Kintsukuroi

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    The cracked bowl that I mean to repair everyday
    keeps getting neglected by my secret awe for bone china
    ———-and its story of unbreaking.

    There were happier times when it stood perfect
    in its shape, its porcelain clay-fluted nape
    ———-elegant as a swan’s neck.

    I found it in a heap of beautiful pottery,
    one among many, that its maker carefully crafted
    ———-in her tropical rooftop studio.

    To me it was new even after it accidentally
    slipped from my hands as I tried to wipe
    ———-the Delhi dust

    that clung to us like camel-brown film,
    like innocuous powder — transparent and deceptive
    ———-like make-up.

    There are scenes I painted on its milk-white skin,
    words I wrote, lines etched in, fragments of poems
    ———-left unfinished, hieroglyphic

    encoded secrets
    that only I knew and understood,
    ———-impervious to gossip’s glare and jealous chatter.

    Today, I shall bring out Super Glue
    and try to make repairs.
    ———-Maybe I will splurge

    on a rare metal —
    silver or even gold, to seal the cracks and fill them
    ———-with molten healing.

    Anointing it with gold,
    memory, love and desire,
    ———-is better than the perfection

    of its prior shape. Unbroken, poised as it was,
    unhurt love is not necessarily purer
    ———-than love that is flawed.

    Kintsukuroi — a gift I have been granted.
    My bowl deserves the lacquer touch of a silver-wish
    ———-and the purest of rare gold.

    *Kintsukuroi (n.) (v. phr.) ‘to repair with gold’; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.


    Sudeep Sen’s prize-winning books include Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions) and EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House). His words appear in the TLS, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, FT and broadcast on bbc, pbs, cnn ibn & ndtv. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Indian Love Poems (Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. Sen is the first Asian honoured to speak and read at the Nobel Laureate Week. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.