The Old Shillong House

By Amlanjyoti Goswami


Lime walled, sun baked
The old Shillong house
No sign of wear.
Thick amidst the rushes,
Glittering in white stone.

A cousin speaks across the walls
A guttural tongue,
I cry out.
Nothing from the other side.
It grows quiet when I call him, open my mouth.

Outside, familiar colour parades the streets in playground frolic.
Schoolgirls, red and black tunics
Turning shawls into uniform,
Laughing hearty, about boys and hoola hoops
As if the carnival never left town.

Rain patters on.
Hunger calls me, seeks me out
I wander the town, finally a vagabond.
Stomach growls, quietens mind.
Dal chawal dal chawal. No bright lit place

Just grease and lightning.
A home shack would do. Wood and bamboo.
The road to nowhere with made up steps.
The bench smeared with time,
Others quietly slurp what is offered- Dal and Monet. Juicy rice.

Fed, quenched, back at the old Shillong house
He has not aged a bit. My father
Comes to me as if in dream. He asks: how are you now,
Now that you are free? Now that you have nothing to lose?
Only memories shackle you now.

He is elegant, a greek god who knows the answer
To all questions asked and unasked. I nod to a standstill.
No answer to offer. I want to tell him
There is no one left now, only this house
With its rafters pouring old Shillong rain, and the evening

Comes looking for an answer. But he already knows that.
I want to tell him I am no longer sorrowful, vengeful or bitter,
I am now an old new leaf, sated, no longer so eager, quick on feet
Or easy on eye, that nothing binds me now, to light or the dark,
But I stop. I cannot move my lips.

Mosquitoes in my ears. It is so quiet
No one would know
Two men inside the house asking riddles as questions,
Questions with no answers, where all answers are the same.
Stolen sunsets. Silence rushes in like a tear.


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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