Saturday, August 1, 2009

Asit Maitra

My Consulting Room

The pale wooden door’s stiff –
as if playing a game to resist me –
I open it with a jerk. It squeaks.
The lights inside giggle from behind
a semi-covered ceiling arch.

At first the cream wall stares at me,
then lowers its eyes, shyly welcoming.
Staffs had switched on an extra heater.
They know I like it a little hot
even when the daffodils are out.

The blue-cushioned chair hugs me,
my back surrenders to its curved embrace.
The polished arms extend a sensual touch.
We are familiar, we meet every week.

Then for a few hours voices, then silence
vibrate the air as my patients circulate
like corpuscles in a blood stream.
I scribble and scribble: clinical notes suffocate
under strangulating lines and loops.

I stop; tidy my papers for the day.
Sit unnecessarily for a few minutes,
all clinical matters erased from the slate.
Those minutes, a snatched slice of time –
here now between this room and me -
opens up a space as wide as that outside.

Cleaning Windows

You have to be careful, otherwise
You would make dreadful smudges.
You warned me about cleaning windows.

For a time I leave our windows alone.
Dust layers the pane like those screens
round your bed as nurse preps you for op.

Then the window-cleaner arrives –
I watch the meticulous swipe
of his rubber blade remove the frothy lines.

Needs a good clean from inside-
he says as he collects his five quid.
Later I take a bucket of water,

pour a cup of thick green soap
and with a cloth start smearing the glass.
I move my hands up and down,

side to side, feeling the slippery
surface through my gloved hand.
Is that how the surgeon felt

while scouring inside your abdomen?
Finished. I sit on our bed and inspect:
a number of spidery lines have spread

from one end to the other closing in.
Stealthily the dusk cuts off the light
hiding the smudges. At least for now.

A Clean House
(i.m. of Mickey)

The lounge is pristine
Like a bed
Not slept in.

I smell no smell –
The trapped smell
Of fart or breath

Or the shit.
The carpet gleams
Where his tray was kept.

I hear no sound –
A croaky soft sound.
Air solid as stone.

My house’s clinically
But soiled by his absence.

Brunt-Out Seconds

Coming back home from posting
an early letter to beat the deadline
my eyes focus on the dirty window ledge.

Taking a bowl of water I mix it
with washing-up soap and clean
sloshing liquid froth over the PVC.

I strike up a rhythm with my hands
moving to and fro – a rhythm
I am unused to when working on keyboard

spinning imageries with fiction and poems.
Then I inspect my work and find
stubborn black dots staring, my brunt-out seconds

A Short Piece

This is my short piece.

Prove it, you say.
How can I? It is not mathematical.
But you can count the letters, words,
lines and paragraphs.
Would that prove my case, I ask.
You half-smile, you are not sure now
as if I have set you a trap. What did I mean by
‘A short piece?’ What is short? One line,
ten lines, a packed A4 page?
One to infinity? A life?

Have you defined the question
before questioning it?
Can you define the question?
Can you taylor a thought without amputating
into lengths it won’t fit in?
Yes you can. What about Haiku?
The message is crystallised, a diamond.
Yes. But is it short enough?
On the other hand may be
it needs to roll on, a wheel,
edging, expanding the limits?

I’ve taken 160 words to say it
but isn’t it fun not define,
just write ‘A short piece?’
Like an epitaph? A short life?

Yours or mine?

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