“The Night Won’t Wait” is a book of poetry by Kaustabh Kashyap, and the poems in this collection delve into various themes encompassing the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts.
The book is subtitled ‘Glimpses of the Great Pause’, as it deals with the Great Pause, as the Covid-19 pandemic has been described by many.
These contemporary poems are universal in the sense that they raise fundamental questions about our entire species, taking the pandemic as a take-off point.
Read two poems that have been excerpted from the book below.
Editor’s Note: The poem “Retreat”, the opening poem of this poetry collection, is about life in all quarters coming to a stand-still, and all manmade institutions halting under the weight of the pandemic. It closes with a rumination of spring as it is unable to instil any sense of rejuvenation. The poem “Saying it Round the Other Way” is a meditation on the role language plays in maintaining humane relations in society. Euphemisms go a long way at being agreeable while talking about something disagreeable or stigmatized, and the more dexterous one is with language, the better one will be at such scenarios. However, to what end this dexterity is put depends on the user of the language. A love of language does not always result in a language of love.
Fear beats its dense wings like clockwork.
Pulling out our tenuous wicks it shoves us into oblivion.
Like unfinished charades we peek from the dark.
Tireless factories and workshops stoop and snap like branches
conceding to the contagious wind’s blows.
Theatres and malls kill time
in impatience, counting empty hours like umbrellas left out in the rain.
In once prosperous cities
mothers weep about their blossoms, blooming or withering elsewhere.
Their husbands are night-skies of insomnia
drowning in pending loans and customs
at 3 am.
Children stain their pillows with sweaty nightmares,
kicking footballs with their half-asleep limbs.
They hang their birthdays and friendships
like soiled uniforms of tiny soldiers in their dreams.
But the cuckoo comes anyway
sings her heart out to a spring—
so cruel, so listless to its listeners
waiting like uncertain scraps of lonely poems in dim, quarantined worlds.
Saying it Round the Other Way
A love of language isn’t the same
as a language of love.
You can shatter thoughts into million glass-pieces
But can you talk through a shard-filled throat?
Medicines practice like artists
before they peak and make a mark.
Sometimes they are uncertain dykes
wading briefly before they submerge.
You can call a spade a spade any day
but for convenience we look to the moon
for light, not just as a satellite.
You can’t wash away all stigma like grey hair
still in the parlour of language you can curl words
eventually forget if they had any colour at all.
Some illnesses (like mine) are more shard than others.
They get a language much worse than love.
A peal of warning-bells sounding from razor-throats
slitting open lullaby-prose like cadavers.
For some chronic tongues
crippled by alien syntax
a spade is several things—
epileptic grave muck.
When’s a spade never a spade?
Language of love, love of language.