November 8, 2021

“Orphan Smile,” The Poetry of Gopal Lahiri

“Orphan Smile,” The Poetry of Gopal Lahiri
Orphan Smile 
How hard it is for the stars to weave a story. 
It breaks through the wall and chain, 
and then in turn, with eyes closed. 
Words filter into dark rooms, 
unnoticeably, to the tune of the evening. 
It is not unexpected, nor is it striped, 
wood pencils sketch grey and grey sky. 
Each strum is a haze that thins and fades, 
the one who sings with all the heart 
for a while, is now trapped in the web of memory. 
Each mirror reflects the orphan smile, 
what remains is the rising smoke of the pyres. 

Ancient Palms 
We must learn to read, to hold them ever 
among the corn fields of the golden year. 
Before our eyes, the deep unique shadows 
take me up and nurse in those ancient palms. 
A few of the lightning smell the low grass 
darkness overhead and the rain comes on us. 
Nights playing metaphor and carving clay, 
silences need breaks or commas or dash. 
To ease pain, to heal, to suppress anger 
death is a tangent from grief, from anguish. 
Drowning in the self-doubt, the dystopic  
stars refer like bushfires, the hidden tears. 
The spatter of raindrops, low clouds drill  
no, not we, some yielded, we have it still. 

Grandma’s Kitchen 
Sameness has a savour for us; She cooks mouth-watering food.  
Grandma’s kitchen always shares unknown recipes. 
Not knowing why scissors at times get suspended in her hand, 
tears pooling at the corners of her eyes, she nearly quit breathing. 
and yet her lips break into a lovely rain song. 
She steps outside to snip chives from the kitchen garden, 
Turns away, cuts the herbs and rushes back inside 
as the onions are burning and adds a few more, 
then resumes stirring the garlic citrus sauce and setting the table  
Still remember her homemade Kathi roll, à la burrito 
and we eat mindfully with beans, cheese and old-time tortilla. 
Someday we have the rustic stew with mixed vegetables 
flavoured with green chillies, mints, and ginger. 
Eggs crack into to finish with tomato and potato slices. 
Chupatti with paneer and mango prickles 
Those fragrant and vivid days and nights fill our memories. 

A time before; the breeze that passes carries low whispers, 
moments are transitory, decay in silence. 
There is darkness there, but warmth? 
I remember how long the winter was, how pure, how dense. 
Smile mutters unknown names, bed-time verses, 
through the wide doors of brick houses. 
Window sills scribble poetry behind the flower pots, 
small shops sell marbles and lollipops. 
The black coffee turns cold, cigarettes burn to ashes, 
words hide behind the clustered stems. 
My roots are for this, my voice is soft-earth, 
much sun through tiny leaves. 
Streaming rays bleed alizarin crimson inside, 
The streets are now quieted. 

On the narrow edge of the image 
the sky so blue and speckled 
the footprint, the drifting boat 
of an imperfect line, a smudge, 
smile burns in the wick of the candle. 
Here, from the sharp 
bend of the carpeted street 
you close your eyes and remember 
being at the imaginary rooftop 
sun is blaring down on the asphalt. 
you close your eyes and remember 
one image supporting the other 
neither unverified. 


Adumbrate the blue sky in all its glory 
the world is seen by the insane, 
if this is what passes for life and hope. 
The ghastly memory of the Stoneman still lingers 
midnight moon drifting away with fire-like clouds, 
somewhere blue dots mean tiny stars. 
Drums pound at the distance, laughter mutates 
colour of the skin cleaves between black and white, 
days steep into numbness, voices slice surgically 
through the haves and have-nots. 
Crows speak-shout, all smiles close and unwelcoming 
west winds become parody in my body, 
men and women reach for bottles and glasses 
A single word from the mouth slides away 
atomising the conversation, touching 
in growing silence, the city vernacular. 


Fried onions, two crushed garlic cloves and dried fish 
cheddar with cucumber and marmalade sandwiches 
then we sleep and sleep, we sleep well. 
Rice and boiled potatoes or a jumpy fish 
with herbs and chiles, black beans and mango chutney 
love, love, love it always. 
Lemony carrot and cauliflower soup 
cup vegetables, crusty loaf not enough, 
complete with star-fried spicy asparagus and fine rice. 
In search of a mouth-watering dish that can simmer away  
all afternoon in a slow cooker or above  
a low flame on the stove, 
Country chicken and hilsa fish, 
mother’s love descending as soft as teardrops 
but doesn’t smell that different. 
And we are celebrating for days, months and years. 

Forgotten Canvas  
Each and every brushstroke of low clouds 
reshapes my belief, rusted words ask my wet 
palms to half-open. 
How fast it sheds light on the dark corner 
often go unnoticed and remain untold, 
it’s immersive, it’s very tender. 
Atmospheric and tense, until the moment 
comes when the laughter splits the sunrays, 
reveal memories’ dark faces. 
Whispers leave portico, unwashed syllables 
drop disabled letters, dust collects sorrows and  
sparrows pick rice grains in silence. 
Large stones, engraved with lines of poetry, 
envelope the large hyacinth pond, 
the sun still falls on the wooden doors. 


Orphan Smile

Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata-based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 23 volumes of poetry, 15 volumes in English and 8 in Bengali, including three joint books. His poetry is published in twelve countries and translated in fourteen languages.

Recent Credits:
Inkpantry and Musepie Press. You can also find him on Twitter and Amazon.

Orphan Smile
#gopal lahiri#kolkata#orphan smile#poetry
  • Sharmila Ray says:

    The theme use of language snd metsphors are unusual snd comnanding. Gopal Lahiri creates an atmosphere which is known and unknow . The poems urge the readers to move from one line to the other in search of a fullstop but what the reader finds is that while reading he/she creates her own story.

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