Poetry: Dance Poem — Boat Song by Sonia Mukherji

Sonia Mukherjee

Sonia Mukherji was born in Kolkata and recently moved to London after living in New York for ten years.  She graduated from the Kundiman fellowship program and her poetry has been published and translated in the U.S. and internationally in literary journals including Stylus, Shampoo Poetry, Urhalphool, Kolkata’s The Little Magazine, Prothom Alo, The Dhaka Tribune, Bhorer Kagoj and the J’aipur Journal.  She was a finalist for the Amy Awards and the AALR a lettre initiative.  She was given an international poetry feature in Kolkata, which was held at the cultural institute Nandan, hosted by the Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar, reviewed by the literary journal Bhashanagar, and televised.

Dance Poem– Boat Song

It is not clear when we will rest

to the waning of the tide.  We are

together, we gather. I don’t want

to write another poem about

loneliness. There was no one to

bring home, just an image of your

uncle set to fire in the courtyard

while your aunt watched.

You would go to the train station

and riverside for any news at all.

Huts hiding seven families. Anyone

looking for shelter was kin.

You trudged that endless path

to the station, sweat and a low

moan waiting patiently inside,

Are there any brothers and sisters

from my village here?  He sings of

Deha Tatva, the beauty of all

created things. The Baul does

not write his song down. Some

in the boats were still alive when

they reached. Influx of Bangla—

hindu refugees arriving in Kolkata.

Villages burning in Chittagong

and Belgachia. I don’t want to write

another poem about a boat. I could

close my eyes. Together we are a

purring, dreaming thing. Arms

rise and retreat to the Bhatiyali

plucking of an ektara – medley

of bamboo and goatskin. We

keep rowing. Villages,

once a wildfire of tablas and

clay pots. Our choreographer

instructs. This is how we will

start the show.  But I don’t want

to write another boat poem. With

each verse, those behind me follow.

I am the first to start rowing. I can

feel them behind me. I lean on

their upright toes.  I lead.

This is how we will open.


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