Bibhu Padhi – Four Poems

Bibhu Padhi, a two-time Pushcart nominee, has published fourteen books of poetry. His poems have appeared in major magazines throughout the world, such as Contemporary Review, Encounter, New Humanist, The London Magazine, The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Wasafiri, The American Scholar, The Literary Review, The New Criterion, Poet Lore, Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Reed Magazine, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Queen’s Quarterly, New Contrast, Text, Takahe, Debonair, The Illustrated Weekly of India, and Indian Literature. They have been included in numerous anthologies and high-school/university textbooks. Five of the most recent of these are Language for a New Century (New York: Norton), Journeys (London: HarperCollins), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Distant Drums (Hyderabad & Mumbai: Orient Blackswan), and The Penguin Book of Indian Poets.


I am the cat that loves
to lick a woman’s feet, her entire body
to get the saline taste.
Aren’t you your dark,
slender body?
Aren’t you your
ever-awaited touch?
Are you not mine in your
long fingers that cover themselves
each time they see me,
even remotely, on the dirty
crowded corridors
of my middle-age life?
Aren’t you the dark body, the feet
that walk the long
nameless heart of my time,
but naked to the harsh air
that wouldn’t feel
the stories of your dark,
untouched streets?
Somewhere, from
deep within me,
a cat speaks, asks you,
“Aren’t you the paws
in my warm, feline fantasies?
Aren’t you the dark cat
I dream to curl around, lick?”


It is again chilled water.
Somewhere the thirst stays, the hunger
troubles your intimacies
in spite of bottles of plain chilled water,
preserved by loving, well-trained hands
in this house’s deep, deep freezer.
You ask yourself why it can’t chill
even simple water soon enough
for this mouth, this throat,
this modest thirst, small hunger.

Summer seems to be everywhere—
in today’s nameless season, your body’s
ill-explained desire, your sleeping
child’s lean, afternoon rest, on
the blandly superstitious,
stupidly eager eyes of friends and strangers.
And yet, messages of love keep travelling
between your fingers and unwritten words.
I can see the wonder in your eyes,
the questions you’re about to ask yourself.

Why this? Why this craving for
chilled water? Has something gone wrong
somewhere? Have I been neglecting
someone else’s thirst or hunger,
some other desire? Must I always listen
to this sick body?
Yes, I suppose I should be where
the heart is looking for friendship
at a time and place all its own, elsewhere.

You hardly know how different
you’ve been from every other thing
you’ve fallen in love with, longed for—
younger girls, beer in plenty, your own bursts
of wilderness, your children’s righteous anger.
Ask yourself, “Could it be neither? Neither
thirst, nor hunger?” For, would you know
how cold the earth could be to our concentrated
warmth, restive with itself, looking for, even now,
just one more bottle of chilled water?


for Minu

I already know, there isn’t much flesh here.
The eagerness of an exotic lunch
is somehow blunted and burnt
in a pan of its own making.
“There’s only bone and thin-bone,”
someone quietly complains.
And someone else describes how
he was cheated by a lamb
that was too small for our appetite.
I imagine our imagined sacrifices,
our ingrained habit to place the blame
where it hardly belongs.
I’m about to say the following
words, ask a question or two of sorts:
“How much more could it give us?
It gave us the whole of itself, small as it was,
hiding nothing, in its very own, special ways.
It is for us to decide whether we accept
such sacrifice or call it less than one.
What more could it give you except
growing bones and flesh still
in the process of accumulation?”
I remember an intelligent student
asking me why William Blake
had used the tiger with the lamb
and I failing to answer.
But now, I think, I understand
what simplicity is, what innocence is not—
a powerful mind dreaming of a terrible image
that will hold good for centuries, a turn
of the will, a wish nonetheless to say
less than what one intended.
And a will to refuse to mourn the dead.


A wish rises to the mouth.
What do mashed potatoes tell you
about their wild branching out,
touching similar, friendly roots?
Do they say anything at all?
Or the eggplants?
The tomatoes? The onions?
I wonder if they know
how to formulate a speech at all!
If only they knew, wouldn’t there be
trouble in our alimentary canal,
mouthing words?
How much we speak! And with
very little or no purpose at all!
I wonder if the green potato
and yellow mustard plants
don’t look more like themselves
on their own fields than in our
harsh mouths?
Where do they end, how far are
the hens’ eggs from the potatoes?
Why the distance at all until, unless,
they offer themselves to us?
Can’t we imagine our dream-food
on empty plates and bowls, leave
the rest of the world alone,
to themselves?




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