In love you don’t know
If you are asking or answering

As I fill up these pages my mirror and books
Lie asleep breathing lightly

Things which bear your life on their own weight
Play tricks when you are lonely
Loneliness transfers the weight of things
Makes them speak dangerously

Everything lightens up on the beloved’s arrival

She comes and goes with small steps
And an infinite face putting everything where
You find them and know she’s around

My room found new corners my life
New disorders
I found my old face in a new mess

This poem within four walls is finally
Free from its ways of getting lost

Neither deaths nor defeats can prevent
The moment of arrival

My room’s door now opens from both sides

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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