City Poems by Sunil Bhandari


Art by Oindrila Sen

Calcutta - a lover's epitaph


There is no other place for me.

Calcutta's streets have been mapped by my heart,

and I can stop anywhere and tell you stories

of when I was a child, and the city a youth,

of when I grew up - and the city refused to.

But in its heart now, lie crumbling memories

of all who grew tired of waiting, for

its mornings to burst out into light -

even as I sit on the kerb and sip tea

from earthen teacups grafted from its steam.

I am still a lover, though in the shadow

of its decaying facades and tired cathedrals,

waiting for its glory to emerge from its cemeteries,

the way a strand of grass cracks open a gravestone.

I have invested too much of myself into this city,

into the bloodstream of its roads,

into the pores of its eccentricities -

too much pain, too much sweat,

too much semen, too much poetry -

to now say - I abandon you.

But I despair of this city, this lover -

doesn't it owe me anything?

But it lurches from one wound to another,

as if life's expositions are lesser

if not written in scars.


Now I feel abandoned.

The city's faithlessness is now not of the senses,

it is a disembowelment of my belief.

And if in that deceit lies its definition,

than it is also the epitaph

to my irreparably broken heart.

On breaking up without breaking

It's two in the morning

and I see you're still online,

and though I'm in Bombay

even New York seems close by.

I heard you'd left wearing stilletoes

and a broken heart which sang -

but were you met with sullenless

and a city of darkening skies?

Did you take that framed photograph

of the time we were in the clouds,

the time you'd felt lighter than the mist,

the time I saw you as light.

I'm glad we broke up the way we did,

without breaking into unjoinable shards,

our memories unsullied,

our residual love larger than our regret.

Do you still wake up late,

with Heather Nova, the priestess of all things lost?

How much we fought over Cohen's lyrics,

how little it all means now.

I remember your sleeves covered your hands

when Timberlake threw carnations into the crowd -

and you cried when you'd got none,

and sulked all the way back home -

his songs were banned for life,

till thaw found its way into the sun.

My capricious love of many moons,

I wish I could meet you again -

there's so much of you I have inside me,

but out of so little of you.

Let's meet at the MOMA one more time,

and look at your favourite Rothko -

I won't say his squares are meaningless -

not when your eyes well up the way they do;

you would put your hand over my heart

and ask, your chin upturned -

do say there's a thing called permanent,

because isn't your love for me evermore - & more?

(Because I love Woody Allen and Leonard Cohen and Heather Nova and Rothko)

A city made of our sighs ~

I still search the city

for signs of you.

It should have been enough to know

you breathe somewhere across,

but the restless heart

seeks dawn at midnight,

and every house, with its lights on

could be a place where you might be looking up

at a stranger's face

& kissing him full,

and asking him, the way you asked me -

is this the start, or the start of an end?

This crumbling city,

surely made in part by our sighs,

has our souls' sticky notes

bookending it's unknown tales,

the time we restrained,

and the time we let go.

Shouldn't every lover

have a museum built of a city -

shelves laid out with corners of ecstasy,

and rooms full of wounds?

We were a secret the nights folded onto,

misting the windows as we kissed -

why is love a city-discoverer,

finding places where shadows go long?

I will walk on the bridge you loved so much,

and revel in the ships' mournful horns,

I will see the mist where the river turns,

and know that's where every love story ends.

Lost Atlas


I am tired

of not loving you,

tired of my detox regime,

of continuously redrafting

our lost atlas of belonging.

I am tired

of clinging to a city

redolent with wet intimations

of things half-done

or fully-left.

I am tired

of finding you

in places

watermarked with

our senses.

I am tired

of knowing certainties

of what we could have been,

& the uncertainties

of what I am.

I am tired

of seeing myself

as a caricature,

playing dumb charade

with life ~

About the poet:

Sunil Bhandari is a poet disguised as a corporate executive. His book of poetry 'Of Love and Other Abandonments' was an Amazon bestseller. His second book 'Of Journeys & Other Ways to Get Lost' came out earlier this year. He has been featured in several poetry anthologies and is a popular poet in the Literature Festivals circuit. His poetry podcast 'Uncut Poetry' is a huge hit, heard in over 70 countries. His new podcast 'Red River Sessions' features interviews with exciting poets. Instagram - @sunilgivesup Podcast - Uncut Poetry / Red River Sessions on Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts.

Art by Oindrila Sen