Poetry: Dance Poem — Boat Song by Sonia Mukherji
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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