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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

My lungs recall unfondly

Shilpa Kamat

the substitute yoga
teacher who rolls her
eyes when I ask her
not to burn incense–
who reads some swami’s
one-size-fit-all words
about bodies adjusting
even to toxic
smoke from industries
and cigarettes. Meetings
in the barn filled with dusty
and catty couches, starting
always with someone’s
prompting all forty of us
to collectively close
our eyes, to take deep
tandem breaths–forcing
me to choose between
itchier lungs or escape
through wooden doors
to wait with the Douglas
firs and sycamores. Gray
density of Mumbai air giving
first the sensation of bubbles
in the chest, then stripping
my capacity to walk three feet
without the shock of losing
my breath completely: nonstop
wheezing, the twisting of ineffective
old school inhaler, spoons of useless
syrup that make me cough harder
until I give them up. My lungs recall
how that winter, ginger tea and salt
washes save me. How the introductory
grounding practice never alternates
despite consensus process. How
when I speak of the smoky air choking
me, the common shrug-off is, You
should try breathing in Delhi. How
the teacher misreads my polite, Oh
really? and gloats, Absolutely. When
stripped down to essence, we
are all connected and yet, other
bodies cannot know what my body
feels–the way a breath can collapse
and convulse, the way a breath
can heal.

Photo credit: Shilpa Kamat 2020

Shilpa Kamat is a poet, educator, yoga teacher, and healing arts practitioner based in Northern California. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and has been published by a range of magazines, from Strange Horizons to Kweli. Her chapbook, Saraswati Takes Back the Alphabet, was a finalist for the 2018 Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize and was published by Newfound in 2019. You can read more about her work at shilpakamat.com.

What Is Love In Your Language?

Suchita Senthil Kumar

The moon is suddenly not nilavu,
it’s become the chaand and the stars,
they’re somehow not vinmeengal,
they’ve become tere aankhon ke taarein.

The sound of my inhalation and exhalation,
it’s your name in rhythmic repercussion
and now I’m breathing in a language
I don’t know to speak a word in.

The instrument you belt around your waist
would’ve been the kuzhal to me but
it’s the bansuri now, and I hope to fill
my heart with its voice, or yours—both.

I compose poems in syllables
I’ve seen your lips spilling at night
and now I’m writing in a language
I don’t know to spell a word in.

I wonder if you hear my idhayam
in the silence of these early nights
and not my dil, just the way I’ve
been listening to your dhadkan.

In the crinkle of your eyes, there I see it
and in the lilt of your smile, there I see it.
It’s kadhal to me now, because I don’t know.
Tell me, what is love in your language?

Glossary

  • nilavu: moon (Tamizh)
  • chaand: moon (Hindi)
  • vinmeengal: stars (Tamizh)
  • tere aankhon ke taarein: the stars of your eyes (Hindi)
  • kuzhal: flute (Tamizh)
  • bansuri: side-blown flute instrument (Hindi)
  • idhayam: heart (Tamizh)
  • dil: heart (Hindi)
  • dhadkan: heartbeat (Hindi)
  • kadhal: love (Tamizh)

Photo Credit: Suchita Senthil Kumar, 2021

Suchita Senthil Kumar is a writer creating chaos. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Live Wire India, Jaden Magazine and Hooligan Magazine among others. She was a student of UNICEF’s Voices of Youth Mediathon ’21. She tweets as @suchita_senthil.

A Glossary of Artillery Terms

Nnadi Samuel

Bangladesh tenderizes our immigrant flesh into the havoc of a rifle,  

                                                            stale on a woman’s lip.  

language pulls me to where a female rips her lungs— dragging  

the  

                             black alphabet that mourns her passing away. 

she mouthwashes an adjective, trims her nail till its red tip takes 

                             the form of a loud verb. to cherish where I’m 

from  

is to add guns to our part of speech, It is to be at peace with the  

                             waltzing hotness of a missile. the cloud— a white  

sheet, pierced by a loaded projectile that isn’t firework. 

                             I wish to account for this place, & not lose my tongue  

to a death-plague that shapes like this  

country— stabbed onto a pie chart. this year, violence preserved  

my  

delicate life. In the next, I want to have more crime in my name. 

                              Pakistan’s temper veining through my wrist. 

I love it for its other half mirroring my loss. 

                              lady, dulling her skin to die at her own pace:  

too bright to keep up with this town. each darkness finds me falling 

                              in love with this body alive, but for a while.  

the  

rib cage of females I’ve known crosshatching as countries at loggerheads. 

                              you cherish where I’m from by loving it sideways,  

without the tip of a gun pointing at your heartbeat. in our palm: a warfare.  

                              in our thoughts: a woman derailing a stray bullet with  

 

2 

prayer beads. 

the way she pleads “ 

the blood”, as though we haven’t shed more of that lately, 

                              as if this red-faced object isn’t me bullet bright, dashing my 

loin to the  

                              ground— if that’s the softest way to call this body quit. I wish  

to amplify my  

bones, to make a loud statement. I’m wounded by the consonance of ‘Iowa’ mud- 

                               breaking through my lips, as a cannon hawking a well-dressed  

echo. I sustain the entirety of grammar in a verse looted at gunpoint. you survive  

this country only by dodging the voiced 

                               bilabial plosive— that goes  

boom! 

 everywhere your feet touches. 

Photo credit: Bazeel Photography 2022

Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published/forthcoming in Suburban Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, NativeSkin lit Magazine, Quarterly West, FIYAH, Fantasy Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, The Capilano Review, Carte Blanche, Dgëku, The Elephant Magazine and elsewhere. Winner of the Miracle Monocle Award for Ambitious Student Writers 2021(University of Louisville). He is the author of Reopening of Wounds and Subject Lessons (forthcoming). He tweets @Samuelsamba10.

Stories of Durga: Rain

Ayesha Chatterjee

I didn’t count her weapons. But I
remember clearly the sharp
nocturnal smell of gifted clothes,
the silent loudspeakers.
There were crowds of people.

There were none.
Memory, like poetry, can’t be trusted.

No-one spoke.
It was as if there were no-one there but me,
standing in the mud,
dripping like a woman stalking, fresh as god.

Photo credit: Marion Voysey, 2020

Born and raised in Kolkata, Ayesha Chatterjee has lived in England, the USA and Germany. She is the author of two collections, The Clarity of Distance, and Bottles and Bones. Her work has appeared in Magma PoetryExile QuarterlyThe (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and elsewhere, and has been translated into several languages. Chatterjee is a past president of the League of Canadian Poets and currently chairs the League’s Feminist Caucus. She lives in Toronto.

Kitchens Through Which I Have Traveled

Mehnaz Sahibzada

Image credit: the author

The beige one in Pasadena where my

baby sister swallowed a flask of medicine,

 

the oak one on Friar where I spoke Urdu

and learned my first Bollywood songs,

 

the dank one in Gulberg where Chaudry Saab

blamed us kiddos for burning the biryani,

 

the haunted one in a crumbling haveli,

where I mistook my Dadi for a ghost,

 

the cube one in Taif where I fried peas

with cumin & ghee, listening to Arabic television,

 

the humid one in Tampa where we baked

a birthday cake for my toy donkey,

 

the white one in Rancho Cucamonga where

I prank-called pizza joints with friends,

 

the pink one in Encino where my father’s pleas

stabbed a Scorpion perched on Spanish tile,

 

the bright one on Miranda where my mother

entertained a mountain, budding like a silverbell,

 

the dormitory one in Tucson where I boiled

packets of noodle soup between classes,

 

the brown one in my first college rental

where I crammed quesadillas & basic Russian,

 

the artsy one with blue tile where a shadow

lurked near the courtyard like a predatory moon,

 

and too many fiddlings to forget:    the time

I rolled mounds of dough with a friend who

 

traveled on Fullbright to Tunisia where he

adopted a girl, cooked my first Thanksgiving

 

into a seance, learned recipes for the curries

I stirred blocks from the Pacific, painted a

 

bookshelf yellow and green, baked lavender

cupcakes the day before my kitchen buzzed

 

into a swarm of bees, wrote poems about

snow, called psychics for life advice, learned the art

 

of saying little & the risks of saying too much.

Stewings where I drank bottles of cheap red

 

wine until I stopped uncorking bottles altogether,

moving into a home where the refrigerator

 

seems familiar and where the kitchen greets

me humming, I will love you warmly, like

 

a stove.    All it wants in return is to be touched by

the hands of someone who can stir a pot of

 

vegetables, who can trust the spices to do

their work, since they have traveled so far.

Mehnaz Sahibzada was born in Pakistan and raised in Los Angeles. She is a 2009 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, such as Liminality, Moira, The Literary Hatchet, Desilit, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Pedestal Magazine and Strange Horizons. Her first full-length collection, My Gothic Romance, was published in April 2019 by Finishing Line Press. A high school English teacher, she lives in southern California. To learn more about Mehnaz, visit her at www.poetmehnaz.com

The last announcement in the metro before it was closed down

Harsh Anand

 

Owing to the pandemic,

we will be suspending our services

indefinitely.

We urge all of you

to look outside the windows

for the rest of your journey

before you forget what your

city looks like.

Our last train

will be extended to midnight,

for those who have forgotten

their hearts elsewhere.

Couples who have to

part ways can

take platform two

to say their goodbyes.

The staff is requested

to collect all the apologies

scattered in coach five

and pile them neatly on the seats

so they can also feel

the burden of our weight,

if only for a night.

To acknowledge the abundance

of words we will have

to pull out of our throats,

in the coming weeks,

we will turn off the automated

messages but

write them on the floors instead,

besides the footprints

and replace the batteries

in all the clocks.

Our lost and found

has a single slipper, a pack of smokes

and a crumbled, almost illegible letter.

We will be holding on to them

like they are our own

Harsh Anand is a 24-year-old aspiring poet from New Delhi, India. He believes writing poetry is the one thing he knows best and is constantly looking for ways to improve both himself and his work.

Khair

Kartikay

 

The Urdu word that means good

and is said to wish your well-being,

is often used as an act of letting go.

 

The letting-it-be when a thought

that is somewhere between your lips

and the tongue, would rather be unsaid.

 

On a good day I would tell you that it means

to choose the being-well of the conversation –

that relationship – over the being-right of you.

Somewhere, ‘???’ would be the name of my home

—a place for love and light, where opinions exist

as a mosaic floor, and not half-eaten sentences.

 

Khair, I must stop lying—my tongue usually finds

the word, the way my hand looks for a light switch

when the room goes dark—to erase hazy uncertainty.

Image credit: the author

Note

Growing up, Urdu constituted a much larger chunk of the daily-speak at home than what would qualify as Hindi. The distinction of this duality only came to my attention only after leaving home, but never managed to reached my vocabulary, and so the interpretation of the word “Khair” in this poem possibly is more of a vernacular usage, than a literal meaning.

Kartikay is a 27-year-old bilingual poet from Kanpur (UP) with his heart by the sea in Mumbai. Returning to poetry in 2020, he has been writing with The Quarantine Train – traversing voices, themes and forms in English or Hindustani. His original work has been featured in Narrow Road Journal, The Alipore Post, deCenter Magazine, and Gulmohar QuarterlyThe Usawa Literary Review featured a poem translated by him.

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.