A picture of road surface, with a cracked yellow line; white lettering on the bottom right hand sideCracked Asphalt, Sree Sen

Fly on the Wall Press, 2022     £6.99


Sree Sen moved from India to Ireland but India never leaves her. In this pamphlet she shares her feelings of dislocation and loss. The first poem ‘fundraising at minimum age’ encapsulates the emotional journey she makes. It includes the metaphor ‘tiny weeds crack open / the asphalt of my journey’ which gives the pamphlet its title. The poem starts:

in the beginning, i dreamt of going
home. Bay of Bengal, warmed by the
tropical sun

Tellingly, the poem concludes ‘i have nowhere to be’.

In ‘pfeilstörche’, Sen notes ‘a passer-by speaks Bengali on his phone / (for a moment i belong)’. This leads to reminiscence about a storekeeper from the past. The detail ‘497 miles towards home on a pastel Bengal road’ reinforces the sense of distance and yearning.

There are two evocative haiku in this pamphlet, both infused with a sense of home. ‘pray’ includes the lines ‘the moon shines on silver / coconuts for vengeful gods’ and ‘loss’ describes ‘the scent of jasmine desires’. These haiku contrast with the urban Dublin scene in ‘night holds too many secrets’ where the narrator wakes up ‘to a shrill scream (a fox)’.

The poet’s imagery often draws on Indian food and nature. ‘imitation’ is an ekphrastic poem which describes an artist breaking ‘into a widowed sweat’ which is ‘like fried okra & turmeric clashing with the wet steam of shifting / perspectives.’ In ‘accent’ the poet longs for ‘the peepal’s land’ and in ‘semantics’ she misses ‘the flames of the krishnachura / setting ablaze my window’. In ‘the return’, the poet remembers ‘an apricot tree’ and

the grains of Marina beach
releasing baby turtles

into the ocean. i belong
back in the village, drinking

Finally, ‘Kala Ghoda’ is full of words which, to my mind, act like ‘tripwires of nostalgia’ mentioned in the first line: ‘panipooriwala’, ‘paanwala’ and ‘Raju-ki-chai’. The poem ends the pamphlet on a richly evocative note with the lines:

but not before Sunlight downs its shutters
on bellies warm and full of rum

I found I empathised with the poet’s need to feel a sense of belonging.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad