The Poetry Kit
CALCUTTA AND THE ZEROTH LAW
"If two bodies are each in thermal equilibrium with a third body, then they
are in thermal equilibrium with each other."
A universe contained in itself,
sprawling inside out
in entropic pull
towards a grey slurry of time.
Defying margin releases,
the city spills every passing day
beyond the indents and the borders
set in reams of typewritten sheets
in the Municipality office.
The streets bursting at the seams
with chaotic traffic:
2004 Mercedes and 1952 Landmaster,
Seventies Toyota and Sixties Leyland,
pre-war Fiat, post-war Volkswagen.
Caught in the inexorable
suction of gravity
into a uniform heat death.
Traffic constables don gas masks
at Shyambazar, Gariahat, Esplanade
where the exhaust fumes and pollution
clutch at their throats.
With its guts spilling out,
bloodied by Marxist slogan and graffito,
the metropolis tugs
newer, more sordid suburbs into itself --
Kasba to Sonarpur on one side,
Parnasree and Oxytown on another,
Keshtopur and Birati on the east.
Canals can no longer
mark out its limits.
No longer can the bypass
circumscribe its borders
or railway tracks fence in
its squalid slums and ghettoes.
It spreads out its tentacles,
myriad and desperate,
to keep afloat in the cesspool of slime --
and shabby tenements cohabit
with each other gloriously
in adiabatic confusion.
Its feet sucked under
in a quicksand of migrants, settlers,
multitudes of the naked and the hungry:
it clutches at the straws
of girder and truss floating
in the wind.
To survive, Calcutta recycles
itself into itself:
to thrive, it turns itself
Gamins pick up rags and torn envelopes
to turn into newsprint.
Newspapers regurgitate lies, half-truths
and politician's promises.
Ideologies come full circle,
remixed into cacophonous albums
of hit parades from the Sixties
while poets turn old clichEs
Into new mantras of despair.
For the very poor, the lines blur
between the living and the dead --
for, the living themselves recycle death.
Here, in Calcutta --
a small-scale industry
to collect discarded syringes
and hypodermic needles from hospitals,
wash them and seal them in new packets,
for sale to unsuspecting new patients.