This poem was first published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 5 (2021).
There stands Nargis, her face split in two
By rebel light. In black-and-white, across
The politik of age, tragedy assumes her—
The breeze wearing a leaf—this destiny
Left to dance; oh such fine drama.
Guru Dutt descends, a statue crumbling,
His face equally split by the light. Smoke
Hovers above him like departing belief.
He smokes a cigarette, a cigarette unlit
—bereft, to chance. Oh such fine drama.
In a bookshop, in Paris, leaves frolic
Like a salacious flock. The Beatniks and
The Losts, make no mistake, a contagious
Flock. Amid the unrest of seasons am I,
Humming a song from an album past.
Autumn is here, and leaves plunge
Amok. Trepidation clears his throat.
This is a morning to court life and the
promised kiss. Cupid on a broken roof.
Theft, cue nuance. Oh such fine drama.
Farida Khanum asks me not to leave.
She whispers that today, I shouldn’t
Make a fuss about this inevitable flight.
Even vinyl weeps, the shuffle in its
Voice drenched in notes of departure.
I hope the smell remains—that whiff
Of rain, and the beseeching of earth.
Of youth and young manhood, flung
Out into the wind. I struck a match;
Wept-thru glance. Oh such fine drama.
In a bookshop, in Paris, I lay down
Between rows of shelves. Looking up,
My eyes meet Fitzgerald. They meet Eco.
They meet a cavalcade of hyphenated
Indians, in this here paradisiacal limbo.
Nargis again, and Raj Kapoor. What to
Say of khwaish and age? They twirl among
The shelves—her sari drenched, his hat
Cocked—a mirage of prancing lovers.
Serif, due sans... Oh such fine drama.
I write a poem in the cinema of alit
Promises. A moving mosaic of images
And tête-à-têtes. I assume the film-star
Arrogance of the forties, flitting among
Scenes like a migratory Prospero.
Ghalib, le ja tu. This season is done. I have my books and I possess this heart.
I tumble into dawns that stir from the
Wombs of fabled cities. Drunk, I crept
Through romance. Oh such fine drama.
Siddharth Dasgupta in an Indian writer who crafts poetry and fiction from lost hometowns, cafés dappled in early morning light, and cities inflicted with an existential throb. His books traverse fictional landscapes, unpredictable verse, and that special somewhere in between. Siddharth is the author of four books, including A Moveable Feast and his work has appeared in Epiphany, Lunch Ticket, The Bosphorus Review, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Kyoto Journal, and elsewhere, while he has read in places like Bombay, Istanbul, Isfahan, Lucknow, Mandalay, Galle, and Paris. He lives in the city of Poona, embraced by an always fickle muse and the quiet startle of nostalgia. Follow the author on Instagram @citizen.bliss
Zaam Arif is an American-Pakistani contemporary artist residing and working in Houston, Texas. He is the youngest Pakistani artist to be published in The New Yorker. In 2021, his work was selected to be exhibited in the Malamegi Lab Award and was awarded the Malamegi Lab Research Grant in Italy.
Zaam explores existentialist experiences of the layman, the experiences that we tend to hide. He confronts it with a penetrating interpretation of human nature, transformingit into a visceral reality. His work is a manifestation of his understanding of the contemporary human condition along with insights garnered from his study of classical literature and psychology. He is adamant in exploring the harsher truths and inner conflicts that plague us all in this day and age, using visual contrast in all his pieces, whether through colour, lack thereof, or the medium itself, to express it.