Trigger Warning: Depiction of Death or Terminal Illness


(following Baba’s death)

From our house to the crematorium
                                         we walked barefoot
               sandwiched between the sun and stones

Baba would have never
             wanted my brother and me
                            to undergo such errands

At first
             we dipped in the runlet
             to cleanse the bodies of the dirt

before settling
             with our shivering bodies
                           in front of the affable priest

who often had time
              in between mantras
                          to pipe opium or chew a paan

while we waited
             for him in the thatched home—
             a temporary abode for Baba’s bones

The habit of waking
              for the rituals kept the agony
                             of loss for those ten days

But everyday
               when I returned from the rituals
                           I lost something      some weight

and by the time
               the thatched home was burnt
                            my papery body had lost itself

About the Author

Debasish Mishra is a Senior Research Fellow at National Institute of Science Education and Research, HBNI, India, who has earlier worked with United Bank of India and Central University of Odisha. He is the recipient of the Bharat Award for Literature in 2019 and the Reuel International Upcoming Poet Prize in 2017. His recent work has appeared in 𝑁𝑜𝑟𝑡ℎ 𝐷𝑎𝑘𝑜𝑡𝑎 𝑄𝑢𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑙𝑦, 𝑃𝑒𝑛𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑟𝑎, 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐻𝑒𝑎𝑑𝑙𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑅𝑒𝑣𝑖𝑒𝑤, 𝐴𝑚𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑑𝑎𝑚 𝑄𝑢𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑙𝑦, 𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑄𝑢𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑙𝑦, and elsewhere. His first book 𝐿𝑜𝑠𝑡 𝑖𝑛 𝑂𝑏𝑠𝑐𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑂𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑆𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑠 was recently published by Book Street Publications, India.