Anisa Rahim

The Train

Kolkata Monsoon by Ananta Mandal


My mother’s sister died last week. My mother says,
she was not old or sick. But I knew that she was. I had seen her
brittle bones, fading memory, displaced thoughts. She thought I was my mother.
Still, I know it is like this. Each person fades, to be laid below the earth.
And when my mother cries, it is as if her heart is being physically ripped out.
Last year there were three deaths. Her older brother, followed by his wife
two months later, and in between the younger brother. The village is dying.
I make a hospital visit to see my uncle on a bed, a hydrangea of plastic tubes.
For once, I am in the right place at the right time
because he dies soon after we leave the hospital. I mourn his death
as if he was my brother
with a house full of Meo women,
reciting prayers on beads, beads falling into bowls
as if he is being lowered into the earth
with the utterance of each word.
The village is dying. I do not bother
with the two funerals that follow. Instead,
I fall in love. I am tired of death and decide
that life must triumph.
With each death, a piece of my mother
is being taken out. And when she sobs,
it is the horrible cry of a child, as if memory is being shattered,
a wrongful taking away.


In that same week our neighbor’s mother died.
They held a gathering in the temple
that they called a celebration
to speak of this woman who lived eighty-plus years.
Everyone recalled her laugh, her penchant for reading,
her fondness for gatherings, the tennis sneakers
she wore underneath her sari as she took an evening walk.
A woman sang for her. And her own daughter
relayed a dream from the night before,
her mother wearing her favorite blazing red sari
and boarding a train. I worried she would not find the right compartment.
But I’ll find it, she told her. And the train departs.
That night I tell my mother you too must celebrate. Death is not just death.
If others leave, it is not your loss alone. They too have to be elsewhere.


About the writer:
Anisa Rahim is an emerging writer and recent graduate of the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University. She has previously published poetry in Blazevox magazine.

Image: Kolkata Monsoon by Ananta Mandal (1983-). Oil on canvas. 45 x 60 inches. No completion date specified. By free license.