Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett

Hello.  Welcome to a new series of CITN.  We will be looking at the work of individual poets in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


CITN 46. This  edition features the poetry of SRINJAY CHAKRAVARTI.


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I dropped off everyday at my desk,

between 60 pt NewsGothic Heavy

and 30 pt TimesRoman Bold.

Tossing and turning sheets

between Wingdings, Webdings

and ZapfDingbats,


                        From The Summer I Made the Headlines by Srinjay Chakravarti






Ikebana of the Blind

The Summer I made the Headlines

The Hobo

The Sugar-Bees’ Honeycomb

Tears for Bengal

After Words

Adventures in the Thriller Trade

Fish Food

Dreaming Swimmer

All in a Day’s Work





I am a 36-year-old journalist, economist, poet and translator based in Salt Lake City, Calcutta, India. I currently work as an economist-editor with an international online financial news service.  My poetry, prose and translations have appeared in numerous publications in nearly 30 countries.   My first book of poems Occam’s Razor (Writers Workshop, Calcutta: 1994) received the Salt Literary Award from Salt, the Australian literary and publishing organisation headed by writer and academic John Kinsella, in 1995. Writers Workshop, Calcutta has just published my second poetry collection, Apollo’s Breath.

The Continental Review website, which has a video reading of my poetry, including my recitation of ‘Ikebana of the Blind’.

URLs: www.thecontinentalreview.com  The video reading has also been posted on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YdcxDlIPxs

or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YdcxDlIPxs&eurl=http://www.thecontinentalreview.com/     email address: srinjchak@hotmail.com.








He picks up vowels and consonants,

shape and form as the subject

of his fingers: dextrous


and facile, exploring

the impossible fragrances

of jasmine or lily.


He starts with the white nouns,

the basic folds in his alphabet;

then come the verbs

rustling in blue pleats,

and the adjectives forming

themselves into pink creases.


Working with his second

sight of crisp movements,

the grammar of touch and feel

harmonizes textures into rhythm

with his colour schemes of thoughts,

perfumed with imagination’s pollen.


Stretching a point too far —

on a flat sheet, he crinkles

compound curves out of its locus;


spiral gerundives of yellow,

vertexes twisted gently

into cutting edges, visualized

in the blackness of permanent night

into cascades of flowers: buds and blooms

of rose, lotus, gladiolus.


In his hands blossom the ritual

petals of inflexions and hyperboles:

curving branches, scattered leaves,

patterning an illusion of foliage.


Wildflowers, captured manifold

in squeeze and press, squash and push —

Saburo Kase’s nostrils

still tingle with the blossoms

he had smelt as a child

on the mountains near his home,

when vision was not yet lost.


Now it is origami’s paper magic

that parses down his constructions,

that eternizes them into immortelles

in his fingers’ vernacular.


Living in the moment, still

centre of the now, an old man

always in the dark,

but never without light;

his hands always redolent

                              of beauty.


Saburo Kase (b. 1926): one of the world’s greatest origami artists


This poem won one of the top prizes in the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Poetry Competition 2007-08 (www.dorothyprizes.org).






A white building, with windows

set into typefaces on its façade —

cells of bold fonts studded

on stucco walls grained like paper,

their borders yellowed into newsprint.


Everyday it was the same old storeys,

convoluted sentences of stairs

parsed up and down in reporters’ copy.


This is where I first came to know

the lies of the land —

in that summer, summer of ’92,

working as a vacation intern

in the newsroom of our local daily.


I learnt to cut corners of clippings,

bleed the edges of inkjet printouts,

trim down paragraph constructions

into false premises, all true to type.

My fingers were soon smudged with

non sequiturs and ad hominem slurs.


Then the night shifts started.

The office, like my temples,

was soon throbbing and pulsing

with the migraines of press machinery,

the gong of a tropical sun beating

inside its cranium much after dusk.


I dropped off everyday at my desk,

between 60 pt NewsGothic Heavy

and 30 pt TimesRoman Bold.

Tossing and turning sheets

between Wingdings, Webdings

and ZapfDingbats,

I would try Braggadocio

till the captions creased

into Perpetua lines on my forehead.


The kern between the fonts

came too close for comfort;

between shoulder and strap,

the girl next to me dropped

innuendoes into the message box,

into gutters that spilt too wide.


Inside my head, rape,

murder, and arson ran riot

with the scrabble of Reuters takes.

Slipping, skidding, between deadlines,

I hit the space-bar rather too often

between tedium, Valium and espresso.

Now I was news myself!


Between AvantGarde and Utopia,

it was the late edition

before sleep arrived.

By the time I woke up,

at next noon’s Meridien,

the truth was dead and buried

between Myriad Tilt and Futura Medium —


the heavier the slug,

the deeper the grave.


Shortlisted for the Being at Work Poetry Challenge (LivingWork, Ottawa, Canada); November 2006. Published in Bare Root Review (Southwest Minnesota State University)




Life is like the tattered coat of a beggar

To which, every day, a new rag of pain is added.

— Faiz Ahmed Faiz, A Few Days More


A mad yellow mongrel

in scabrous heat:

Calcutta’s sun in May,

stalking with its tongue

lolling, red and blazing.

With the paws

of an afternoon breeze,

it rakes its nails

through the gaps in the coat

covering his back.


He cuts a majestic figure

with his tattered robes of office,

his sceptre of a discarded umbrella

with broken skeletal ribs

and a patchwork canopy of holes

which lets the sun’s arrows through.


His train comprises

the alley’s floating residents,

his wake leaving a slipstream

of tomcat caterwauls,

barks and howls,

and stones pelted by local urchins.


This Calcutta slum is his dominion.

His realm lies between

the municipal garbage vats,

the fishermen’s slimy bheris,

and the miasma from the slurry

of a canal clogged with debris.


His throne is a derelict easy chair;

rocking on its delirium tremens,

he passes his December evenings

shivering and muttering to himself,

nitpicking his scruffy beard . . .

while watching the smog ambush

Chowringhee’s highrises, towers, spires

and the digital billboards arrayed

on a reflected Howrah Bridge,

blazing with free-market Marxism

and the raw scabs in the west.


August mornings, and the streets

are awash with water spilling

out of drains choked with garbage.

His shack sieves thundershowers,

those munificent blessings

of wounded monsoon clouds.

He sits amidst the puddles,

ganja smoke from a Mother India bidi

gauzing the creases of his face

with a bandage of psychedelia.


The head of his shanty

is no less a sieve, with alms

of the monsoon tinkling

down a honeycomb

of bugs and spiders.

Having put his house

in (dis)order, he lives comfortably

with the tenants he has forgotten:


cocky roaches, greedy geckos,

mice and lice, fleas and flies,

hogs or dogs, or ravenous ravens —

these are the subjects of his kingdom,

his ecosystemic biosphere

of lost lives thriving in peaceful coexistence.


Here is the epistemology of junk,

which de-constructs his only room

into an endless amazement park

of corners, cubby-holes, nooks, and crannies.


He subsists on moonshine,

on the arrack trickling

from the neighbourhood hooch joint,

the crumbs from communism’s high table,

and the bitter almonds of memories.


Labour travails claimed his wife

and those of another kind

cost him his job —

once upon a long time ago —

at a jute mill on the Hooghly.


What lost dreams and thoughts

are inside his brain,

stuffed into a coarse gunny bag —

his crowning glory

of matted and begrimed hair.

Head-dress of a lost vocation.


He comes, nimbused, with

an afterglow of twilight;

haloed by a cloud of mosquitoes

orbiting around his head:

bathotic aureole

for a postmodern ascetic

in a city crazed by suffering.


First prize in a poetry contest organised by Liquid Muse (Online, USA); June 2005. Also published in Terry (University of British Columbia, Vancouver) and in my second poetry collection, Apollo’s Breath (Writers Workshop, Calcutta: June 2009)




A golden stream of lentil

flows into a seething pan,

spiralling into fragile marvels,

trigonometrized into piping hot jalebis.


Succulent rossogollas,

spongy white spheres

soaked in refined syrup,

sweet and viscous and warm.


Delectable gulab jamuns,

rich maroon globes

wafting heady fragrances

while simmering in yellow juices.


Delicious rajbhogs,

brown balls fried to crispness

and drenched in thick liquids,

syrupy, sugary, steaming.


Poised on the rim of the tray

with its puddles of juice,

thick, rich, cloyingly sweet,

a housefly squats and rubs

its hands in ill-concealed glee.


Ants weave pheromonal messages,

antennae pursuing their trail

through sandesh barfi kalakand:

multicoloured, wrapped in silver foil,


geometrized into cubes, prisms, cones.


And the honey-bees hover,

floating on whirring wings:

miniature helicopter gunships,

ready to invade the showcases

of the dingy little shop of sweets

in a suburb of that metropolis

of grotesque absurdities — Calcutta.


Roadside smells assault the nostrils:

cowdung, petrol fumes, rotting garbage,

the effluvium of tropical putrefaction

mixing and matching into an incredible miasma

beyond the power of metaphor to describe.


But the bees? — ah,

they’re not so easily deceived.

They buzz into the open shop of mishti,

dancing, crawling, swirling, gathering

honey — okay, it’s actually just sugar —

from the sticky syrup on the trays.


Now don’t blame the poor fellows.

With factories and high-rises all around,

there’s hardly any decent tree left,

what to speak of gardens or orchards.


And without real flowers,

how do they build their honeycombs?


the Pride of Bengal Sweets and Savouries —

with its hoard of molasses, jaggery, cane sugar,

easy and convenient for sourcing

the raw materials of a beehive’s sucrose architecture.


If necessity is the mother of innovation,

then it’s not just we folks

who are up to that game —

honey — sorry, sugar — bees

are just one step ahead of us.


There’s a sting in the tale, though:

for the bare-bodied vendors

in the sweatshop — I mean, sweetshop —

who spend their sultry afternoons

with the winged visitors murmuring

sweet somethings in their ears


as they buzz around gathering

their daily doses of nectar.






Every year, around the time

when the monsoons depart,

we the people of Calcutta weep,

shedding tears without grief,

whether we want to or not.


Our eyes smart: they turn red,

discharging salt water all by themselves

in bizarre catharsis for a war

that happened over thirty years ago.


Some of us had not even been born

when the virulence first

came with the wind,

including yours truly.

But I, too, have not escaped its curse —

that lingering curse of a glorious Liberation War.


Still, our eyes will not let us forget

memories of that ethnic cleansing.

The migrants brought with them an infection

that is still pandemic here,

that is still called jai Bangla

in honour of the Bengali liberation war.


Since then, the bacterium responsible

for the ocular disorder has struck

every year during the late monsoons

with unfailing accuracy.


Calcuttans watch helplessly

as their eyes get inflamed,

their vision gets blurred, and tears

stream down involuntarily

from this epidemic of conjunctivitis.

It’s as though we still can’t forget

that carnage of Seventy-One, when

a new country was born across the border,

exacting a horrific price in blood and trauma –


and our eyes still water in remembrance

when history returns to haunt us

with the cathartic rains,

with tears shed and unshed.


The year: 1971. Ten million refugees spilled over from the birth pangs of a nation from Pakistan’s schismatic territory into neighbouring India, fleeing the throes of a genocidal war and army butchery as General Tiger Niazi and his soldiers stalked the towns and villages.

In Dacca, 7000 people were massacred on a single night. A total of three million slaughtered in just 267 days. Consider the figures: 400,000 women raped, 600,000 children killed. Of East Pakistan’s 75 million people, 30 million were uprooted and scattered. Fleeing from arrests in the night, torture in jail, rape on the streets, arson and pillage, abduction and murder. . . the myriad-headed hydra of violence.

With this came one of the largest exoduses in human history, ten million refugees pouring into Calcutta and its suburbs and villages. Yet Bengal triumphed, in the end.







The gecko on the hotel wall

bites its tongue, leaving

unsaid all that was lurking

inside the fluttering moth.


His cigarette smoke,

evanescent gossamer,

knits a web of vapour

with nicotine and tar.

Fragile as spider’s silk,

it gauzes his shadowed face

with white muslin.


The chameleon room

changes colours

in the protean light,

with his verbs and adverbs.

The mirror is quicksilvered

with his moods and tense.


She observes the lizard

twitch its knobbed neck

in gerunds of deceit –

the inflexions of its tail

sinister, like his modulated voice.


The conversation evaporates

into the thin mist

of small talk, the silences

condensing into droplets

on the steel-cold body

of the atomiser bottle.


On the bed, rumpled sheets

redolent of musk and arousal;

on the dressing table,

discarded tissues stained

with lip gloss and kisses.


From the hotel balcony,

she watches the monsoon

speak in forked tongues,

the silver dialect of snakes

on a dark velveteen sky.


She parses down the zigzag

grammar of lightning

with her lexicon of thunder.

Declension of static: its ions


spangle down from the clouds.

The grey evening prickles

on her bare arms; the lake’s

skin tingles with goose bumps.


The storm is taking its time

acquiring its vocabulary.

She watches the lizard

trickle down a windowpane

with the rain’s first teardrop.







Here I go, talking

(book)shop again!

This is my library of classics,

to which I turn for armchair frisson:

putting myself in other people’s boots,

always too big for my eight-year-old feet.


Here, on this shelf, is Stevenson,

and I am once again climbing

up the social ladder

with Jim Hawkins,

heart in my mouth

and life in unsafe Hands.


Here’s another island,

and now I’m marooned

with Peter and Wendy:

while Hook’s heartbeat

ticks away like clockwork

inside a crocodile’s belly.


With Maracot I plumb

his depths to salvage Atlantis,

descent into mellow drama —

the taller the tale,

the deeper the bathos.


With Rider Haggard

I tug at cosmic strings —

births, rebirths, afterbirths —

bouncing off like a yo-yo

from the Dark Continent

to the Roof of the World.


With Passepartout and Phileas Fogg

I turn the clock back,

rewinding time’s threads

on the spools of date line,

chronograph, and unbearable suspense.


Here I am now in the garden

of God, skinny-dipping

with Dicky in the gene pool

of a blue lagoon,

or plaiting golden skeins

into double helix braids

with Emmeline’s blond tresses.


Flipping the pages, I find myself

trapped with an Arabian knight

between a roc and a hard place;

or crossing words with a usurper

in the palaces of Zenda;

or deciding I have bones to pick

with Polynesian cannibals.


Can age wither the appeal

of such escapist fare?

Narnia or Mordor, all is

terra cognita for explorers

young once more. Here I am again,


at the shrine of Pop. Lit.,

devout votary of impossible illusions:

the pantheon of Mowgli and Tintin,

Nancy Drew and Harry Potter.


In Dumbledore’s pensieve,

I stir my thoughts into

the Brownian motion of memories,

spelling out charms with Rowling —

which only shows that imagination

can work just like magic!


This is where I return to Wonderland,

or wander through the Hundred-Acre-Wood.

Swinging from tree to tree

with Tarzan, on liana-generated curves

parabolic and hyperbolic —

asymptotes till the horizon

where childhood ends

and Pellucidar begins.






(From a show on the National Geographic TV channel)


Poor little things, those

snowy white baby egrets,

just hatched in the Brazilian rainforest.


To fall off their nests

means a grisly end, every time;

schools of savage piranha

lie in wait in the river beneath.


A false step, and the chicks

are stripped to bones in minutes,

the swift water swirling away

white feathers in a flash of red dye.


Of course, most of the birds stay safe,

and grow up to start their own families.

And they also come home to roost.


Now the food chain has turned full circle:

it’s summer, and the rain-fed river

has dried to a trickle, sloughing off


stagnant pools of water

after shrinking its sinuous course.


The piranha now barely stay afloat,

struggling to swim, or even breathe.

The egret survivors return to avenge

their slain siblings.




Her sleep sculpts the water, her hands

shape the blue-gold ripples of sunshine

floating through her eyes.


The soft sand of the river bed.

Pink stones and pebbles

stain the creamy smoothness

of the sandy bottom

under the tremulous current.



Her eyes closed, her body

open to the soft sleepy caress

of naked water.


Trees crouch on the banks.

Their roots, their fingers

go inside the river,

and arouse its shimmering haze

deep within her blue thoughts.

She sighs, and shifts

as fingers whisper

within the water.

The roots touch and caress

and probe naked water.


The river swims.

She lies still; she is asleep.

River, dreaming river.


She bathes in handfuls

of green sunshine

and blue water.

Leaves bend down

like thoughts,

brush their lips on the surface.


Sunshine stains her sleep,

an ache colours her white body.

The river bathes itself

in the morning sun.


The swimming dreamer.

The water sculpts her sleep,

its hands shape her body

to its own dreams.


Roots break through

the banks

and the shallows

of her sleep.

The curious fingers

of the trees curl around the dreams

the river dreams.


Some soft as sand,

some are smooth pebbles,

some jagged rocks

shiny with grained quartz.


She is asleep.

Her body flows gently,

water-kissed and sun-dappled,

with the river.


Dreaming, she swims with the river

and the river dreams with her.


Published in Ariga, Write-Away: WAH, Argo Boat, Private Review, Ginosko, Softblow, and in my second poetry collection, Apollo’s Breath (Writers Workshop, Calcutta: June 2009)




From the window of my brown study,

Chrysanthemum Park is minted

into green and yellow

when the sun chooses to be a goldsmith.


The trees hum and drone with bumble-bees.

Giant oaks roll their lost acorns

with gnarled fingers deep inside hollow pockets.


Rabbits and hares gambol about busily,

in and out of burrows, ears always to the ground;

stopping only to wash their hands

of dust, pollen, and leisure.


Pearly white spiders

knit endless trampolines

with spruce needles.

Green darners float around,

their shiny wings iridescent

with dreamy languor.


Chattering sparrows kick up heir heels.

Halcyon moments, by the ruffled lake —

and the kingfisher, brilliant,

fishes for compliments.


Squirrels and chipmunks, self-appointed surveyors

scamper up and down pines, birches, larches —

measuring and mapping throughout the hours.


Then they squat down, twirling their moustaches,

spending their time of day solving complicated sums

in the shade of the mushrooms.


Amnesiac misers with their hoards

of nuts and berries, their chatter crackles

into the slow lazy static on the vacant radio

in the still summer afternoon . . .


First prize in the Euphoria Poetry Contest 2005: published February 1, 2006. Also appeared in La Fenêtre Magazine and in my second poetry collection, Apollo’s Breath (Writers Workshop, Calcutta: June 2009)


4 - Afterword

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