Poetry | for the Dark Times | Akhil Chandr Mishr

(Self-Portrait along the Border Line between Mexico and the United States, Frida Kahlo)


Why do they shy away from it?
More so the ones who never truly lived-

The everyday people,
who used to earn to feed themselves
but now are just hungry to earn more,
who skip their breakfast,
and ride a rickshaw to a bus to a train,
then run to their office cubicles
like a rat in a trap and thank their lucky stars
that the trap was not occupied, the day they walked in.
The smooth talking, fake smiling, buttoned up bastards,
always selling some shit or the other -
a holiday in Seychelles, a lottery ticket, a brand new God,
and knowingly, their souls with it.
Lying through their teeth to feed their bottomless bellies.
The power crazed politicians, always clothed in white
(but not shroud alas, not yet, too late?)
to cover their blood stained skin,
in satin and silk, for the blood of the poor
is too shy to leave a stain on it, and is only ever undone,
when every thread gets dyed red
in the saffron and green that the streets will have bled.
The 21st Century, washed out, pre programmed, Read-Only minds
that are too wired to ever sit and read a book,
the ones with yellowing pages, in fading print,
whom the truth hurts so bad
they spend their lives defending their borrowed Source Code;
the true religion, the better race, their rightful  motherland
Never once seeing that the DNA is shared, regardless.

They are the ones most afraid of death
Crippled by the very thought,
So used to the rut of their so called lives,
Unwilling to live today or die tomorrow
For it would upset their routine.

Word Prison

The blue blooded white collared children of the crown,
Why not let them choose for you the words you are allowed to utter?
They, that live in the bungalows in Lutyen’s,
they, who never had to work for their bread and butter

Oolong tea from Ceylon, served every morning in their lawns
With cream and sugar and french croissant.
Why not trust their ideas, for their books must tell
what the workers, the peasants, the handcart pullers want!

That lofty piece on “The Emancipation of the Urban Poor”
that one of them wrote for that glossy paged newspaper.
Did it not overnight purge all the cities of all their ills,
the hunger of that starving child, the itch of that leper?

These masses that were born in the dark, they know not any better.
Generations of willing cattle tethered to their sahib shepherds.
The fourth estate forever enslaved to the elites,
Traps a billion writhing bodies, with their few decorated words.

You, barely literate, with not even a dissertation in your mother tongue,
why do you crave a voice? What doth thy opinion weigh?
A life lived by the dust streets in a loin cloth and towel for a fan
Seal shut your parched lips and believe what your societal masters say.

-the masters that swore to serve you
these leeches that feed off your cadaverous spine
while preaching with practiced empathy, what’s best for your kind,
in palatial homes, under crystal chandeliers, sipping their sparkling wine.


In borrowed insanities
owed allegiances
and forced profanities.

In clouded sunrises
sombre nights
and rude surprises.

Life wears you thin.
Scars you, when it pleases,
and brands the remedy a sin.

- drunk on the booze, dry on the weed
Shot with the cheap smack
Alive, till you finally bleed -

Bleed - of your own volition, of this tired haggard life
Of thoughts that you can't or won't abandon,
Till you fall asleep on a knife.

The Bill Comes Due

The creepers have started scaling the walls
a week since the world went into quarantine.
These idylls of modern world, these parks, these malls
lie in shambles, wait their turn to immolate, standing in a line.

It’s a short wait from here, as the concrete turns mossy green
that the systems that were in making since our dawn will collapse.
The excesses and the materialism seeping away to the wind,
like sand held in your palm, oozing through the gaps.

We have tried too hard, in our shortsightedness
to keep this wasteful way of life afoot
where more meant less, and more was merrier,
this endless plunder of resources, this mindless loot.

This is nature ordaining us, as Tolstoy said
to “stop a moment, cease your work, look around you”
at the ephemeral life we treat as eternal
in our egos and ‘isms’ that we stick to, as glue.

If you make it through, don’t thank your made-up Gods.
They don’t exist - those ghosts of history, hallowed by the lores.
Bow to the nature that nurtures, that mother you looted in your lust
who stands plundered, yet forgives, still holding open her doors.

What it takes from me
To obey, to toe the line,
To stand in a queue,
To conform, to live in a box,
With another box for a view,
I'd rather not say.
But it has cost me half my wretched life,
and the blessed one that's due.
To stoop and kneel and grovel,
To bend at my waist, to be one of you.

The Nine and The Five

What do you shy away from, what do you praise?
A posh house, a plush car, a big fat raise?
The promise of beauty or the promise of life?
The downtown mall and a trophy wife?

One look at the stars in a cloudless night
Shredding the truth - the black from the white,
And ceaseless clicks of buttons on a keyboard
Writing from dark cubicles, of endless winding roads.

What you shy from, is what is true.
Whiling your days away, just slogging them through.
And what you praise is what is fairy dust,
Just sifting the grime, waiting to rust.

Boardroom Anthem

Knowing how to be convincingly ingenuine,
It’s a modern art, a corporate dream's kick start.
A twenty first century life skill,
It fuels your car. It foots your bill.

The price you pay is small,
A youth spent in self-made walls.
Enslaved by the routine, grateful for the grind,
Fragmenting the body, slowly losing your mind.

Trivial, really, for what your trade for it,
A humane heart, a lively wit.

A Poet’s Curse

 Pages of verses I read in leisure
To what do I owe this pleasure?
These blows to the harmonica I'm perpetually learning
These days woven into years, of constant yearning

Seeking what I’ve already had
Trying to be who I've always been
Living for the silent victories,
With collars dirty, my conscience clean.

To what do I owe this pleasure?
This unloved cursed treasure
To live amongst great minds in their pages
From the beginning of time, till the end of ages.

This gift of rhyme, born in the dirt,
blooms brighter in poverty,
of holding the words together as they dance
and carving out imperfect poetry.

Poetry | for the Dark Times | Jobeth Warjri

Artwork: Diego Rivera

Mad-Poem, Bad Poem
I want to write a bad poem, mad-poem
springing out of the clamour in my head.
I want to make metaphors of broccoli heads fetched from my mother’s garden:
fresh, decapitated delicacies waiting at the table for dinner
or ramshackle houses teetering at a cliff’s edge.
I want the mad woman’s scream to echo between the lines
because the shape of reality is when reason exceeds its bounds.
Most of all, I want to write about you and me
and the things we left unsaid which became white noise at the dinner-table
became the clattering forks and spoons and empty plates
became the quiet of a slumbering town
destined to wake to honks and rumbling traffic and hungry bellies.
Mad poem, bad poem sitting at the edge of a starving child’s lips we saw on T.V.,
waiting for tomorrow’s undeclared war.
Mad poem, bad poem exchanging notes beneath the table
waiting for a fix at a street corner wringing notes like a politician who never believed in public service
so that we, we the people, waited for the fix that never came...never would come
believing it would hurry at a cripple’s pace in a town
that favours speed, alloy wheels and five-storeyed houses.
I want to write about the time you disappeared sending everyone in an uproar;
your face plastered on to social media, your name, screaming out from bodies carrying placards and ideologies nurtured in the dead of night.
Did you taste the bad poem, mad-poem then?
Did you roll your tongue and smack your lips at its asinine aftertaste
when you were asked to become spectator to life?      
Maybe you got a whiff of its scent and you mistook it for springtime roses.
Maybe you smelt it in the mouth of your adulterous lover
in whose eyes you saw fireflies flickering like five-second dreams that died from too much sun
like one-shot wonders the world has forgotten: Billy Ray Cyrus, Amit Paul and B*witched to name a few
like tilling the ground for a peach tree that doesn’t yield fruit;
but you never understood what he was, what she was and what they were until you raked the earth of its moist fertility,
until you bent your back and scraped your knees bearing the plough in the world’s best killing fields:
Gaza, Syria, Kashmir slide off your tongue as if you and they were second cousins.
And they are, though the insidiousness of maps would have you believe otherwise.
Did you munch on popcorn as you waited for the play to unravel?
Trump-this, trump-that, trump the voter-who-should-have-gone-but-never-went
as democracy became ink-on-index-finger
and we were told that this saffron longing was what we needed, what we deserved. 
 “I did not ask for this!” you protested,
wrinkling your nose at breakfast eggs delivered sunny-side up.
But when do inheritors of madness ever have a say in the nature of their inheritance?

Mad-poem, bad poem sitting at the corner of a room,
wondering where all the mad-poems, bad poems went.

This House
It is the weight of remembrance carved into one’s flesh
that causes me to wake to its heavy-lidded mornings:
a ray of sunlight peeping through some makeshift curtain,
certain of its arrival like the coffee you brew at 8 AM
like lime juice squeezed of its sour malcontents
sweetened with a spoonful of honey and warm water
and, on the counter, a used mug as paperweight
for thirty-something nightmares duly flushed in the sink
along with milky residues of late-night sex
and cornflakes and movies and Chinese takeout
holding time hostage to the hem of one’s jeans
and shoes and dresses and dirty laundry hung from hooks―
strange fruit of a different kind. Billie Holiday, forgive me.
Forgive me as you did the day I mistook care for disdain
and we went to bed hungry, grasping at a language
flung from the far end of the world as it made its way
past deserts, oceans, mountains and settled on a shelf of books
too painful to be opened, too lacerating to be soothed by a tube of Cloben-G
placed next to Saibol, Bupron and Rispy Plus
3mg, 4 mg, 6―how does it matter
between power cuts at ten and dry heat at noon
between Archers and Peraltas flickering on 13-inch laptops?
When you take my hand to lead me out its open door, I know I shall follow.