Debashish Banerji

Consciousness • Art History • Writing




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Shah Jehan's Last Letter

It isn’t for the getting that my days were spent
Life is patterned after mnemonic stories
From east to west the pages reek of war
Journeys of plunder and possession, punishment and victory
And death whose pain is conventional like childbirth.

When there wasn’t war there was ceremonial hunting
Animals and birds massacred like ambushed enemies
Each its own delight – the cowardly rabbit
Whimpering to its death, the delicate doe
Buckling wide-eyed and the lion
Like a prize emperor felled roaring in his pride.

But swift violence is not all a man’s measure.
And worth little to Time were its blood not distanced
By intensities that scratch the earth beyond erasure:
Maddening music, fabled beauty and mystic sadness
Art which stands at the center of the speeding days
A still mirror by which life’s pages are read.

Centuries and millennia will pass, through ruined monuments
Dogs and children will run, lovers will whisper
Shadows will flee from other shadows
And connoisseurs with notebooks in hands
Will divine the inextricable knots of sacred geometry
While madmen mine its echoes for meaning.

Perhaps for only a few a few pages will flutter
Traveling through history on horseback or on vehicles not yet fashioned
Snatched, stolen, sold like slaves or auctioned,
From hand to hand hoarded or savored like secrets
Memories beyond the days and nights of custom
Guarded from Time’s insatiable hunger.

You o son, with all your fevered piety
Will scatter only seeds of darkness behind you
Timur’s legacy and Akbar’s and the halls of Shah Tamasp
Dim now in my eyes; an age passes.
The grammar of beauty and greatness is undone,
Its light stolen by clerics and merchants
Over my dead body through the years
Hyenas dyed in different colors will fight.




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