Poetry 2

Deforestation

 

by Bashabi Fraser

When you walk beneath my boughs

They make a canopy above your gaze –

So intricate that the sky appears in glimpses

And if you invade my domain

You will find your steps impeded by the foliage

That flourishes between the stalwart trunks

Of my populace – this earth’s rich heritage.

You can feel the deep silence of my presence

Which embraces your every alert sense.

This is where the leopards lurk

The deer stand still or leap away,

Here I have the foxes’ den

The pheasants’ call, the rhino’s horn

The bison herds between my bark

And birds of every hue and cry

Send sharp signals

To all prey

Who slink away

Amidst my intense density

Where monkeys chatter

And squirrels scatter

Nuts and fruits

Against my roots

And blooms that vie

In shape and colour

To attract and capture

The insect life that is enraptured

By the habitat I provide.

But you have set a tidal wave

That sweeps under the forest glade

Pushing my treeline back

To the edge of life’s brink.

You have cleared me to plant cash crops

You have cleared me to graze cattle

You have cleared me to cultivate

You have cleared me to build your homes,

Your roads, your factories and fires,

To paper walls, to write your tales,

To feed your staggering race

That overfills this planet’s face.

You have set in motion soil erosion

You have let landslides, mudslides crush.

My roots that keep the earth soil porous,

Now removed, cause floods that flash.

I hold carbon dioxide

I release your precious oxygen

You slash at your very lungs

With every tree you crash for gain

As the air above turns heavy with

Greenhouse gases that spell death.

Every day you calmly clear

Twenty football field-size land

Of virgin forest that today stand

Between you and your destruction.

So twelve million hectares

Disappear every year.

This is a war you now wage

With cutting-edge technology –

Bulldozers that neatly raze

And road graders and log skidders

That bare the earth’s surface –

Till in a hundred years from now

My forests will exist no more

Replaced by a silence

More terrifying than war.

(Published in Scottish PEB online journal in an issue on Climate Change and Global warming)

BHOPAL Now

by Bashabi Fraser

My baby sleeps

Dreaming of Wonderland.

My boy and girl weep

Cramped by burning pain.

My mother-in-law keeps vigil

Waving a weary fan

To soothe their dewy dampness,

Pushing back a wispy strand

From her bleary eyes,

Flinching from their fiery itch.

Her husband’s ashes have

Been conjoined with my

Husband’s, in water that

Races like death’s own chariot,

Galloping through the City

Having surfaced from earth’s

Bowels where it has churned

Through our well waters

And now invites the clouds

To join in this invidious war

Against a defenceless city

A reminder of that cloud which

Seeped into our unwary waking dreams

One December night

Contaminating my baby’s

Dreams of Wonderland

Forever.

(Written for Bhopal Fundraising event and published on Wordpower Books website)

Crepuscular: The Urbanized Prowler

 

by Bashabi Fraser

Hush…this is the magic moment

When the Merchant City sleeps

As my father’s raiment

Of wondrous wings sweep

Over stone tenements –

Scouring diurnal nests

Inspecting vacant lots

For a delectable feast

His spring clutch awaits.

My mother awoke to life

In the scooped cove

Of a hoary oak

From where she learnt to roam

Till my father swooped

Down one night,

Won by the bonnie

Beauty of her flight

His queen of tawny owldom.

And I was born one spring

In the intersctices of stone

The last sibling

Who has never felt alone.

And though I was the last

And the smallest

Of the nest

Five years ago

I knew I was best.

My parents were agitated

When one night they heard

That New Wynd would be lighted –

Against nocturnal birds

In a festival of radiance

That would keep the folk awake

Festooned with brilliance

Right upto daybreak.

 

(commissioned and published in Hidden City 5)

India Calls

by Bashabi Fraser

Wave on wave of humanity rolled

Through her mountain passes

Boat after boat arrived

At her ample, open shores.

Her lap was large, her cradle soft

Her arms were bountiful with gifts –

They came to take, they came for more

There was no dearth to her rich store

They loved her for her growing plains,

Expansive, fertile and well-drained.

Some returned, most came to stay

Adopting her appealing ways

Blood mingled with blood to form

This multi-ethnic vast nation

An unparalleled diversity

In paradoxical proximity

Of melting snows on mountain tops

And arid lands and thriving crops

Watched by blue eyes’ startling hue

Matched by auburn curls of few

While raven locks adorn and crown

White and black toned down to brown

Her demographic clock ticks merrily

on

She stands strong, past one billion

Five thousand years she has survived,

Post-empire, severed[1], she thrives

The old sits smugly with the new

Industrial smoke with the humble hoe

Spires, minarets and domes

Huts beside the rich men’s homes

The Ambassador[2] still going strong

While Indica’s[3] now join the throng

Double-deckers veer away

From autos’[4] ubiquitous sway

Battery run television sets

Where electric lines don’t penetrate

Kurtas vie with collared shirts

And saris rival mini skirts

The slow, sagacious bullock carts

Ambling past plush cyber marts –

So just as strangers joined the fold

New trends don’t replace the old

The world has moved in once again

Calling her in her domain[1].

(Written on the request of the Indian Consulate for Indian Independence Day celebrations on 15 August and read on that day)


[1]A reference to the Call Centres of multinational companies in India.


[1]India was Partitioned at the time of her Independence in 1947, to form Pakistan.

[2]The Ambassador car is a bigger version of the old Morris Minor, made by Hindustan Motors, whose sturdy make adapts well to Indian roads.

[3]The Indica is a car made by Tata, modern, well regarded and popular.

[4]Auto-rickshaws are three-wheelers with diesel engines, driven recklessly and aggressively through traffic jams – a popular mode of transport operating like taxis in towns and cities of the sub-continent.

Mothers All

by Bashabi Fraser

They don’t climb Everest from Nepal

They don’t challenge every Munro

They don’t swim across the Channel

They don’t cycle round this orb

They are not the tree hammocking  protesters

They are not the May Day marauders

They don’t march silently in blood stained Rangoon

They don’t confront tanks in Tiananmen Square

They forego promotion and paypackets.

They stay at home. They are night watchers

Who feed and rock and calm to sleep

They tie their precious gifts to their back

Or stagger in tired pride, pushing our future

They are the bravest soldiers – marching on.

Brazenly – in Cafes

by Bashabi Fraser

This is a new culture of concentrated inwardness

Where the marriage of a cup and thoughts

Flow onto paper or screen, undeterred

By fellow drinkers at other tables.

We have moved from smoky pubs

To smoke-free zones, from the mystery

Of dark interiors, droning voices and blaring

Football distraction, to seclusion.

From being the gin and tonic loner,

Or the kitchen table Bronte, propping notebook

Against recipe book, the reclusive Austen

Or the secretive Dickinson, carving, stitching

Words, away from the public gaze. We are brazen

Interlopers, claiming a space of our own in the metropole.

Urban Gothic of the Second World War

– for Sara Wasson –

by Bashabi Fraser

The lights go out on Southwark Street

The blackout is now complete

Cars with muffled beams crawl past

Phantom shapes that grope and gasp.

In this stone forest of silhouettes

The wan moon swoons in pirouettes

Round rotting trees and wasted Heath

Its symphony, a dance of death.

There will be dancing on the streets

Once bombs create primordial piles

And girls from factories’ smart retreats

Will click red shoes in rhythmic style

A ghost army marching in, to a soundless Doric tune

Will partner each dancing dream, unfolding beneath the moon.

 

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