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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

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. 

Hum Kisise Kum Nahin

Sunita Theiss  

Bootleg Bollywood tapes in my hands, the ones from the Indian grocery that  

comforted you. The man on the screen grinning, dancing. You whisper, I hear  

he is a jerk in real life. 

Dancing with you in American living rooms, phir bhi dil hai  

Hindustani.  

**** 

Did you ever look at me and wish I’d known you sooner? A man longing for  

legacy, love, America. In college, you clipped a newspaper article about Rainer  

Maria Rilke. In college, I stumbled upon Duino Elegies. I loathed schoolwork.  

You hated waiting.  

**** 

Your reassurances—never too sick to remember my name, to know my face. A  

scratchy kiss on the cheek. I can’t recall the feeling. It’s ok, you promised. Theek  

hai. I learned to read lips that year. When you couldn’t speak, I would translate  

for you.  

**** 

What will happen when this is all over? A blue highlighter tucked in a magazine,  

marking the article you want me to read? Will you have your voice again to sing,  

kya hua tera waada 

 

Note: In Hindi, “Hum kisise kum nahin” means “We are not less than anyone.” It is also the name of a 1977 movie that featured the popular Mohammed Rafi song, “Kya Hua Tera Wada”—literally, “what happened to your promise?”? 

Sunita Theiss is a writer and content strategist based in Atlanta, GA. A second generation Indian-American, her writing explores the experience of growing up between two cultures in the American South—including grief, religion, politics, and inter-cultural relationships. ?? 

An Evening in Hazrat Nizamuddin

Karuna Chandrashekar

for Sabah,

the light held within
the palm of each day.

Over the dargah,
the sky is like a soft animal
readying for sleep.

A marigold rolls
on marble
like a hundred girls crossing their arms
over the closing eye of the sun.

Behind the lattice,
one girl dances with both
a boy

and a jinn,
the light wonders
which one
will she run away with?

In a dark corner,
another somersaults,
with a demon on her back:

girlhood is such a rough rind
we bite down
so we can sing through our teeth,

sounding the light
for the Spirit to arrive.

When the marble
softly glows–a living color,

like
the devotion of birds
falling from the sky,
heeding the call of qawwali,

we will gather enough twilight
in our eyes,
like a chemise in the fists
of orphans
in their long search for home

Karuna Chandrashekar is a psychodynamic therapist and grad student currently living in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been featured in journals such as La.Lit, AnomalyLit, Sea Foam Mag, The Sunflower Collective, and more.

Walking on Marine Drive at Midnight

Sneha Subramanian Kanta

Harshal Desai, 2016.

for H

The sea cuts its mouth open
and gurgles a lullaby for the

sleepless. The cities we love
grow in different dialects and

forget old dreams. Briefly,
the sky appears unreal in its

tincture of fermented molasses
on its surface. In the midnight

air, our bodies are lighter. The
sky imagines itself into becoming.

We smell bread from the midnight
bakery and I compare it to the risen

tide. You underline the city line on
air and peer through dark to trace the

deciduous layers of sky, earth, and sea.
You point toward the lengthening

space between three silences. We see
the sea gasp for ether in a cusp of

unbridled yearning. The moon makes
it possible. We are a silhouette of

shadows braided into a mosaic of oneness.
There is no language for the sudden

blooming of buds into flowers on the
street-walk, or how their color reminds

me of a sound that reverberates like the
Arabian sea, like birds released into the sky.

Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a recipient of the Charles Wallace fellowship 2019 at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She is a GREAT scholarship awardee and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal and a poetry reader for Palette Poetry.