Jan/Feb 2004 Poetry

Temple in Bishnupur, West Bengal

by Sumanta Sanyal


Temple in Bishnupur, West Bengal

I dreamt under dappled shade
till twilight served a crimson sky
to crown myself with.

The cows were calling it a day;
the metal'd road was, quite successfully,
losing itself into the dark woods;
nobody was going anywhere.

I sat it out slapping at mosquitoes
till crimson crown changed
to star-spangled cone, wizard's cone
which I promptly donned.

Wizard, I wandered to the riverbank.
Moonlight was streaming past
in a broad band; a recalcitrant dhow
was trying to decide which way to go.
The wind wasn't helping.

A terracotta temple, perched
among the power of its own silhouette,
lent itself to speculation. Some once-
prosperous village had erected it
and since dispersed, leaving parched land
to leach down the hungry river.

Soft Bengal, built on flood-plain terrain,
has little stone, and so its history,
moulded in terracotta, in short periodicities,
crumbles back to the earth
from which it was assiduously coaxed,
leaving no footprints for those who come after.

The soporific susurrus of wind
through the kas reeds
projected inscrutable complacencies.

So it was!

Temple-in-the-world standing Rembrandtesque
in the guileless moonlight on its way to oblivion.

Wizard, I weakened back to the anonymous womb
of my hotel room to become free of all necessity.

Temple-in-the-world and I-in-the-world
on our diverse ways to oblivion. This bed,

soft and relaxing, may not last. Only the Earth
may last, at least for some time now.


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