Poem For Subarata
Sometimes I still come across
these old photos of you,
moments from a life, salvaged
from the blur of time,
here sepia brown, grumpy-faced at six
on your first pony ride, anxious mother in tow
and here in sharper tones, with a schoolgirl pal
dolled up and blazing with rebellion,
poised on the brink of your first glorious
expulsion from school.
Look, now I've turned up and we're jammed
hilariously into a photo booth, wreathed
in smoke and smiles, hamming it up
for the cheap snaps.
And here's a poignant one, waving gaily
at the camera, arms aloft,
goodbye, goodbye, a last unwitting valediction.
They somehow bring into a momentary focus
the blurred incomprehension of a life
and with it too that unrelenting pathos,
aching like a toothache at the sadness of it all.
Yes, retrospect brings such pathos, knowing as we glance
from snap to snap what's coming next
like a film whose end you know before it starts
and how everything that seemed so sure –
parents, dogs, uncles, school pals, life itself – all
of it, gone away, gone.
And now you've vanished also into myth and story,
resculpted by memory into something
much simpler than you were,
leaving us rummaging through these old pics
and brooding over the big existential questions
and marvelling at you, as you actually were,
alive in that present, so bright with life and expectation,
so real and true, that you could step
out of this glossy, full-color shot in your red jeans
and yellow hair and end my disbelief
with your smile.
Today the flowers on your shrine have withered.
The race trophies are laid out like memorials,
your clothes hang limply on the rack.
Even your toy pandas seem forlorn.
Nothing lasts, no, not love, hope, despair,
no nor memory either.