— Sandip Bhattacharya

In the parking lot across the street, the woman
Strides purposefully towards the building;
A boyten, eleven perhapstrails his mother.
He moves in a gangly, loose-jointed way,
Following her, not eagerly, not reluctantly either,
But in a manner that a duckling might have when
It is old enough to swim, but follows its mother still,
Out of habit…

Another age, another continent, another city
Fourteen million souls and a school of ten thousand
The bell rings and they gatherhundreds,
Milling at the black gates of iron, some trickling through.
And one walks in that gangly, loose-jointed way
Not eager, though not unwilling, to go home…
Past the sellers of raw mango, past the sellers of guavas
Each fruit four-sliced and sprinkled with salt and chilli,
Past the vendors of kooltiny red berries, almost all stone,
Spiced and crammed in paper cones, selling for 4 annas;
The boy pops a bunch in his mouth, rolls them in his cheeks,
Sweet-sour-heat draws a rush of saliva to his tongue;
He nibbles the dried flesh and finally, blowing up his jowls,
Spits the pits, as far as he can, rat-a-tat-tat like the Tommy guns
In the comics he sneaks and reads in history class.
Awkward and reluctant, he walks
Past the sellers of shaved ice, their bottles of liquid neon
Violent red, toxic green, questionable blue
Winking in the sunlight against fractured piles of ice;
But these are cylinders of kryptonite he knows
All mothers have warned their wards – dreadful diseases
Befall the foolish who let their lips touch a drop.
Some do, still, instantly splitting the known universe of boys
Into those that risk all for momentary pleasure
And those who, giving longing, sideways glances,
Walk on…

One thought on “Flashback

  1. Sandip, I love your explorations of childhood. You’ve read a few of these memoir poems lately, and they are wonderfully and sweetly nostalgic. There is such life in these flashbacks; the memories come alive with the vibrancy and colors of the marketplace.

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