Sonnet Mondal’s An Afternoon in My Mind is a young man’s meditation on time, filled with the recognition that it is too late to return to childhood. It is both personal and political, concerned with questions of the spirit and of matter.

The plain-spoken tone of these poems is a cover for their deeper metaphysical inquiries. Narrative saturates every observation: “A man stands holding his bicycle/ in the bus stop shed. When he rides away the story will follow him,” Mondal writes in “On a Snowy Morning.”

The poems investigate loss, yearning, and solitude. But they do not forgo humor, as in the wry, wary “Another Reason to Live.” “Someone advised me to watch / monochromatic films and let whiskey / slip across a placid tongue to come out of this swamp.”

Mondal seems to have eschewed this advice. His tongue is not placid; it speaks with an impassioned clarity full of energetic surprise. “I went inside a forest to sip some solitude / and now I am stuck in a wildfire.”

Excerpts from the book:

Hungry Faith

The fisherman in the Sundarbans

was hauling his boat out of mud

and into an intoxicated river.

Between the prow and his hands

a sweat-soaked turban

hollowed out the sounds of struggle.

His bulging veins more resolute

than the wary holes

of the fishing net—soaking up the sun.

The stooping trees of the forest

tried to lend a hand

but, held by the riverbank,

moaned in the wind.

The water looked warm

but didn’t rise to the boat.

Somewhere in the fragmented sun

hunger was savoring muddy toil.


Stories of loneliness stay

warm inside my blanket, get

replaced without a sound.

Arms raised, a leafless tree

prays for its death.

 I wish I understood those birds, their songs

struggling to break free from the branches.

Catherine Barnett is an American poet and educator. She is the author of Human Hours; The Game of Boxes, winner of the James Laughlin Award; and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced, winner of the...