Poetry by Indrani Ganguly
You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it. Mahatma Gandhi
Who am I?
I am a Libran. The scales are supposed to represent balance.
I believe they represent forever seeking balance.
Some days my glass is half full.
On other days it is half empty.
I cannot predict how I will react to people, places, plants or pets
I am forever changing.
Ode to Crosswords
My days are like a crossword puzzle
Sometimes the clues are easy
I can fill the squares without pain
Other days I agonize
For the words that won’t emerge
From the recesses of my brain.
Easy or hard it matters not
The puzzles teach me new words
I’ve never encountered before
Long forgotten words spring back to life
Creating new connections
All part of life’s complex score.
What am I remembering?
Every month has something of significance.
Sometimes it’s for the whole world
Sometimes it’s for Australia or India (or both)
Sometimes it’s just for me!
Inspired by a visit to Allahabad January 2020
I stand before the bungalow
Home to us more than fifty years ago
No-one lives there now
The bougainvilleas have gone
The lawns and flowerbeds lie buried beneath a sea of weeds
Is the house pleased to see me?
Does it smile as I take a photograph
To preserve memories once it’s gone?
My old school building is still bright and beautiful
Though an ugly annex half hides the view
The nuns wear saris instead of habits
Students wear Indian garb instead of skirts
But their laughter sounds the same.
I stand before the message under Mother Mary’s shrine
Women in times to come will do great things.
I think the time has already come.
I walk the narrow streets of Lok Nath Gali
Redolent with delightful aromas
Of the delicacies my parents loved.
We nibble on puris, kachoris and samosas
Then creamy pistachio-topped dudh malai
As finely spun as the meringue
On the famous pavlova from down under.
I am pleased age has not withered childhood pleasures.
I meet an old friend
Fifty years has not lessened
Our pleasure in each other’s company.
We exchange books we have written
Memories we have stored.
I meet new friends
Gender and age are no bar
To strike new chords.
The annual Magh Mela is on.
We stroll along the confluence of two great rivers
Girding the tent city housing thousands of pilgrims
Preparing for a dip in the holy waters.
Saffron-clad holy men now ride motorbikes
And use mobile phones
One of them offers us tea
Some good old-fashioned hospitality!
I sit in the train for the journey back
The young man above sends texts incessantly
The older gentleman sitting opposite says
‘Alas, we are losing our culture.’
I say if we weren’t we’d still be divided
By gender, caste and religion.
‘True, true,’ he admits as the train jerks forward
Another journey moves to an amiable close.
Noted for Valentine’s Day
Spread the love
An incinerated joey impaled on a fence
Animals sheltering in a wombat’s burrow
Rains quench thirst
Rains sweep away
Children dancing in the rain
Elation for some, for others sorrow.
We meet in silent unity
All that we can say
Is dig deep, dig deep to spread the love
On this year’s Valentine Day.
End of love
The sound of your voice
Is like a moth
It flutters around
The candle of my love.
The words slide off your lips
Like a moth flutters its wings
Rustling, soothing, mysterious,
Gliding in the wind.
The sound of your voice makes me smile
But you will soon burn
The candle of love
Will become the funeral pyre.
March is dedicated to Mars, also the month of Holi, the Hindu spring festival, and International Women’s Day.
Mars gleams redly in the sky
Sweeping attention away from the pallid moon.
A shower of stars distracts momentarily.
Space is not empty
But a cornucopia of invisible connections.
Like unseen emotions
That bind us more tightly
Than any rope or chains.
The scent of your skin
Precedes your presence
International Women’s Day
Women are strong
Women are weak
Women are brave
Women are meek
Women are complex people
No matter the date.
Holi in Australia
It is not spring
When Australians celebrate the spring festival
What does it matter?
People of many hues
Spray each other with coloured water
Or smear coloured powder
We become a multicoloured mob
United in our zest for living.
Breaks are for sweets and snacks
A time to take, a time for giving.
Then we return to the fray.
The security guards grin
White teeth gleaming through painted faces
I think they enjoy
Turning the giant hoses on us.
The month we commemorate the ANZACs (25) and No Housework Day (7th)
Is April the cruellest month down under?
Why do we have an April Fool’s Day?
We commemorate the ANZACs
There are many others to remember.
Spirits of Roma Street Parkland
In the centre of Brisbane city
Is a verdant parkland
Host to many spirits
From many different lands.
For aeons, the Turrbal people met
To hunt, camp and play
Telling stories around night fires
A restful end to the day.
Then came the Europeans
And sweeping winds of change
Buildings, markets, schools, trains
Even an orphanage.
Now the Emma Miller Place
Marks battles women carry on
Anji Ban died alone
She was not the only one.
A lone boy stands in the middle
Did his spirit hear the apology
Tendered to the forgotten Australians?
Did anyone heed his mother’s cry?
Mahatma Gandhi on the other side
Inspires with his non-violent creed
Despite his own bloody end
Shot by his own, the foulest deed.
Through the gardens we meander
As always I wonder
The murmur of the breeze
The rustle of the leaves
Is it the spirits crying together?
Or laughing in the trees?
No Housework Day
Now why do they all
Rhyme with boring?
This is the month of Mother’s Day and our wedding anniversary
Belly swelling gently
Like the full moon
Life within life.
Your face is aglow
Like the tender rays
Of the morning sun.
You lie in wait
Hair spread across the pillow
Dark as the night.
Your tears come
Like the falling rain
Life giving life.
Crossing the divide
Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera sera.
My son says he’s gonna marry a white woman.
Auntie says they have no culture or tradition.
They neglect their children.
And show no respect to their elders.
Why couldn’t he follow our ways
And let me find him a fine wife?
My daughter says she’s gonna marry a black man
What will their children look like?
I dreamt of fair blonde grandchildren.
I don’t know if I could bear to touch a black tyke.
Why couldn’t you marry good old Joe Bloggs
Or that smart young Bruce that works in the bank?
What’s that you say?
He’s educated far beyond anyone I know?
I always said we gave them too much aid.
If we don’t watch out, they’ll take over one day.
They said it would never work.
East is East and West is West.
Black is black and white is white.
And never the twain shall meet.
We’ve travelled many different ways
Sometimes together, sometimes parallel
Sometimes totally apart.
But always there was a point of return.
There was pleasure, there was pain,
There was loss, but also gain.
If we went back in time
We’d do it all over again.
Our children are not black or white.
But shades of brown like this sunburnt land.
Their friends come in many hues
From many lands with many tongues.
Together they will move
To reconcile with the children of the First Nations.
Like us they will find life isn’t a straight line.
For every decision there’s a price to pay.
But they will never think what will be will be.
Just like us they’ll learn how to fight
And forge their own destiny.
June focuses include child labour, plight of refugees, music and yoga.
It’s not too much cocoa
That makes the chocolate bitter.
The chocolate would be better
If we didn’t use child labour.
The carpet’s knots aren’t flawed
Because of the weaver
The carpet would be prettier
If we didn’t use child labour.
What do squeaky shoes tell you?
Is it the leather
Or the cry of despair
Of child labour?
Simply banning child labour
Will not make it right
Teach us practical solutions
To help end their plight.
A Song for the Disappeared
The Bone Woman
Sifts through the soil
As tenderly as a mother
Parts the hair of her child.
What will the Bone Woman find?
Bodies clasped in a last embrace
Fragments of bone
Or just some sad shreds of clothing?
Slowly she recreates
The person that once was.
The dead begin to talk to the living
Now family and friends can complete their cycle of grieving.
As she works the Bone Woman changes herself.
Once she said ‘This is what I did’
Now she says ‘This is what I have become’
Smoke gets in my eyes
As I rock around the clock.
I pass Eleanor Rigby
Playing with the confetti
Of another’s wedding.
I lean on the lamppost
Frolic under the boardwalk
Then board the yellow submarine
To go play in the octopus’s garden.
Homage to Yoga
Some wobble in the tree pose
Some knees just will not bend
Some fingers will not reach the ground
Some pain we can’t suspend.
The stretches deepen our breath
Focus our minds
Massage long-neglected muscles
Yoga’s always our friend.
There are lots of happy babies
Right at the very end.
In remembrance of World Nature Day 28 July and my beagles’ birthdays
Nature is majestic and uplifting
The night is cold and dark
Tiger Hill looms above us
Inviting all to climb and see the sun rise in all its glory
Tourists and locals shiver in collective anticipation
Lady coffee vendors keep us warm
Men offer shawls and gloves
We pray Mother Nature will be kind
And no fog or rain will mar this pilgrimage
Crows caw, children squeal
Suddenly the chameleon sky changes
Black, dark blue, pink, red, and finally a glorious gold
Shimmering off the snowy peaks of the beauteous Kanchenjunga
Golden River Ganga, golden sky
Meld into one
Infusing our bones and hearts with warmth
And raising our spirits to the heavens above.
Nature is also cruel, capricious, destructive
The sun hurts my eyes
As I gaze across the sea
Hoping, hoping, hoping
They’ll come back to me.
The waves hiss in derision
A cruel mistress is the sea
The seething foam warns
Never to take her lightly.
A speck appears on the horizon
Two more are behind
A boat and two life jackets
Nothing to soothe the mind.
Neither child follows them
Boat and jackets waft to the shore
Will the sea spit my children out?
Are they lost for evermore?
Sometimes nature is scapegoated by humans
The apple’s caused much discord.
Paris gave one to Aphrodite
To win Helen
And short-term delight
But at awesome cost.
Another apple led to Eve’s downfall
And Adam’s too, as I recall.
Hippomenes used golden apples to defeat
Atalanta the fleet.
They loved well but not wisely.
Both became lions drawing a chariot for Cybele.
The fox maligned grapes as sour.
What fruits did Tantalus just gaze at for evermore?
Persephone ate six seeds rich and red
Of the pomegranate, food of the dead.
Now Pluto shares her
My funny little beagles
Are called Bonnie and Clyde
Their tails wag incessantly
They never leave my side.
Bonnie’s beautiful brown eyes
Beguile me night and day
Even when she tugs like mad
Showing me the way.
Clyde is the joker
Forever on his back
A scratch is all he wants
And perhaps a little snack.
Indian, Western, cooked or raw
They like most kinds of food
Except for mushy veggies
And fruit is not so good.
Language doesn’t matter
English they can understand
Bengali seems to work as well
For affection or command.
Our funny little beagles
They’re such sweethearts
They haven’t stolen anything
Excepting all our hearts.
Admit You Are Happy Month, Independence Day for Indians, Ekka for Brisbane
Why are you happy?
August is the month to admit you are happy
Are you happy to be free?
Or simply to savour
Ekka’s strawberry sundae?
September is when Eastern Koels arrive in Australia from their northern winter homes to breed. It is also the flower festival season and Bureaucracy Day (29).
Koel sings at the break of day
Songs of one land
Reverberate in another.
Koel lays her eggs
In another’s nest
She’s not the world’s best mother.
With the voice of gold
Singing ‘kuhu kuhu’
Since the days of old
My Floral Friends
They have no eyes to see me
No ears to hear me
No mouth to speak to me
No legs to run to me
No arms to hold me
But they have colours to entice me
Scents to tantalize me
Windy dances to beguile me
Juices to soothe me
Crisp flavours to tempt me
Some have thorns to prick me
A simple message ‘Don’t pick me’
No bars to sharing colours and scents with me
In life my floral friends surround me
In death they will cover me.
A Bureaucrat’s Day
The urgent brief’s finally done.
Two submissions are begun.
E-mails flash across the screen.
I hit clear, clear, clear
Almost as soon as they appear.
The photocopier emits a mighty wheeze.
The printer chews up a few more trees.
‘I’m double-booked again,’ our Director sighs.
‘No room for your meeting,’ her assistant cries.
We have Tim-tams for morning tea.
Sugar and caffeine to restore energy.
As the day marches on ominously
Phones ring incessantly.
Clients call, to praise or blame
Us for the endless waiting game.
Some suddenly the day is done.
I don my walking shoes and head home.
The first Indian McDonald’s restaurant which opened on Oct. 13, 1996 in New Delhi was also the first McDonald’s restaurant in the world not serving beef.
The newshounds bark
The multinationals have come to town.
Bearing the gifts of civilisation
Adapted for people who’re brown.
Barbie in India wears saris
And her skin is a suitable tan.
Never mind her face seems Caucasian
And her legs an unnatural span.
The burger kings declare ‘you’re safe, no beef
Only goat in your buns will do.’
And the crisp barons say
‘We’ve thrown the vinegar away
We’ll give you chilli and mint and other spices too
We hope you appreciate just how much we love you.’
So we dine on the burgers and snack on the crisps
And fizzy drinks too are a must.
And when we look on high
At the global sky
It’s still only the Big Brothers that can shine
The little ones stay down in the dust.
Best known for the iconic Melbourne Cup. I am uneasy about making real creatures compete for human profit but simulated birds are OK!
Clouds flit lazily across the sky
The Brisbane River ebbs and flows,
Children laugh and scatter sand
Adults sip coffee in the afternoon glow.
Then suddenly comes a mighty roar
From the crowds gathered to see
Twenty-three thousand rubber ducks
Jostling each other in a mad melee.
‘Come on little fellers’ the children cry
As the ducks bob and weave in the swirling foam.
Some lose their lanes, others run aground
The rest strive valiantly to reach home.
Finally, one duck reaches the winner’s post
It rides in glory, the rest are packed away.
Save a cheeky one that escapes the lifesaver’s nets.
Will it laugh with the dolphins tonight at Moreton Bay?
December is a time for many to come together and celebrate. For some it is not.
The Christmas tree is brown and sere
Santa will not come this year
Is that the wind rattling the door
Or the spirits of the woman and children
Who once lived here?
Now they hide in a house far from their own
Their dog howls in the RSPCA cage
The love of strangers cannot meet
Its need to belong.
Will Santa call them naughty when he hears them cry?
Or will he bring gifts of hope and strength to survive?