Ashok Niyogi

Ashok Niyogi was born in Calcutta, India in 1955. After attending Irish Christian Brothers' Schools in India and graduating with honors in Economics from Presidency College, Calcutta University, he spent more than 25 years in trade and commerce working in various parts of the world, including the former USSR, Eastern Europe and Russia. Retired from commerce, he is now a professional poet and writer who divides his time between the US, where his daughters live, and India, where he is based in Delhi and has a timber plantation in Goa, but travels all over the country. His English is abundantly Indian (with its colonial burden) but because of his travels, the odd Russian, European and American ‘isms’ have crept in. He has published two books of poetry in India: Crossroads and Reflections in the Dark. and one book of poems in the USA, Tentatively. He has been published extensively on-line and in print in the USA, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Tentatively is available from iUniverse, Lincoln, NE, USA. It is a 225 page paperback, ISBN : 0-595-33935-2. Tentatively will be available at online bookstores like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc., in the near future.


Letter to Ulitsa Myitnaya from a Himalayan Hamlet


the mountains love me
just like you did.
The village is magic
in morning mist,
            flakes of snow
outside our window.

On our hotel patio,
it smells of pine needles though.
Yesterday’s Rive Gauche
left behind
in my Moscow mind,
gives way to today’s intoxication
of eucalyptus and pine.

On this rooftop of the world,
the air is rare,
not heavy with lust,
some vanishing stardust.
Birds struggle awake in their nests
as did we,
under disheveled quilts.

Soon the mongrels will be out and about,
chasing tourist cars.
Lots of noise
like the morning chat
our janitor lady had
with the first drunk
at the all night kiosk.
Plumes of exhaust fumes,
black with pollution
like the circumlocution
of morning trams.


Pushkin sleeps.
Roerich is out with paper and charcoal;
snowlines are distant but well defined,
like the silhouette of your cheekbones.
Clouds are wispy but dark
like your eyelashes
abashed in the confines of a car.
Maybe it will rain,
a deluge, as when I caused you pain.

Akhmatova will softly weep
as hillsides part,
No quiet Don here,
only gurglers and gushers
belonging to Tsvetaeva
hurtling into a waterfall
above which
Pasternak plays hide and seek.

And then the painstaking flowers,
Dachas carved into impossible slopes,
with mountain goats.
Let the moon be put to guillotine;
mysteries will only thicken
like prostitutes on a Moscow street.


It is imperative that Mayakovsky come
strong and sure
to see the snow;
while toothless babushkas
at the crack of dawn
sweep the municipal garden,
with creaking bones.

Hill women balance wood on their heads--
wood for fire beneath blackened pots
filled with coarse rice
and stinking cabbage
that wageless workers
in Rostov factories
also eat.

As night falls,
stars twinkle in the sky,
as do lights on hillsides;
men fall on their way back home
from illicit liquor stalls.

And so it is, from before Sixtus,
from before The Canterbury Tales,
under beasts of burden,
the mountain wails.

I settle down in the hallways of the Hermitage,
and contemplate incomprehensible Picassos,
as my elbows brush your breasts.

[1] Ulitsa Myitnaya is a street just off Leninsky Prospekt in Moscow.
[2] Babushka – Russian for grandmother
[3] Tovarisch – Russian for Comrade
[4] Dacha – a country cottage, rough hewn
[5] Hermitage – in St. Petersburg


They strive for longevity;
They are not phantoms, you see.

The dead trunk shriveled white,
Struck by lightning and yet upright,
Sees all in the moonlight.


I told the river,
"Go to our house
In Kolkata.
There you will see
The trees and grass
And lemon flowers,
[1] in bloom.
And when there is
A storm in spring,
You can see the sky
Dark and foreboding".

The river said,
"Why should I?
I will flow
Into my subterranean cavern,
Explore the color of rock
In darkness and be sure
That at least I try
To understand
What it is
To flow into the sea
And die".

To be torn up
As a river is,
Slow and sluggish;
When its delta merges
Never to emerge again.
Must be painful for the fish.

Tides, it encounters tides
Of fame and fortune,
Salt and sweet;
Beaches of sand,
Tourists come and pilgrims come
To wash their sins and daily woes;
The delta silts and grows.

[1] Gulmohor: cassia fistula with red and yellow flowers


The sun has just passed away.
It was glorious in its day.
But now its corpse is a uniform yellow
That falls on my pillow
And warms my scalp.
The sun is dead.
I have had the vital signs checked,
Now there is only reflected light.
Soon there will be a spark of incandescence
As we light its funeral pyre.
There will be total and absolute brilliance
And then progressively the light will fade.
Trees will shudder and mountains will be Moonscapes.
Huge rocks will float away into outer space.
We light up stoves and turn on the gas
With cigarette lighters we light up cigarettes.
But now we will have to light up the sun.

Light a Candle for Me

Today is like the topmost branches of trees
Blowing helter-skelter in the cross wind,
Like continuation that never continues,
Like action that is the stuff of dreams,
Like mountain streams.

But I will surely want to know
How, after twenty years,
You will still walk in the snow
Without my elbow.

When you slap together your midnight snack
In your frayed nightwear
You will have company.
It will be the same inane chat.

How will it be
To light a candle for me to see
Just sepia pictures in moth-eaten frames,
Freezes of a fractured life?

My Moth

The glory of the last chapter
The last rhyme
Which I in my drunken state
Recited to you with the chicken and thyme.
This tightrope walking is a risky game.
It is only worth it because of the arctic wind.

We understand the trivial
And yet we are hunters of time
Catching a woodcock here or there
To cook it over our destiny.
We find warmth in folds of mink,
For diamonds are cold.

We never went on a bus trip to Scotland
We went to St. Petersburg for an afternoon of art.
Hand in hand we laughed at the Gorodavoi,
We saw the yellow of Van Gogh,
What more do we want?

I am a squirrel hoarding memories like nuts
For the winter sky.
You are the underbelly of a moth
Spread-eagled against clear glass.
We only walked the tightrope
Because of our 'class'.

[1] City Police in Russia


In this manmade forest of eucalyptus
I come upon a roughly octagonal clearing.
In the afternoon, with the sun at a particular angle
The grass is as if it is on fire;
That is when madness rules for one half-hour.

I shed my clothes and dance to the invisible drumbeats,
Faster and faster,
Until I go into a trance,
I dance my pagan dance
And then lie prone on the grass in a coma,
Drunken with the eucalyptus smell.

When the sunlight goes away
The fires are quenched and all is gloom,
I wake up and wearily trudge my way
Towards my jeep.

No headlights in the twilight
But the parking lights are on
As I drive my familiar way
To my cottage on the sand.


I am a blood-and-guts guy.
But I will write vegetarian poetry
And get by.

The bud flowers
And stares at me suspiciously
As if I ever wanted to be
Anything but a bumblebee.
The first raindrop punctuates my buzz,
Symmetry in the rain.

Birds and bees are as formidable a combination
As the proverbial stork,
But not so formidable as afternoon fumbling
In borrowed rooms
With crumpled bed sheets and curtains drawn
And the pitter-patter on the tin roof of the portico.
Symmetry in the rain.

Paddy fields are lush with a live green
That hits your guts.
Vanilla creepers climb areca nut palms.
A spastic looks out of a stained glass window.
Football is played with long passes.
Symmetry in the rain.

I hide my cirrhosis behind trees and bushes.
My blood irrigates them well.
Even across barriers
Of societal disapproval, there is
Symmetry in the rain.

Milch cows whose udders go dry
Are left astray on city streets
To rummage through garbage bins.
In India, to slaughter them is a crime
Though they create an awful stench
That wafts across the
Symmetry in the rain.

Half constructed bridges crumble into backwaters
A sickly Donna Paula
[1] with a fist in her mouth
Stares at the crashing waves in startled awe.
Old Portuguese roofs cave in
In plantation country on full moon night.
Ogres dance madly to the drumming of the raindrops.
Symmetry in the rain.

Airplanes think of landing and then change their mind.
Afternoons are restless, evenings ominous.
Cigarettes are stale, just vodka and ale.
Fish smells on Miramar.
Clouds are low and uniformly dark
Laden with God on a celestial throne,
His scimitar sends heads rolling on the sand.
The lone mongrel is having a lark,
The rain has stopped and there is silence.
Symmetry in the rain.

Mongrels are mongrels
Either because they are the offspring of mongrels
Or because some master in his petulance
Threw them out to the
Symmetry in the rain.

Seas churn, planets burn,
Babies newborn are speared on swords,
Women raped in front of their sons.
Evil hunts well in time with music.
Symmetry in the rain.

A snake slithers across the road
In front of your car,
Homeless and destitute, its hole flooded.
Casual workers have gone back to Bihar
And coconut trees are afraid of the sea.
There is a peculiar cadence
Symmetry in the rain.

[1] A lady who lived in the Governor's house in Panjim, Goa, India. Legend goes that she used to gaze across the seas for a lover who never returned and, in desperation, threw herself on the rocks and died. But, in reality, she died of tuberculosis (as told to me by a family whose ancestors were her neighbors).

[2] The beach nearest the Governor's house in Goa.

[3] A poor province in the Indo-Gangetic plain.