Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Poem: An Impression of Being Alive

© 2009, Mona Zote

All day we have watched the street shift
and careen, shed skin, refill, crest and yaw,
corrected our taste for oranges
packed by other hands from other places, bought
tokens of summer and the coming happiness —
we paused at the Korean romances: A Tale of a Prince,

Over Rainbow, Tree of Heaven. And the corporate type
who went mad for a girl.
No prince arrived with a piece of fax.
You said Plainly, it’s all money and for-
nication, just like everywhere else. We smiled
at the notion of moon bases and hummed a tune
from the movie we figured
we were still living in.

All day the sun kept tangling and stumbling
among bright open windows while the shopgirls cheered on,
and the pavement singers, and those women
fingering black laces in Foreign Lane
and we lived in and out of restaurants, smoking nonstop,

plate after plate of consommé
not thinking or speaking, our nerves
shattered by the urge to depart. All day
we have waited and waited
under heaven’s wide and lovely tree
for princes, advisors,
even some flannel postman to come and say
that the ship’s sailed, the bus
has left, all families look for us.
Have we said too much? Or not enough –

And here we are, the day gone
to its usual brilliant bedtime, the astronauts gone, the rain
now cadencing in our heads. The restaurant must close.
We have learned nothing. You wisely add: Really,
there was nothing to learn.


"Mona Zote lives in Aizawl in the Northeast Indian state of Mizoram. She describes herself as a poet “disguised as a government employee”. She writes in English and has published her poetry in various journals, including Indian Literature and Carapace. Her work was also featured in the Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from the Northeast, edited by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih and Robin Ngangom. She publishes sparingly. Zote’s poetry startles with its unsentimental and disquieting imagery, its register that moves from the formal to the colloquial and its determinedly fragmentary, non-linear style." (Arundhathi Subramaniam)


  • Poetry in times of peril: that’s the theme for the nineteenth edition of the India domain. The theme suggested itself for obvious reasons. India, we are told by The Times of India, has “the highest number of terror-related incidents and injured” of all the countries in the world (barring war-ravaged countries, such as Iraq).
  • SPARROW: An extract from an interview with Mona Zote, part of an oral history recording by SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women).
  • Mizo Writing in English: A blog showcasing writers from Mizoram, includes poems by Mona Zote.
  • Poetry International Web: “The Poet as Chronicler: An Overview of Contemporary Poetry in Northeast India”, an essay by Robin Ngangom
  • Muse India: ‘Locating Cultures: A Semi-Academic Essay on the English Poetry of the North-East’ by Sumanyu Satpathy

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