← Issue 9


by Abhijit Sarmah

                                     ‘In the evening [of November 19, 1962], Chinese people living in different
                                     places [of Assam] were rounded up by the armed forces and compelled                                        to leave their houses. The administration told them they would be                                                   shifted to a safer place for two or three days…The majority of them were                                      deported to China.’—RITA CHOWDHURY, “The Assamese Chinese Story”

Against the grey frame of a November morning
              the rushing bogies were a fine stroke of endings,    
                         seven darkened beads rolling across the skyline.  
For many nights, I imagined my mother looking 
              through one of its windows, waving goodbye &
                         unleashing blessings through a sea of kohua bon.
Part of me took the train that morning and never
              returned, part of me is with my parents cooking
                         steamy báizhōu & lip-synching Talat Mehmood
on a cold spring afternoon in Hong Kong or any
              land that feels home & not an intrusive memory.      
                         When they ask do you remember their faces, M.?
I can hear the rattle of kitchen drawers, relaxed

              to-and-fro of jack plane & trowels on old wood, 
                          clinking of bowls filled with pork broth at dusk.
Often, I trace my thumb along the barbed edges
              of the photograph in which we are still a family:
                          mother weaving monsoons, father stitching a cot
while siblings & I, by clotheslines, stand sulking
              a palinode of utterance into existence. Only if
                          un-leaving was a thing, this could’ve been spring
& against the sharp air of April, we would’ve sat
              on a hilltop with pockets full of sunflower seeds 
                          & hooted at racing bogies, balimahis, the moon.  

                                                                                    (for Leong Linchi aka Pramila Das)

Abhijit Sarmah is currently based in Dibrugarh, India. His works have appeared in the Glassworks Magazine, Gasher Journal, The Albion Review, The Rigorous Magazine, South 85 Journal, The Scriblerus, Not Very Quiet and elsewhere.


Kohua bon: Saccharum spontaneum; Balimahis: common wagtails