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    Bahurupi or Polymorphous

     

    Bahurupis are quick-change folk artists who beg on the streets of Bengal, India.

     

     

    When the bus brakes on National Highway 34 between

    Calcutta & Berhampore I decide to worship Lakshmi

    because I would have the owl, her mount, bring wealth.

     

    Running long hauls that stray dogs out of breath

    I long to sit cross-legged on a lotus in a eutrophic lake.

    From the goddess, I will learn poise.

     

    But he comes dressed as Shiva, as always sour blue

    paint streams along the jute sideburns pasted on his

    face, sun-bitten I imagine like a stone fruit.

     

    His arm stretched as a kingdom on the river peak

    breaks at the elbow under the weight of alms. 

    Noon sounds his ankle bells.

     

    Chipped pennies toss him down dreams whose guts

    elope when the engine roars with five cups of undiluted

    milk emptied at the rest stop on this elastic tongue.

     

    My mind is Shiva’s fugitive deer then, grazing on the dust

    into which he shrinks, soon no larger than a dot on the tiger

    print velvet that covers his scrawny limbs.

    Mother warns of heartburn but as a girl I’ve come to fear

    hunger so cavernous that all the country’s autumnal harvest

    cannot seal without running into debt and sugarcane.

    Every Thursday since I chant of one wandering merchant

    who mistook grace for skill, was weathered as streets,

                           prostrated. Seven wives laughed him godless.

     

    I am at an age when I have begun to rely on ugly things

    such as loaded dice, game pieces of Snakes and Ladders

    pushed out of grid, and raw meat scavenged from kitchen.

     

    From the hymns I gather it is alright each year to gamble

    one night but mother suspects my piety will thin our blood

                            line which is more than she can witness.

     

    I assemble a house for him to warm as Lakshmi with crescent

    red footsteps where we could briefly live under a curved roof

    sturdier than the one from which he runs out to rap the buses.

     

    But he comes cross-eyed as Shurpanakha, the demon’s sister,

    who lost her nose to the sword of a demigod she asked to wed.

                            Shurpanakha is a monster, a hungry goddess.

                           

    He, a boy of the highway for whom my mouth of a girl froths

                            up a milky way, as dark matter disperses.

     

     

    ***

    Between Us

     

    Between us it was the matter of drowning

    in the pond that to my girlhood was glory.

     

    Summers were birds tailspinning to our slingshots.

    We stoned what mangoes survived nor’westers.

    Fishes died with open mouths pressed to our palms.

     

    Yet, you took his hand for emersion. Water shed

    my skin over plasma exploding, lungs swollen.

     

    Someday I would kiss you, the boy at a picnic

    I struck, they thought, & one day that boy would

    run away with his best man. Separately pithed

    by the years, I would come to you as blood

    labeled anonymous, drip like ink on paper:

    without you, sweetheart, I lived like no hunter.

     

    The night he left was musky as the civet,

    flesh-eating.

     

    Never one to swim, you fetched no fresh water,

    sending off forefathers thirsty in those tropics

    on the eve of your wedding to a girl who gave

    you a brass dial to measure life in full moons.

     

    I saw him once in the prairies among grizzly bear

    watchers & he knew me by the fishing rod I had

    broken. By then your face was shaded like plums

    we stole from the thrushes until it was no more. 

     

     

    ***

    “Afghan Girl” at the Eatery on Ninth Avenue

     

    Her eyes have captivated the world since she appeared on our cover in 1985.

    Now we can tell her story.—Cathy Newman in National Geography, 2002.

     

    She is not her eyes, twin

    Blue Marbles filmed en route

    to moon. “Boneless chicken

    broiled over wood charcoal,

    please.” Her scalded red head-

    scarf’s crease on cover of

    NatGeo ’85 laminated

    rends the wall; yes, that

    Afghan girl. 

     

    “But is it not sea green—

    her eyes, I mean?” you break

    warm bread with your fingers;

    my toe contorts on rug

    to spell humanitarian.

    Oil separates from the

    furrows of our skin. “Good?”

    he asks, “What else to bring?”

     

    One school year I played

    the girl who a peddler

    from Kabul gifts raisins.

    –“Nothing.” That year I

    was told the earth is one

    tiny glass ball in space.

    On learning light years

    I held every act must

    close distance.

     

    –“You from India?”—“And

    you?” –“From where I have

    never been.” –“Keep the change.”

    Life under Taliban

    was better, she had sighed.

    But does she know, they ask,

    how entrancing are war-

    like Afghan

    refugee’s eyes?

     

    About The Author

    Torsa Ghosal bio 2

    Torsa Ghosal

    Torsa Ghosal is a Bengali author currently based in Columbus, Ohio, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in English literature. Ms. Ghosal’s dissertation topic examines multimodal literature published in the US, UK, and Canada since 1980.  [Multimodal texts use various design features like multiple font styles, images, textures, alongside language, to communicate with the readers.] Her “project attempts to demonstrate that ‘reading” is a multisensory, embodied experience as opposed to a process that solely depends on how our minds process language.’”  Ghosal’s poems and short stories have appeared in Poydras Review, Unsplendid, Himal Southasian, Truth about the Fact, and Muse India.