Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

At the Dancing Square—Chowk

Let me be.  She licks her scream like a morsel it
hovers in the brazen sky.  My sun is caught in the rain.
Staggering halfway to the square she fixes her laughter.
Somewhere far away from the sloppy moonlight
there is a hope, red and blue.

Not all men are tone deaf unable to hear the call
of hunger.   Body, bosom, bare hips, needless to say
bare feet.  She cannot afford the luxury of sleep.
Her hair smells of jasmine and hands glisten with
Jaipuri bangles.  Kohl-rimmed eyes ready to sting.

Worn out with waiting the city lacerates one and all.
The city has spared none.  The city will spare no one.
The street is her illustrious companion.

Often it rings with the flavor of seviyan and paan
Even the ghungroo relishes the touch of korma.

Tabla and sitar once had a taste of lucknowi tehzeeb.
Tracing her steps, up and down, subversive innuendoes,
voices reeking with lust and country made liquor, gaping
indifference of the hushed minarets.  Often she is baffled
by the distant call of Amma: “Get up and be ready for Ajaan.

A whiff of wisdom sits on her head. She opens her empty
fist and catches the fading star, like long lost siblings they
laugh at each other and promise to meet again. If not tonight,
she knows she will find a lover and watch him snap
her dreams with eager lips and unsteady fingers.


Glossary

Seviyan
Pudding made of sugar, semolina and nuts
Paan
Betel leaf
Ghungroo
Ankle bells
Korma
Meat dish
Lucknowi Tehzeeb
City of Lucknow with its distinct culture and tradition
Ajaan
Prayers

Ranu UniyalRanu Uniyal has written two books of poetry: Across the Divide (2006) and December Poems (2012). Her work has appeared in Mascara Literary Review, Medulla Review, Muse India, Kavya Bharati, Femina, and several other journals. She is Professor of English at Lucknow University with a doctorate from Hull University, UK.


Pickling

Even as she pickled mangoes, grandmother
told me stories. When she was little, she stole
from the piles and piles of mangoes that were left
to dry in the courtyard of her village home. Now
embalming mangoes in mulled mustard oil, she tells me
the best of the season must live longer. So each April
she carefully preserves. Pickles in glass jar churning,
in the pungent sun turning with black cumin eyes
and red chili slivers to tickle tongues with flavours of
a season gone by. Grandfather would walk in, always
a step behind his cane and, squinting in the sun, declare
the best mangoes grew in our garden, there, back then.
I would listen to the stories, dip my finger in spiced oil,
and taste everything on the tip of my tongue. In another
city, eating out of a can I realize that I have not learnt
the exact art of pickling mangoes. I can pickled
words instead, use ink in place of oil.


Sohini BasakSohini Basak is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi and will soon join the creative writing course at the University of Warwick. She won the Unisun-Reliance Poetry Competition 2010-2011.


Model Minority

I am afraid that I am beginning to remember myself in a sea of absolutes, “always, nothing, never, forever” . . . I forget that I have had to amass these words, like slivers of glass in the palm of a hand, caked blood underneath my nails.
The Book of Salt: A Novel by Monique Truong

I have been speaking too many
broken words
in a single language for over
two decades. I never learned
how to say home, how to say
belonging
in my father’s tongue—he
left me to find the words
alone. Simple, sweet,

the Punjabi slips
pungent
against my teeth, weeps
when I stumble
at its edges: arches
and whorls            I cannot read.

My blank
mouth shudders,
resists
my heart. When you ask me
who I am,
where I am from,
half or whole: I split pink palms,
hope
for a mantra to make me
the woman I wish

I looked like. She
dances, graceful—rends
silk from flesh
slowly. But she wants
my skin, my freckled
cheeks. She smears
cream across her jaw, brow
to make her sing: First
World
lullabies torn
from the pages of a magazine
pasted, gathered

where women—if brown
—are
ghostly, silent:
Bollywood mannequins: Model
Minorities. Women who seep
crimson from chests exoticized
terrorized,
stabbed in convenience store parking
lots—coagulating sainthood

in censorship. September
is a month my sisters,
brothers,
kin—observe quietly in America,
folding
incense, guava, into the earth
to stay alive. In sterile
airports the guard
hooks my arm, nods at my
father demands
documentation. Brown
makes us

Other.

My body: familiar.
My name: apart. My heart, a sea
of half-remembered love
songs, ghazals he soothed
me to sleep with.

But I still cannot say Please
Love
Me
in my father’s
tongue.


Simi Kang is a Desi-American poet, visual artist, and anthropologist based in the Twin Cities. She is committed to supporting and studying refugee and diaspora issues in the United States, and plans to do her dissertation work at the University of Minnesota with the Vietnamese-American community. Simi’s work has appeared in the Summit Avenue Review, Kartika Review, and is forthcoming in an edited volume collected by Ananya Dance Theatre, University of Minnesota Press.


Kalkatiya

ek bhai raha—to ohi chut geil, baap ke sanghe.
ta oke ka malum he ke thagle hamke?

This is why I am here: my mother sent a boy
to fetch me, to clean rice with her in town. At dusk

she asked the emissaries, “How much
for a day’s toil?” They carried us away to a dock

and locked us down. Paid in irons, we tore our throats
with screams. We banged Kidderpore Dock’s doors bloody

and broke our bangles. Waiting in the dark, the crimson
ship harbored; the arkot tricked us into boarding,

“You are going home—” and then the grey of monochrome
waves washing the bitter herbs of our bodies

clean of caste and kin.


“I had a brother—but left him with my father. How could he know we were kidnapped?”
Language in Indenture: A Sociolinguistic History of Bhojpuri-Hindi in South Africa by Rajend Mesthrie


Published in various journals and the author of two chapbooks, na bad-eye me (Pudding House Press 2010) and na mash me bone (Finishing Line Press 2011), Rajiv Mohabir earned his MFA in creative writing and literary translation from Queens College, CUNY. Presently he is pursuing a PhD in English and creative writing at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.


what it’s like to be sri lankan in 2012 for those of you who aren’t

It’s being dead.
It’s still being alive.

It’s No Frills finally has Dilmah
It’s buying four packages to take home in your carry-on
because you live in the Bay Area now.
It’s the Scar and the new Goa.

It’s enormous fights on the internet on every page that purports to be about Sri Lanka from a multicultural perspective

It’s being on a raft that takes you from Jaffna to Malaysia to Christmas Island, Australia to immigration jail in Australia, then somehow you bust out
then to Fruitvale because someone on the raft Googlemapped it and it looked pretty

how we have always known
how to pilot
small boats in big water

It’s fake Buddhist temples constructed by the government in Jaffna
It’s going home and seeing bullet holes in your grandmother’s empty house
It’s lighting 23 candles in her window
one for everyone who’s died since you and everyone
have not been able to return.
It’s going home to Jaffna if you’re young, Tamil and male and not automatically being snatched by either army. Maybe. For a moment.
It’s white vans.

It’s creepy child molesting uncle,
drunkass uncle at the wedding singing baila with sexually inappropriate lyrics
It’s all your aunties wanting to change the subject

It’s an empty, broken heart hoping that the tears/the rivers/
the ocean/ all that wet
will fertilize the seeds
hidden/deep/ in darkness
still to be born

It’s wanting to talk about something else
It’s still being alive.


Leah LakshmiLeah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer Sri Lankan femme writer, performer, and teacher. The author of the poetry collections Consensual Genocide and Lambda Award–winning Love Cake, as well as co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities, her work has been widely anthologized. www.brownstargirl.org