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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.


Pudding made of sugar, semolina and nuts
Betel leaf
Ankle bells
Meat dish
Lucknowi Tehzeeb
City of Lucknow with its distinct culture and tradition

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.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ranu, happy to be able to feast on your poem at jaggery. Forit’sfilled me with those many moments that came alI’ve living the partculairities of growing up in a specific kind of household even though it looked general. Like it once showed up in something I was writing. . This angan has it’s moon n yours there has it’s own too. That’s why wegiveourselves away to poetry for all things are same and yet they never are. Thankyou for your poem.

    November 9, 2013
  2. ranu uniyal #

    Thanks Dipalle. I am glad you have liked the poem. For me there is always hope in poetry.

    November 10, 2013
  3. Dr. Prakash Joshi #

    It begins, apparently, somewhere in the West (or, shall I call it Meghrib?)– “the brazen sky…the sun caught in the rain…hope, red and blue”.
    And then the familiar Orient, our Orient (not Edward Said’s)– hair smelling of jasmine, hands with “jaipuri bangles”, and “kohl rimmed eyes ready to sting”.
    There towards the end is that uncomplaining and happy compromise, characteristically Oriental, with what looks like an unhappy destiny–
    “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…”.

    November 10, 2013
  4. The poem takes off for me from “Tabla and sitar…”, the descent from “tehzeeb” into “lust and country liquor” comes through starkly, as does the frailty of the woman yearning for a lover who will most likely just “snap her dreams.” The “eager lips and unsteady figures” says so much with so few words…I see the rush to passion, to lust.

    November 10, 2013
    • Ranu Uniyal #

      Thanks Athena for a very warm response to my poem.

      December 9, 2013
  5. Asheesh Santram #

    Lucknow is a Vibrant City yes!!! Cruel too! so yes!! ‘The city has spared none. The city will spare no one.’ It has a History and definitely has a promising Future, as do You, We all Love Lucknow and wish the City and especially You ma’am ‘All the Very Best.”

    November 11, 2013
  6. Lekha Roy #

    Makes you pause “…gaping indifference of the hushed minarets”…a phrase that is evokes images of another Lucknow — silent, indifferent, or perhaps only a distant viewer? It’s a lovely poem, Ma’am, and one that will make the city pause and reflect. All the best, Ma’am!

    November 17, 2013

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