notes on trains and planes – by Priyam Goswami-Choudhury



our first phone was born with me,
my mother always said;
my first memory of distance also
comes from the phone.

my father, on a Friday, calls home
and tells me, “I cannot come
this Saturday.”
I am two. He is thirty nine.
What about Sunday?
“Not Sunday either, darling. I will
come next Saturday.”

I must have cried wanting to understand
what it meant: to hear a voice
and to know, you cannot touch it at all.
Over the years, I have seen dead singers
sing and dead poets read;
I am two again – one I watch,
The other, at two, watches me;
all voices blurring
into distance no one can touch.


Salmon skies on windows –
behind trees, Amsterdam
becoming Assam again.


I try to capture Delhi and fail spectacularly. It is like I never lived there. And no one would ever believe me. The warmth of poetry: no one demands the truth. They want something else.


A man in Delhi is only a man in Delhi. He may pretend to be anything or anyone but it is his proximity to Delhi that would forever be the measure of his life. He may become other people at other points of time but he would also always be the man who was once in Delhi.


read each other’s letters


I begin nowhere. I must begin again.

Enroute to Lisbon, lethargy grips me. It is the numbing of the senses, I decide. For hours now, I have only seen bursts of light shaped as veins and arteries. What city? What town? Ocean or islands bursting with light in the middle of an ocean? I cannot tell. Numbed by repetition; and I think of Bongaigaon – dear old Bongaigaon, quiet and dark at 2 am.

My mother wakes up and reads my message to her late at night. Since 2011, our only stable relationship is a cord of worry she attaches to me; the lesser the physical proximity, the longer her cord of worry. And for 6 years now, I have run. Away from; not towards. Destinations don’t take me or keep me for long. Friends I have not spoken to for years with the audacity to still call them friends. An insatiable run on surfaces. No real depth. Only similitudes of land after land, sign after sign.

A vision in the middle of a flight: I have gone away to Baghdad and Kurdistan in 15 years. The year is 2032. I am 40. I am walking around somewhere. At the corner of my eye there is something I cannot decipher. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a wide-eyed dream cradling me through the inertia of movement. I am almost there but I don’t know where.


I remember my hesitancy for love – only that explains my reluctance to the sea. I see it brimming from a distance near Chiado. I want nothing to do with it. The sheer feeling of being close to the sea is seduction. The sea is like someone I have fallen for – it makes me sick to my core; all that abundance of beauty pouring out of an existence I can neither fathom nor understand.

Of all the people, I chase Pessoa. I know the irony.
A grand dead empire towers over me.