Ashik Kumar


It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves up in patterns on a screen:

-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


Six evenings have I stood before your gate,

On your lampless street, beneath tree shadows black,

Swallowed, turned around and then walked back

With my head down, avoiding the gaze of lonely men

Who’ve seen me take this walk again again,

Wondering if the invitation still stands,

Wondering if I should ignore the hostile clang

Of rusted iron latch on creaking gate

And ascend the stair.

Do I dare?

Would I were sure I’d meet a smile there!

(Overbrimming and downed with wisps of black hair)


After the hurried conversations

That never get anywhere

After the interruptions

After the sterile air

After the farce and flirtation

The crushed expectations

Renewed by sidereous eyes and midnight hair.


Do I dare?

Is an invitation in passing enough?


(And if I am rebuffed?)


For I have tried to revert the eyes that look over your shoulder.

I have tried getting younger and growing older.

I haves soothed myself to sleep with there will be time.

And been kept awake by the dissonant cant rhyme.

I have tried (O how I have tried!) to resuscitate the Moment.


Shall I say Let me in?

And what shall I do

When there is nothing left to do

But begin?


Shall I say:

The rain is hissing in the streets

Like the white noise of  a broken television,

That The trees crack and flake with saturation,

That Brown water laps at my sodden feet,

And that I have seen lonely men at tea stalls

Smoking cigarettes and hugging themselves.


Perhaps I should ask too much.

For what will it matter how reasonable my request

When after the rain has passed and we can hear the sea

Washing the matter of its false complexity,

After I’ve directed the meandering talk towards you and me,

One unwrapping a rain damp towel from her head

Is unimpressed.


The sea calmly musters its soft white cliffs.

They crash and dissipate to nothingness.


Seven evenings have I stood before your gate,

On your lampless street, beneath tree shadows black,

Got nervous, turned around and then walked back.


Ashik Kumar is from Chennai. He studies Indology and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is nineteen years old.