The Ghosts Take A Selfie
By Amlanjyoti Goswami
This time they met
Of all places, in a ranch in Texas.
Participants came from far and near.
There were jokhinis and pichachinis, from our parts
To represent the subaltern spirit
Of our times.
They had enough of the mainstream spirits
The holy ghosts, the father in time, the ever echoing banshees.
Last year’s attendees were not allowed in, no matter who you were.
President or captain of the local football team.
Diva or serenade. Even the Nobel or Oscar didn’t count.
Once in, you were out.
The enduring refrain was a felt need
For new voices, newer strains of screams and shouts,
New turns of phrase, gleeful laughs or hideous wailing.
Make it new. Pound like, but penny to the dozen
To the last naya paisa
Found on the last drunken street of Bambaiya.
Air travel no need for planes.
Travel by foot feet twisted inwards.
Breakaway sessions and plenaries—spoken word and broken tongue.
Discussions on the end of matter, time, matter-time,
Big data infinitely watching over your shoulder.
Need for more room, now that the rainforest was going up in smoke.
(Near the conference venue, they discovered gas we hear).
Someone said it was all hogwash, balderdash, gobbledygook
To worry about space in Texas, when in the global South,
Roads were taking over cemeteries, old houses were making way
For the new.
Ghosts did not have a place to stand
Even at the crossroads, like Robert Johnson.
It was all getting gridlocked. This tang of the time, melancholy the refrain.
At the end, some consensus prevailed,
That it was time to go beyond humans.
No one will miss us.
Do we miss the pterodactyl? The dodo?
The white winged wood duck?
The bonobo? The Tasmanian tiger? The woolly mammoth?
Why should the red ant miss us?
Even the ones crawling out
Of the final pages of a Hundred Years of Solitude?
A screech closed matters. The final countdown was quiet as the
Neighbourhood grave no one visits anymore
Ignored and left to the elements.
No minutes taken.
Nothing put to vote. No one fought.
The noisy practice of squeals and shrieks, of time past.
When it all ended, a lone figure stood in the distance,
(It is unclear what the rest of h/her looked like)
H/she said it was time to listen to silence.
The cacophony stopped, the babel grew quiet.
H/she said the very earth was at stake
The rising waters, the heat islands.
A wail broke out from the wilderness,
At the thought of one more perishing
Beloved Earth, our lover, turning into ghost
One of the many bubbling stars veering, like wayward spaceship for good
Beyond sun and star.
A dark, black hole.
They did gather for selfies though.
The pictures came out strange, no faces showed up.
An occult specialist later said, this was vital evidence
Those Polaroid figures—of hooded tree, these black and white binaries
Prove that they did exist, that the meeting did happen.
Since I was outside the circle, there is very little to comment further.
But I did see
Three tree witches by the side of the village road, near Bhotaigaon.
When I was turning around 2 am the other night.
They were hoary. White clad. They peered from
A distance. A world loomed between us.
The moment grew long as time…
I was on my way to the airport, a night flight
Across the oceans. Yes, to Texas.
All I heard was a voice, from where they were.
We have just come from there, they seemed to say.
But they just kept on staring, as we drove past.
Its difficult to be totally sure about these things.
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.