ABOUT THE POEMS In these poems by Nabanita Kanungo, sex and desire are seen flooding into everything else we do in this world, whether as actors or observers. Kanungo gives us portraits of two human beings out of joint with the world, one because of a want of vital energy, the other from an excess of it. Age has diminished the old man: “the root of his life’s tree”, which was once generative of an entire world, has withered, and everything he thinks and feels and does follows from the fact of a real stick having replaced his metaphorical one. Kanungo’s second figure, a woman rapt in sexual fulfilment, suffers the censure of her companions for being in possession of those very pleasures and riches (held to be incongruous with “her age and situation”) that the old man misses and mourns. When we read the lines “But they’ve not been able to corner the man’s face/ against the whereabouts of her thoughts” we sense how powerful and pervasive is that imagined and suspected horizontal world beneath our visible vertical one. Until that scent of musk is “cornered”, no one can be at peace; elsewhere, falling away from life before the body itself passes away, it leaves behind an unrest of a different kind.
Old Man’s Stick
His sons came of this despairing love once,