First Love

[My tribute to the immortal love poems of my favorite poet of Bengal, Sunil Gangopadhyay.]

Sunil Gangopadhyay

My first love was a foggy blur
Over my familiar world of twenty springs.
He stretched over, with his eager eyes,
His moving lips, his thrusting loins
Eclipsing everything I thought, was my own terrain,
Yet, I could never touch the contours of his desires,
I was too short, too minuscule for his stature.

My first love was my irresistible hunger for freedom,
But in his desire, my being was enmeshed in shackles
He taught me how to open doors in poetry, but I never saw
The faces of those doors, the pathways that he promised
All those doors led to…I kept looking for that elusive room
That he spoke about, close to one such door,
Housing my maiden nothingness…
I kept looking for that non-existent verandah,

Where I thought the cage of that room would open.
I never told my first love about the nameless urges of despair
That hugged the walls of that elusive room of freedom
The dense, stubborn body of desperation, of my silent abhimaan
That choked my voice, as I moved away to faraway mountains,
Forests, primordial dens of my own making, to break free.

My first love was my sudden epiphany, to break the shackles of that love
Didn’t I break my own being into splinters and shards?
I was too naïve, too restless for his shawl to cocoon myself.

I never gave my first love all my fierce gaze
The untainted bliss of the unearthly spring morning,
I never told my first love that in my daring steps towards womanhood
The tug and pull between my senses, tender, yet fierce, uncompromising
And his desire to hold me back was the only battlefield
But now, if he is anywhere near or far, under the same firmament,
I give him back those moments of unbecoming,
I give him back those coveted words, phrases, jargons
And the quiet, surreptitious goosebumps of my early youth.
I give him back the bumps and ridges of the love of my maiden times,
Crooked, like mountain roads, I give him back the ancient promises
That had gushed along, like waves of the impatient, youthful river,
And dissolved soon, replaced by other melodic surges.
I give him back all the Nor ’wester storms,
The ravaging fires of my early youth,

I give him back the furious gust of wind that the forest lured me with
Opening all those elusive doors of freedom of a lifetime.

And now, my first love, if he is anywhere near,
I will rub off that foggy blur of twenty springs,
Wishing to walk with him
Hand-in-hand, the tears and pearls of laughter
Of my maiden years

Liberating me, between the hills and crests of reminiscences.
I can see us both, hanging loose in that flower bed
Where death has spread its blue, balmy essence.
It is as if I whisper to him,

“See, now that all my thirsts are quenched
What can you give me back, pray?”

Lopamudra Banerjee is an author, poet, editor and translator based in Texas, USA, but originally from Kolkata, India.


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