5/1/22

New | Poetry | Tanya Rakh

Delphine Romon, More Than Meets The Eyes



Sulfur


I cry my soul
into seven ancient rivers

each opens the mouth
of a burning star-- 

a sulfur world
that breathes our language




I Am Your Hurricane


I'll keep you warm
in winged blue rhythms
you know my secrets, 
you are the sea

sharp moon jolts the tide
and I disintegrate
implode in spiral
howling alone

I never wanted to destroy
anything beautiful

every salted maelstrom
each ceaseless rain
we can be safe here, 
alive inside the eye




The Land of Eternal Summer


Every syllable of you

is magic

moons distilled to blood

lifelines formed as

lightning


everything and ours

Alive

in salt and thunder

the laws of oxygen





Tanya Rakh was born on the outskirts of time and space in a cardboard box. After extensive planet-hopping, she now lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her family. Her poetry, surrealist prose, and cross-genre amalgamations have appeared in journals including The Gasconade Review, Redshift 4, Literary Orphans, Fearless, and The Rye Whiskey Review. Tanya is a Best of the Net nominee and the author of two books: Hydrogen Sofi and Wildflower Hell, new editions of each available from Posthuman Poetry & Prose.




4/19/22

New | Poetry | Saadia Peerzada

Photo by Arshi Zama


Resting Place


You 

are missing from the moments that have your name written all over them


absence is a muscle, it has its own memory

my language is stuck in my throat,

and a foreign one thickens in my mouth.

So the incommunicable stays, 

my sentences stay suspended,

you retract your gaze.


Our hearts are graveyards to people who still live

their spring is our immutable winter,

so we mould ourselves into memory, 

memory: a resting place, rewritten history,

always tainted and hence beautiful,

a living thing, it cheats our way out of loss,

a heart still beats in place of a dying echo,

we rewrite the echo, backwards.



Before you were the Witness


You are vivid in these songs of separation

even when the space between us

is fossilised by too many years,

by the distance between who you were

and all you’ll become;

all the things I’ll never get to see.


You need another to tolerate yourself

I’m not even sure if I exist

without seeing myself in someone’s eyes 

all know of myself is a reflection, a distortion

subject to everyone but me,


who was I in your leaving

what part of me did your absence tuck away

who was I before I made you a mirror?

prove to me that i existed*



*line inspired by the verse "If you leave who will prove that my cry existed?/ Tell me what was I like before I existed" from Call me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali




Running in Circles All Summer




Summer pains us in new ways each time,

last year we drove around Eidgah,

and talked about the discomfort 

of occasionally being distanced from ourselves,

dissociation, a survival strategy, 

call it auto-pilot and it’ll help us feel in control


These days we are baptised in it,

our bodies blurred at the edges, 

eyes seeing a lot, retaining a lot less,

they roll back to 2014, the year of dystopian fiction,

at least then, it was just entertainment,

not fate strung through a greater unknown.


We ask for sleep to feel restful

not like the wait 

for our consciousness to catch a break,

call it “death with benefits” and laugh it off,

comedy levelling tragedy, 

catharsis ironic like life, like living.


I want us to stop running in circles, asking

wani kya chu karun,*

for words to be more

than just epithets to dread.

The untranslatable never makes it to papers anyway,

God, ease us from the grief that’s inextricably ours, 

ease us from our own selves. 



*Kashmiri: what do we do now?



Grief/Fear




You told me fear held you white knuckled,

that bile bubbled and receded at the back of your throat,

a human pendulum.


My sadness never ends 

and I don’t remember where it began

just that it never left, even in joy, 

that I marked the passage over and over

where Khalil said 'your joy is your sorrow unmasked,'


that I didn’t mind as long as I had you

even in absolute dread.


“We are becoming two very sad people.”

I wrote the word till it lost meaning

s a d

SAD,

snow and darkness and associated symptoms.


words regain meaning in your eyes


the pendulum swings.





A cage wide enough to breathe in 

 

We can’t take the echo of the silence anymore, we drive

failed attempts at la vie en rose,

our vision compromised.

 

Fred Astaire plays, the tips of your hair are golden, fleetingly,

like all freedom,

the blind leading the blind.

 

Today lets us carry the bitterness of twenty,

tuck loneliness into our back pockets,

tarnished glasses dull the edges of a sick world,

the cage widens,

even if it is for a little while.

4/3/22

New | Poetry | Six Poems of Protest | Sutputra Radheye

The Frugal Repast by Pablo Picasso

(1)



When a man

curves his palm

and stares at the sky


and a woman

folds her hand

and closes her eyes


in between them

they share an idea

of love


love that saffron hates

love that got Gandhi killed

love that Umar is being punished for

love that cures the pandemic 

of riots 




(2)



There is no caste 

in India

only cases of a community

pushed into manual scavenging

with no safety measures

of women from a community

getting raped and their bodies

being burnt without any investigation

only scholars of a community

not being taught in classroom

of students hanging themselves

in central universities




(3)


There are flowers dying.

I am sorry that I can’t water them.

I am sorry that I ain’t sunshine.


My hands were tied and my mouth sealed.

What a pity that my eyes were left open

To see how the bears molested the honeybees.




(4)



Kolkata has been an empty room

since the time I came here.

The yellow taxi have grown pale,

and the red no longer smells of blood




(5)



I am a male whore

that works for money

sitting on the ashes

of the books

that dumb philosophers

prescribed to find sanity
in insanity




(6)



Beauty dies

where your eyes

stops exploring


Or beauty lives

where your eyes

can’t reach.

3/22/22

New | Essay | Notes from the Ghetto | Rahul Sonpimple

The author with his mother in front of their home



Notes from the Ghetto

 

 

 

We are not born with differential markers yet the worlds we are forced to see are segregated. The sky on the top and the earth beneath us limits no one in the wide collective of people we call humanity.

 

But God does.

 

Condemned by the past, the Untouchables of the ‘Satya Yug’ have been freed into cages of the New World. The City I was born into begins with the smell of brick-kiln smoke, with workers living in shanties in maze-like settlements and I believe with thoughts, feelings and sentiments that resemble the chaos of their habitations.

 

The very ‘beginning’, that I emphasised upon in the last paragraph, amounts to the limit of our experience in the city, in essence, marking our ‘beginning’ as its veritable ‘end’.

 

 

 

And this is how I learnt the word ‘Periphery’. To the rest of the world, civilized, urbane, modern India looks profoundly different from the backward India of the villages, but then why does it looks similar to us?

 

More than the decorated archives in the government library, the experiences of my elders in the ‘Basti’ provide the best answers.

 

This old ‘Periphery’ must have moved with us. And the message of the creator of the Universe and his messengers too, ‘sacred’ as it is, must have followed. They are now guarding our ghettos. I see the birth of our young ones and the death of my elders – the children of this so-called God are deserted in these condemned ghettos.

 

The murder of my friend, upward-mobility of my neighbor, the love of a mother and hatred of my enemies, are all guarded by this God, like an absentee father who has washed his hands off his progenies, siting distantly in an affluent colony.

 

Children in the Basti are not like their parents, they look different, speak differently. The only resemblance with their parents is that both have ‘surplus’ bodies which are to be exploited for the growth of the city’s economy.

 

 Now with my University degree, I look like an Outsider, Yet the God in the city-centre keeps a watch on me, like a guard sitting in the prison’s watchtower. I shall follow his lessons on morality which help in maintaining the normalcy, another word that hides the blatant injustice perpetrated on the weak and powerless. That’s the way to normalize my new existence in the old ‘normal’.

 

I may become perfect now; I have an opportunity to depart from the deviancy. For that, I shall have to make choices. It’s not about the dilemma for university scholars like me; I think it’s about the confrontation. Confrontation between one who is sitting in the centre of city and one who is standing at the entry of the Basti. The standing Ambedkar who is Babasaheb for us; let all the educated ones come to Bhim Nagar, see the modern Prophet in the barren wasteland of everyday struggles and sufferings. He is worshiped, celebrated; songs, and pohada have been made on him; he is part of the wedding rituals and he is remembered even in death ceremonies. He is the barrister revered as ‘Bhimaai’ –the mother by us.

 

I am not surprised though, that he is condemned by them. And this ‘they vs. us’ was not invented on my land, yet the socialization in the Periphery becomes fused with these binaries. The righteous people protected by wall compounds and police station facing the Basti with the angry sipahi - the soldiers of the State with suspicious gazes came up with this dialectic long back.

 

“I had come here with two copper plates and one brass water pot. It was my wedding gift and was good enough for us to start a new life,” says Kantabai –a widow in my neighborhood. Her husband was a wall painter – the beef eater, who dunked it down with Santra desi daru every night, and spoke like a free man. She curses him for not plastering the mud house. ‘Whatever he was, I feel lonely without my man.’ Kantabai, too, desired a family. Two daughters, one married to an auto driver and another divorced who now works as a maid in neighboring colonies.

 

Kantabai had hopes from her youngest son as the elder had to drop out from school. Kamlesh the elder brother works for the same Thekedar (contractor) to whom his father remained loyal till his death.

 

Young one is a local Ambedkarite activist – fondly called as Bhim Sainik by local boys. Along with his university books, he is fond of the movement’s literature and poetry. Eloquently, he speaks about the lower-caste history and uninterruptedly quotes Ambedkar in his conversation. ‘We should fight to be ruling class like Babasaheb and destroy upper caste hegemony’; he keeps repeating his speech in every community program.

 

I wonder what will be he called? Is he a caste anarchist? Is he a believer in what English- speaking liberal intelligentsia calls Identity Politics? Why can’t he simply accept being a State welfare subject? He is adamant about not even identifying as civil society’s victim. He is not from the Proletariat though, he proudly calls himself an Ambedkarite. Dhamma’s name was offered by a monk from Basti’s Buddha Vihara. He isn’t an untouchable, he says, but I wonder if modern India does not want to pigeonhole him?

 

I believe there cannot be a world of the oppressed which is strange to his oppressor. There only exist ‘protected pretentions’ which allow the oppressor to mark every assertive existence of oppressed as strange. Moreover, the oppressed don’t need to ‘come out’ against their oppressor, he knows you; you are a part of him, part of his world. I see people in my slum have been reinventing themselves; the followers of Chokhamela now bow before Ambedkar’s Buddha. The trapped humanity in our ghettos, I hope, one day will explode like Dhasal’s fiery verses. 


(Rahul Sonpimple is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His research focuses on Dalit movements and leadership. He is also an active member of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association in JNU. He has completed his Master's degree in Dalit and Tribal Social Work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is from North Nagpur known for its Dalit ghettoes).

 

3/19/22

New | Poetry | Poems of Lust | Pratibha Nandkumar


 



POEMS OF LUST

Poems have no sex organs   -   Hoshang Merchant

 

-1- 

Hoshang Merchant said

Poems have no sex organs

And then went on to declare he is spiritual.

It was just yesterday that I was reading

Akkamahadevi describe her entire body a yoni

and her soul just a fortress stiff.

The Shakinis of the after-world

torment you before crossing over,

the dues must be paid in full.

When Isis the great bird, was in a dilemma

whether to make love or eat

the great manliness of the dead Osiris,

lust won, finally and Horus was born. 

My dear Hoshang, poems are the sex organs.

 

-2-

Kama cannot be burnt

nor can he be curtailed,

shot down or buried.

I have no use of Hoshang,

he is taken by the boys with broad backs,

big feet and hands.

He has secret writings but an open closet.

Curious though I am about how

he interprets the cry of the mockingbird.

I loved a man frail as a sparrow

who caressed me with his beak.

He once revealed he was once

a Walnut tree who became a chair.

I sat on him and wrote exquisite poems of lust.

 

 -3-

That woman at the cafĂ© kept talking about my big bindi

Its colour, size, powder, and the scent

Ah yes, the scent she could smell it, she said

I was surprised that she could get the

fragrance of the raw turmeric pounded

with lime to get this exact red.

When I said my man loves it

she was disappointed and sighed.

I said I am straight, sorry there is no spark.

 

-4-

The night I was petrified to write the word lust

Dorothy Porter held my hand and showed how

Nefertity rode her, growling like the desert.

She didn’t mind using sticky words, she said and

she also cast a spell on me. I was zapped.

That night, when I wrote about my longing

they said, it was my best poem on social justice

about backward and forward and oppressed and suppressed.

When I tried to explain they said

it would be an altogether different matter

if it was a gay poem addressed to someone called Vivan.

I curse you, Hoshang Merchant.

  

 -5 -

He cried in desperation

“Oh woman, throw me less fire!”

I laughed and said it has already been said.

He asked who? I fell silent, busy.

Mentioning Baudelaire would have caused

irreparable damages at that specific moment.

I am Le Vampire. Feed my lust

before the Bhakts decide to ban it.

They have mastered the art of cooking without fire.

 

-6-

The eternal question

Do I ask for it?

The moral brigade would crush me

with their arrows.

Yes, they even can come into my bedroom

and demand to cover me with thick chaddar,

something like Chughthai’s elephant.

I make futile attempts to quote Kalidas and Valmiki.

Even recite couplets on the fierce goddess

who stands on Shiva stamping his erect manliness.

Gods too must marry to do it

unless a Shiva lusts for a Vishnu turned Mohini,

for the welfare of the humankind.  

Hoshang will love this story.

 

I do not. I despise the argument and

I am still stuck at that word. 


*artwork via Pinterest