Anindita Sengupta

The City of Water


They close all windows and draw the shades,
climb into bed with shoes on, cover
their heads. Outside, the relentless drip—
it can make people mad. In the fog-
blued distance, men sit at bus stops, count
puddles, train eyes on watches, mark time.

She thinks if she plays Gershwin, in time
the rhapsody will billow and shade
her ears from what creeps and squeaks, cover
up the rustle of restive rats. She counts
the days of rain so far. The lights fog
up, disappear. In the dark, drip-drip.

A needle in, she dissolves in coke-drip.
Next door, the man knots his muffler, times
his step to a tune, glides into fog,
edges below eaves, loses their shade,
runs bare-headed beneath sky, uncovered—
a small man calling a taxi, counting

the minutes to reach his lover, counting
in his head so no one can hear. Drip-
ping leaves hold no note for the girl covered
in cat fur, paused at her window. Time
turns messy and she can't tell its shades.
She waits for his shape to break through fog,

watches the boys, mere outlines in fog.
Vague as shadows or memories. A count
of frozen toes. The tarpaulin shade
crackles like paper; it's no dripstone.
She strokes her cat, (it purrs like a timer),
wonders how to offer them cover.

It's hard to give or receive—cover
from wet mud, cold-puckered skin, foggy
glasses, mosquitoes. And all the time,
everywhere, so many counting
the minutes, hours, days, the unceasing drip
of years clogged like waste, gummy, sludge-shaded.

Like Shades, they fall fast, go undercover,
lay out drip pans like coffins. Sleep-fogged,
they lose count of nights, forget to beat time.


                  originally appeared in City of Water (Sahitya Akademi, 2010)