After He Left…

By Amlanjyoti Goswami


After he left…

…we rummaged the sheets for consolations.
We bribed the housekeepers for one more day
We cluttered the empty room
With spells.

Nothing.

This time we were empty as a hotel dustbin.
A hand that drew no line.
He had swept the place
Clean of memory, having come to leave his
Past behind.

We peered outside, where he must have looked
Every morning
The abandoned motors, the gas station, the old shop
Mattresses no longer sold, and further on,
The slit moon of an empty factory.

But no, there was nothing
We didn’t already know.
Was he a spy from another life?
Scrubbed clean and shaven dry, trained to evade his
Pursuers, throw them off his scent?

His moisture was palpably from the tropics.
That much was known.
Sweat leaves an aftertaste that only pillows can answer.

But even there, it wasn’t quite one person,
But more, perhaps four or five.
It seemed he slept on the floor
Because the bed was too soft, too comfortable,
And he would not quite feel at home.

On the carpet, he did not leave a broken strand
Of hair, or tongue the sheets in dream.
Such resolve, inside a star hotel.
We had not seen anyone like him before.

We recalled, that on the first, no second, night
One of us went to tap him on his shoulder
While he was softly snoring,

Not to scare him, but just to remind him that
The past still exists,
That it can sometimes
Creep up to you
When you least expect it.

We had told our neighbour not to bother, but it wouldn’t listen,
And just before the shoulder was tapped, he turned around
As if on cue, and uttered a chant from an undecipherable tongue.

A mantra (one of us later said, upon consulting the almanac of tongues)
It came in such flurry, his eyes still closed, that the words leapt off the
Silence of the room, and clanged into the table overhead,
The cutlery and the ceiling,
And the bliss we had come to call home, for want of a better name.

It was about to hit the corridors and awake everyone else up,
When our neighbour thought it sage to retreat, rather than
Wake the ghosts, from present and future.

We were in the past but he seemed to be
Strangely, outside time.

We sought a day more from the housekeepers,
Even that we knew would be
A waste of time.


About The Author


Poetrywala has just published Amlanjyoti Goswami’s collection of poems, River Wedding. His poems have been published in India, the UK, Nepal, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, USA, South Africa, Kenya and Germany, including the anthologies, 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala) and A Change of Climate (Manchester Metropolitan University, Environmental Justice Foundation and the University of Edinburgh). 

His poems have also appeared on street walls of Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg and buses in Philadelphia. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi. 

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