A City Poet


Gaurav Monga

In the back of his apartment was a room that used to be his brother’s before he died that he now called the bindery. On the tables there were sheets of loose paper—unfinished poems that he had been revising for many years, poems that would eventually age with the poet and would accrue meaning and intensity alongside the course of the poet’s life, which is why he refused to send them to a publisher, for he always rendered them incomplete and would only occasionally bind them in his bindery into small pamphlets and gift to friends he felt would understand them. Sometimes a poem of merely eight lines would find its final voice after a period of twenty years, after much changes in the poet’s person.

Many of his poems began with lines by ancient poets, so much so that it often seemed that his poems were footnotes to an old world, arriving millennia later. Many could have possibly argued that this poet did not really write poetry but instead pieced together lines by other poets in a remarkably distinct and lyrical way.

He had studied his own family tree and could go back many generations to the time when his family was still hellenic. He knew nothing of contemporary poetry. The most recent thing he had read was at least seventy years old. He wrote in an office where he was supposed to be doing some clerical work. The poet would spread out documents across the expanse of his large working desk for it  to appear as if  he were really working.

He continued to write and rewrite his poems over a long expanse that slowly became a life time as people came and left this city by the sea. He spent a lot of his little money acquiring obscure annals of his city’s history, for perhaps no other reason than to furbish his otherwise dull poems. As a result, he never necessarily read entire books but liked to spend his evening hours studying their indexes, to understand what these writers’ influences were. He was often more interested in the trivia that surrounded a writer’s life than his actual work. As a result, he enjoyed reading capsule biographies—his chronic dyspepsia encouraged a restlessness that prevented him from reading entire volumes, and perhaps it was for this reason alone that he came to be known as a miniaturist. He also enjoyed reading diary entries, letters and short incomplete work, especially work that was largely failure, to see if there was, hidden amidst their ruin, something worth resurrecting, of calling his own, for this poet rarely came up with his own ideas. He did, however, feel a close kinship to the ideas of others and in some way felt that permitted him to consider them also his.

Moving back to the city that would eventually become his small corner in this world must have also been what prompted him to write poetry in the first place, for the city was hostile and ugly, and he was not able to relate to even childhood friends and cousins who had remained there. After a decade or two one loses track of time, especially if all the years are filled up between going to the office and back to the apartment—his yearnings to go back to that western capital had dwindled considerably, for by then he had already begun to  secretly recognize himself as a sort of city poet and barely even left his home,  except for  a handful of visits to the capital during the winter  months to get away from the sea, something his father  also apparently liked to do. He wrote about what his city must have looked like a thousand years after its brightest period, which was another thousand years before his own birth, and though this present ruin could not have been overlooked, he was still somehow, if not ironically, convinced that this city still goes on being itself.

After his mother’s death, he continued to live  with  his  male servant and apart for a few fellow remaining Greeks—exiles he liked to call them—who occasionally visited him, he began to confine himself to his bindery.

Now, he would never have considered leaving this city, at such a late hour, for during all those years he spent being miserable there, it had also, by the same token, become related to  all his life’s memories.

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Gaurav Monga is a writer originally from New Delhi. He learned German to read the works of Franz Kafka and Robert Walser. He writes prose poetry and short fiction, much of which has appeared in literary magazines such as the Fanzine, Juked, Birkensnake, The Fabulist, among others. Family Matters, a collection of short stories, is published by Eibonvale Press. A City Poet is part of a forthcoming collection of prose fragments, entitled, Ruins, published by Desirepaths Publishers. He has taught literature, German and creative writing at schools and universities in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Currently he resides in Bangalore. He is fascinated with the relationship between fashion and literature and is currently working on a poetry collection about clothes.


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