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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

Bovine Intervention

Satya Dash

Congratulations, my father says, the vowels conspicuous

like rose petals in warm water. The news of my promotion

hastens the sky’s blackening. A small town of mustard oiled finger

licking dinners and burpy stomachs beckons behind the wind

shield. To love food is a great way to love yourself. Yet, I’m

tired of my mouth. How all it does is churn

want. Its ceaselessness, congratulatory beyond reform.

My parents too pick me up without fail every time I land

at the Bhubaneswar airport. 17 times in the last 6 years. I count

because cumulation offers resilience that nostalgia

doesn’t. The heat of the minute hand’s madness ends every daynight

couplet in clammy slumber; the silence inside my father’s car

reinforces a ghazal’s beauty. On the way back home, I see

cattle through the window, a herd sailing across the road,

stubborn calf coaxed by the mother to move, making us wait.

In familial silence, it strikes me I had forgotten

exactly how cows look like, their hoofs pecking my eardrum in gentle

clops. Their flesh very much a national bone of contention. The dusk

sky’s amber wrung hard into the saffron of brows, smeared

on manifestos. The government doesn’t understand

Tagore, Rumi or Faiz. Not because it can’t

 

 

but because it won’t. On manifestos, the GDP

swells. Obviously, no mention is made of the formula

tweaked to achieve the desired percentage. Very similar

to the way I approached math questions in school,

noting down the answer from the book’s back section,

then working my way upwards. My father abhorred that method.

But today he jokes, if everybody becomes a poet

who will do the actual work? My fists close involuntarily

in the tautness of rush, tempted to power through moving

glass, my hand regurgitating faculties of anger like a cow’s

fascinating stomach. For days, the odder side of my brain mulling—

if men were to bleed monthly, would the world be redder, a more

epilogued organism? Men in the long history of the town I came from,

where this car was headed now, thrashing legs on thick mattressed

beds, news of their mysterious wrath spreading in hushed

whispers. My father, once proud of his, now worn down

by age. My mother says he finds it impossible to weep. Even

when he wants to. It’s funny how contraction bares new

ground. Emergent lime. Sweet swallowing of flame.

For instance, father following up his good night

incredulously with I’m proud of you. While my simmering

brown corpse on the drawing room couch

feigns unbearably the anesthesia of slumber.

Satya DashWaxwing, Wildness, Redivider, Passages North, The Boiler, The Florida Review, Prelude, The Cortland Review and The Journal among others. He grew up in Cuttack and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043

Cox Bazaar

Sara Sethia

The girl says     hungry     is enough word
to describe childhood.
The man at the camp stared at the shape of her chest.
The curves refused to stay shy even in the black of the burqa.
That night at Cox Bazar             he ate them,
devouring mouthfuls.
His hunger wouldn’t end.
He would carry it on his lips
to the mouths of other men
                          berries
                                 pacifiers for howling adults
                                            raisins
                                                   grapes from the gardens of Eden.

Sara Sethia is a poet. Trained as an economist from the London School of Economics, she currently works at the Ashoka Centre for Economic Policy in India. You can connect with her on Instagram at @sethiasara.

A Birdsong

Aiswarya Garlapati

//For Nirbhaya

Inside a snowglobe
lies a city
wilting under smog;
there are no women
in this city,
only birds –
they reach their nests
before the night
swallows the day whole.
nobody questions this
nobody asks the city
where its women are hiding
they’re all busy,
sleepwalking
until
something jostles them
wakes them suddenly
from their tender trance
a woman
screaming
without any sound.
someone stole her voice
on a moving bus.
suddenly the city
stops churning, and stares.
the language of atrocity
etched in history
once again.
the heart of every bird
in the city
shreds.
nobody knows how
to stop the bleeding
or what to do
with all this blood.

Aiswarya Garlapati (she/her) is a part-time writer, poet, and spoken word artist based in Bangalore. Most of her work revolves around the themes of family, what it means to be a woman, endurance, and empathy. She has been a facilitator at several poetry workshops and is also the founder of a weekly poetry newsletter Fresh Off The Grill.

The New Word We Learned

Babitha Marina Justin

The first time Prof. Thomas taught us
anachronism in Dr. Faustus, the girls
tittered, we jangled our bangles
and pleated our pallus
with our shy, sweaty palms.

‘Aana’ in Malayalam is an elephant,
and in our arrogant parlance of the young
‘chroni’ was madness.
We laughed at the ‘mad elephant.’

Everything tickled us, the handsome professor
cracked a joke to distract the class,
we had read that before in
Boban and Molly
comic strips.
He glanced at us like lightning,
licked his moustache and spelled
‘necromancy’ with a hiss. Nothing to do with
either neck or romance, he said.
That zipped us up with a double-edged stab,
we didn’t talk about it.

Years later, I met Prof. Thomas at his home,
arthritic and obese. He could no longer
teach, but he lingered like an anachronism,
senility drooling from his mouth,
in a room full of freshly washed grand-children.
My neck tingled
sensing the absence of new words.

Babitha Marina Justin is an Associate Professor in English, a poet, and an artist. A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2018, her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals like Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, The Paragon Press, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Trampset, Constellations, etc. She has published two collections of poems, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (2015) and I Cook My Own Feast (2019). She is about to debut as a novelist with Sandpaper Memories (2021).

Small feelings

Aekta Khubchandani

Pigeonhole is a big word
but a small thing.
I liked aliens
until I learned the word alienated.
Everything is different after then.
Long distance (everything) is fragile.
It’s like an amber butterfly lost in the sun.
Micro fiction is a thing now.
I imagine you on a date with someone else.
I wish my name was someone else.

Blue is a feeling of a leaking boat
swimming in a swelling ocean.
How serene.
We are all moving islands,
carrying our water along.
Someone has to swim through
to finally reach us.
I am an aching comma today.
How many songs can hold a memory?

I’ve lost count
I wake up, wake up,
wake up, wake wake up
to your voice in my head.
The sun lies golden
and naked on my desk.
Feet cold from last night.
Grays are the grace
of life because a dark corner
isn’t the darkest moment.

My face is shrinking in the bedsheet
I am shrinking in present continuous tense
becoming smaller than pigeonholes.
I’m a moon on a no moon day,
a cigarette burning
burning to ash and ash and ashes.
Like ducklings that can’t quack,
sparrows that have forgotten how to chirp,
water chestnuts losing water
without water in them anymore.

Long distance (anything) is tender.
We are a flower
drawn on the palm of someone
who washes their hands too often.

 
Aekta Khubchandani is a poet from Bombay currently in the MFA program at The New School, NY. Recently, her work “Love in Bengali Dialect” won the Pigeon Pages Fiction prize and her poetry won honorable mention in the Paul Violi contest. Her work is featured in The Aerogram, Sky Island Journal, The Inquisitive Eater, and elsewhere.

Bardo Thödol for a Woman from Kumik 

Kanya Kanchana  

Primordial Buddha Samantabhadra (Tibetan: Kuntuzangpo) in yabyum with his consort Primordial Dakini Samantabhadri (Tibetan: Kuntuzangmo) from the 19thC Bardo Thödol mural, Chenrezig Lakhang, Lamayuru monastery, Ladakh
Photo credit: Kaya Dorjay Angdus, 2010; provided by Kristin Blancke.

Lhamo Dolma: You have died. 

 

Lhamo Dolma of Kumik village, child of noble family, you are now dead. 

 

Light of this world is fading. Light of the next is yet to come.  

In this umbra, Lhamo Dolma, death has arrived. It is time. 

 

You  

who chomped mountains like tsampa 

laughing, drank rivers like po cha, 

you are now dead? 

 

Lhamo Dolma: Do not be uncertain. 

 

Some went ahead. Others yet will follow.  

Remember your practice, your average capacities. 

 

Your hypnagogic hair, 

your three-jewel eyes, 

your Changtang mind,  

average capacities.  

 

Lhamo Dolma: Listen without distraction. 

 

In the bardo of becoming, there is no stopping. 

See things as they are, and be on your way. 

 

Ache, leave us your fires, 

your yaks, your jewels. 

Leave us the blood 

your fontanelle drains. 

Leave us your breath, 

your body, your ash.   

3 of 3 

Leave us, leave us, 

and do not look back. 

 

Lhamo Dolma: Listen with attention. 

 

Swarming, roaring, within the bright, 

a thousand thunders, remember tonight. 

 

The chang is a lake.  

The night is a wheel. 

My heart is a flag. 

You inbetween. 

  

Photo credit: Savita Rani, 2019 

Kanya Kanchana is a poet and translator from India. Her writing has appeared in POETRY, Anomaly, Asymptote, TrinityJoLTLitro, Paper Darts, and The Common. Her translations have appeared in Exchanges, Asymptote, Waxwing, Circumference, Aldus, and Muse India. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2019 Disquiet Prize.

Veyil

Greeshma Gayathri 

Author’s Note: “Veyil” translates as “sunlight” or “sunshine” in Tamizh and Malayalam- the two South Indian languages that I grew up with. From childhood, I was fascinated by the mysterious ways in which its color and intensity affects the mood of the moment in subtle ways. What seemed even more interesting was how, when under it, my black hair turned golden sometimes. And I realized there was a very playful hide- and- seek between the shades of black and brown in the sun’s bare magic that no English word seemed to justify when it came to choosing a title.  

 

Drunken eyes that fleck guavas on the mud will tell you: 

 

caterpillar fleece the size of ants – 

orange dashes, black dots, 

blow into their whispers a Morse code of sorts 

 

on the exact shade of light and for how long 

leaves before rain must wear. 

 

Sunlight is synecdoche 

 

anchored in mood swings, 

etched in film memory, 

the color of  Saturday noons. 

 

In its flare, ashen is auburn. 

Charcoal sleeps in this assonance. 

 

Yet no one believes when I say I am a tree – 

I can turn the sun to earth 

on me. 

 

They shut my mouth with melanin. 

 

Are kites ever scorched? 

 

I would say I have a way with light. 

 

Greeshma Gayathri is a recent graduate in civil engineering who occasionally?writes poems. 

The end of the road 

Ankita Anand  

When it gets uphill  

The rickshaw puller  

Stops pedalling  

And pulls with his hands  

Our weight  

So we can reach  

Where we want. 

One day  

At that point in the road  

He may just walk off  

Leaving us stranded, 

Not out of anger, hatred or vendetta, 

But because in that moment  

We’d have ceased to exist for him  

Like he had for us  

Ages ago. 

 

In that moment  

He would have decided  

He couldn’t care less. 

credit: Junoon Photography Club, NSUT, 2019 

Ankita Anand’s writing has travelled through India, Pakistan, Singapore, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. She is also a journalist, and her work has been supported and awarded by multiple fellowships and awards in India and abroad. 

A Textbook Afternoon

Anannya Uberoi  

Photo credit: Anannya Uberoi, 2019

A textbook afternoon 

half the cover falling off, half 

coiled between your legs, 

the bed is a tulip field from 

the golden sun, my eyes are 

closing from the light as I 

reach for the end of the 

warm, brown curtain like a 

dormouse hanging on a 

tablecloth. The duel between 

my eyes and the sun, struggling 

to rid my arms of the weight of 

your creme-quilled pillow up 

like an egg in the brightness, 

short-lived. An hour hence, 

we are watching the window 

from a common angle: the sun 

softer, your hair darker, my 

eyes wider. 

I often tell you I dig things 

sans 

 meaning: watching you 

for hours, open-mouthed, 

in a safe haven of words 

we create spontaneously 

without definitions and 

poems that exist as 

mere permutations of, 

the afternoon:  

sans 

 meaning, 

sans 

 design,  

sans 

 conversation. 

A squirrel dashes to a 

squash blossom on the grass, 

and somewhere between your 

thrusts and nudges a few 

sparrows flew into our lawn 

and have nestled there. 

Author photo credit: Tanya Shrivastava 2020 

Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and a part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid. A travel junkie, she logs her experiences from unconventional journeys on paper. Her poems and short fiction have appeared and are forthcoming in several publications, including The Delhi Walla, eFiction India, Lapiz Lazuli and Deep Wild. 

The Wolf who cried Boy

Tript Kaur

 

Jingle 

Sing little coin, sing in my palm 

Bounce and return. 

Now whizz past streetlights into 

Metal caps with pointy edges 

Scratch my hand 

Drink in the blood 

Of my coked veins 

And store it in cola bottles. 

 

Crinkle 

Crinkle Crinkle little note,  

Slip from pockets like rote, 

And crunch before you 

Crackle 

Crackl 

Crack 

The heart behind, to mint a new one 

For angry hands stretched out of windows pulled down 

Spitting and smoking Jaguars 

Wipe my Slumdog fingers on window-shields 

Before the red light asks the ‘Busy/ No time/Get out of the way/Bloody traffic jam’, 

To push my pendulum-body to mean position. 

 

Single 

I am Many. We swarm the zebra  

Torn from grasslands and tarred 

For crossing into the next birth 

Of an Antilla. 

One box of tissues, tricolour flag, sunshade, towel, pirated book 

Knock on dark glass and darker gazes, unseeing. 

My hand is a product, my face is a bazaar 

The many multiples of me,  

Scatter chiaroscuro like 

Into huddled faces of Incredible India’s poor 

Perfect for photography. 

 

Tingle 

Nervous fingers why do you creep 

Count my vertebrae in winter? 

Why do you sleep 

When my spine is a splinter? 

Eyes eyes so many eyes eyes eyes eyes eyes 

Follow, reach, grab, play, savour 

My vagabond blanket 

My broken chappal 

My father’s stash of beer bottles 

Lidless, burning through my vest 

Sharp nails drill into my skull 

Tighten screws of where my money has to go- 

“Yes, that is all I got today.” 

And my sore cheek sinks soundlessly 

Until my face drips off. 

 

Wrinkle 

Colour my collapse 

In two mountains, a river and a smiling sun 

Change pastel stubs for Dunhill stubs 

And smoke me into tomorrow. 

I shrink to my skeleton for medical students 

Ribs, lean muscles, memories of cheeks 

Quiet chest, wheezing lungs 

Smog and acid rain 

Have almost fried my brain 

eunuch-pimp-policeman-Father-Road Roller-Municipal Corporation-The State Government- 

The Vote—have taught me- 

  1. It is a free country
  2. I have the right to learn
  3. I have the right to protest
  4. I have the right to choose my religion 

 

McDonald’s: For Sale (First Come First Serve basis) 

Burger (almost whole), freshly thrown, patty intact. 

 

Get. Set. Go. 

 

Tript Kaur is a recent graduate of the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies from the University of Cambridge, UK. Her love for English and Punjabi literature, particularly children’s literature, has led her to compose poetry and short stories catering to young readers. She hopes to derive strength from her regional, linguistic, religious and gender identities to comprehensively work for social justice. 

 

Tired in a Book Fair

Vishnu Bagdawala

 

she sits on the floor 

massaging her feet, 

 

the stones under the laid carpet 

pricking her. facing a flower bed 

 

in the middle of nowhere. 

 

her face looks tired, her eyes 

look into the distance. 

 

when her son finally comes 

whispers in her ear, 

 

“I want a popcorn.” 

she pulls out a ten-rupee note 

 

from her bosom and hands 

it to him. 

 

He walks away 

 

feeling the warmth of 

of his mother in his hands. 

 

Vishnu Bagdawala is a recent graduate in Mass Communication. Hailing from the textile hub city of Surat, he now lives in Mumbai where he is pursuing his dream of becoming a writer.  

 

Letter from a Daughter

Shaleena Koruth

There is no sign of me on the road. 

you look for the plumber 

who keeps his promise  

and arrives to fix your sink. You wash your face 

put on a kettle.  

You cannot hear my voice 

in those far-away rooms of your youth, 

those nights, those parties 

when I climbed into your bed 

and fell asleep, waiting for you to tiptoe in,  

the cold in your cheek, your stilettos in your hands, 

my father behind you, the car keys ringing in his pockets. 

Yes I know, 

you want to claw your heart 

and excise that need,  

those memories that looked like promises — 

They were never meant to be that way. 

 

You have waited for understanding 

longer than you will ever wait for me. 

On that same road,  

beyond the paddy sheaves  

that the wind shimmers through 

beyond the black gravel edges cutting triangles into the dark, 

beyond the screaming crickets 

that frame the many headed night, 

is the echo of your need for me. 

It comes home to you. 

It is written into your face  

staring back through the glass panes 

on the door you designed and had priced, 

the door you had the carpenters bid upon, 

the door you drew into the blueprint for the house, 

the door that warps in the April heat 

and will not slide as you would like it to. 

         

miles appear as clusters of light and dark 

        that flash and signal from below. 

        my face pressed to an oval, 

        my stomach balled into a fist, 

Are you in your car?  

        Precarious? 

        Ensconced? 

Has anyone asked? 

        and whom will you tell. 

        Better to say, 

        Are you home safe. 

        Drop the qualifiers. 

         

Days and nights teemed, 

        have become arrays on a calendar, 

        to fill with things to do and  

        places to be. 

        Know that I will never forget. 

        That photo, your face, beautiful with your  

        black hair in a knot, 

        the gleam of silk, your mustard sari, 

        my brother and I on either side in pajamas. 

        Father’s favorite picture of you. 

 

In a sense we are both mid-air,  

        to look forward one must have 

        looked back, you once said. 

Why are you surprised? 

 

Perhaps this will be your last lesson to me —  

on how mothers wait and accept,  

how we learn to question no longer, 

what we have always known. 

 

And how we look forward, 

after looking at.

 

Shaleena Koruth is a journalist and writer. She holds an MFA in creative writing in fiction from Rutgers University-Newark. She writes about women who move between borders, in the countries they inhabit physically and emotionally.