The Legacy of Bones
Poetry / Visual Art ~ Sudeep Sen
~ for Adil Jussawalla
It’s high time the stars were re-lit
— Guillaume Apollinaire
Photo Credit: Sudeep Sen
I buried my body in the same soil where I had learnt to crawl. I waited until my skin decomposed so that I could rescue my bones to craft new implements to write with, anew. Imagine making bone-nibs of various sizes and intricate patterns that contain your own tissue and imprint. I waited, waited until the magic of metaphorphosis could take place. It didn’t matter whether it was in my own lifetime or not, clearly I still waited having performed my own burial. A fine anachronism — even Sophocles would be astonished, or the tales of Gilgamesh might have been realigned.
As I relive, piecing my first alphabets together — elongated letters form arcs and loops — creating a score, a grand opera where bone nib-tips play a crucial part in the sonics of the composition. I am still tuning them in my mind as I wait with the dead, the dead to fill in the chorus, the dead to conduct the show. Whose imprimatur shall the music bear — what shall it be called? Fibula, femur, F-sharp — fine featured whispers layer its richness. Where is the ink, the ink familiar to every bone? Blood. There is no blood left now.
But air has sufficient magic left — its slipstream modulating a script that has not been written before, notations using my DNA to code the coda. The soil says it wants to name it — I say, say it aloud. She prefers, a subtle sigh that comes with the quiet confidence of permanence. Gradually the aria begins — singing of the eternal purity of bone music. It requires music for bones to patiently heal. It requires compassion to love selflessly. The buried vatic song starts to leak, leaving the legacy of our bones. It’s high time our bones started to sing aloud. It’s high time the stars were re-lit.
Sudeep Sen’s [www.sudeepsen.org] prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions), EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House), and Kaifi Azmi: Poems | Nazms (Bloomsbury). He has edited influential anthologies, including: The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), World English Poetry, and Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians (Sahitya Akademi). Blue Nude: Anthropocene, Ekphrasis & New Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) and The Whispering Anklets are forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on bbc, pbs, cnn ibn, ndtv, air & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell), and Name me a Word (Yale). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. Sen is the first Asian honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.”
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