by Srinjay Chakravarti

Corpses on the riverbank
dip their hands into silences
and come up with the hymns
of crackling flames.

An unmitigated thirst of memories
burns in sandalwood and incense,
on the funeral pyres stacked
in Calcutta's darkened alley.

Like tears wept by the living,
the dregs of past lives gather
in their violet throats of dusk.

This, then, is the echolalia of ghosts.
What is this that has been left behind,
that death still can't reduce to ashes?
What is it that is forgotten
and chants sterile passwords
into the detritus of shadows
abandoned by lost voices?

Here, too, is a river to be forded
before they can return home,
even if it is only the smoky traffic
flowing through Crematorium Street.

Vaitarani: In Hindu mythology, a river of gore
infested by crocodiles
which the souls of the dead have to cross before they
reach hell