What Remains Behind?

I know you don’t like anything here

The chocolates your cousin had sent

from New York, a month ago, are gone

to the anxieties of not meeting him

again, in the Durga Puja vacation,

when you feel proud in taking him

through the sylvan Sal-braced roads,

from the crowded city to Santiniketan,

reminiscing childhood in fading autumn.

I know you don’t like anything here—

The heat, the dust, the cows, the syllabus

The roads, the corruption in the system—

It upsets you like the perennial lockdown

floating with factory waste in the Ganges.

You watch the airplanes taking off

to faraway places, where ‘All is well’

Your sigh settles on the ash in the smog

At home, your younger sister complains:

“It’s awful! I don’t like anything, these days.”

In the backyard of your house–

Two tall trees quarrel every now and then

The empty streets echo their sobs at night

Who set the dry leaves on fire after the fight?

The embers are flying high to the dotted lights

Look! They move silently in the pandemic sky

carrying corpses over the ice-cold clouds,

The coffins dissolve into your aching eyes.

You splash water on your face and the fire

The smoke slinks into the maze of your mind

You speculate “Then, what remains behind? “

Dissenting voices in the sunset shadow?

Or, the nation, its people and a tomorrow?

                                                                                                   ~Shyamasri Maji

                                                                                                      Durgapur, West Bengal

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