Homecoming

(for Father)

 

Long after

he retires,

    

            we visit his old workplace –

            a throwback to musty files, oily samosas,

            the wait for him to leave for rounds, so the black swivel chair

            turns into our revolving merry-go-round throne –

 

everything here belongs to

his black-haired avatar,

he, walking

with a stride in his step, believing

he will never cry. But he cried when grandmother died,

when mother said she’d leave,

 

it was the yelp found in the throat of

a gazelle whose young is shot before its eyes –

 

why we thought the world could never end,

we would never know   

 

We were shown where he signed the evening rounds report,

held meetings,

briefed his staff of 30 watchmen,

braving yawns, paan-spit smudges, the dank

smell of urine

 

We thought him gallant, larger than life, majestic –

 

So then, this is the sadness memory prepares us for.

    

The slow unwinding of the spool, the thin crack of the voice

at a farewell speech, the trembling of a hand, some broken skin

swallowing decades into a wrinkle.


 

in the bathroom, there often hangs,

the smell of the dank swivel chair

 

we still don’t know –

 

it is his youth, or our childhood,

or both.   

- Ankush Banerjee