by Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan

In the shifting shadows of lantern light
Her hollow contours become yet more pronounced
Against the pitch darkness of the impatient man
As he advances she struggles with the suffocating stench

Of empty sacks stained with kerosene smoke

Smell of hooch, of sweat, of flesh, the man's
Drunken half-smile, look of vague desire, the dark
Hollow of her dry hung elongated breasts, the dark
Gaping cleavages of paddy fields throw a mocking sneer.

Erratic fingers, nails digging into the skin -
Haggard looking crows swooping down in haphazard trajectories.

Twisting of bodies, arms clasping, unclasping
Emaciated naked children fight over a loaf
Of dark bread snatched from a tired dog : silhouettes of puppets in a drollery

A woman wails by the body
Of husband crushed under a sack of relief rice
his breath, her breath, hot, mingling together :
Dry leaves rustle in the mid-afternoon air.

She cambers up, indifferent, like a crab, in spasms
As the hairy-chested man prepares for a decisive thrust
Look of tiredness in the eyes,
ready to bite, but unable to move the underjaws.

Her body, breathing, lies exhausted -
A gleam of compromised content in her eyes
Having added two rupees to the forty she earned last week by selling off her daughter.

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