Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Poems by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Continuities

Canticle for My Son

Where Will the Next One Come from

  Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Continuities

I

This is about the green miraculous trees,
And old clocks on stone towers,
And playgrounds full of light
And dark blue uniforms.
At eight I’m a Boy Scout and make a tent
By stretching a bedsheet over parallel bars
And a fire by burning rose bushes,
I know half a dozen knots and drink
Tea from enamel mugs.
I wear khaki drill shorts, note down
The number-plates of cars,
Make a perfect about-turn for the first time.
In September I collect my cousins’ books
And find out the dates of the six Mughals
To secretly write the history of India.
I see Napoleon crossing the Alps
On a white horse.

II

My first watch is a fat and silver Omega
Grandfather won in a race fifty-nine years ago;
It never works and I’ve to
Push its hands every few minutes
To get a clearer picture of time.
Somewhere I’ve kept my autograph book,
The tincture of iodine in homeopathy bottles,
Bright postcards he sent from
Bad Ems, Germany.
At seven-thirty we are sent home
From the Cosmopolitan Club,
My father says, ‘No-bid,’
My mother forgets her hand
In a deck of cards.
I sit reading on the railing till midnight,
Above a worn sign
That advertises a dentist.

III

I go to sleep after I hear him
Snore like the school bell:
I’m standing alone in a back alley
And a face I can never recollect is removing
The hubcaps from our dull brown Ford.
The first words I mumble are the names of roads,
Thornhill, Hastings, Lytton;
We live in a small cottage,
I grow up on a guava tree
Wondering where the servants vanish
After dinner, at the magic of the bearded tailor
Who can change the shape of my ancestors.
I bend down from the swaying bridge
And pick up the river
Which once tried to hide me:
The dance of torn skin

Is for much later.