New | Poetry | 3 Haibun | I Want My City Back | Manoj Nair

I want my city back 

On the other side of the aquarium inside Cubbon Park, sitting on the big rocks by the bamboo grove, one can hear the bamboo crying when the wind blows through it in the evenings.  It creaks and groans as if in pain. 

Blowing smoke through a cigarette, hidden in the palm of my hands to avoid attracting the policeman, I felt a shadow on me in the setting sun. His buxom figure clad in a saree and thin blouse showed his navel. He smiled at me. Do you have a spare cigarette? his open smile trumped his vernacular English.  Sitting beside me on the rock adjusting the pallu, he blew perfect smoke rings through his red painted lips.  

I come here every evening. This is where I operate from. Thank you for the smoke, he said stubbing it out on the rock, light embers flying about in the breeze. 

Lockdown ennui- 

smoke from the ashtray 

dances in the dim light 

Will he be there when the lockdown ends? 

I want my city back. 

At the junction of Brigade Road and Church Street as I move aimlessly past the Starbucks, she stops me on the road with a red rose in her little hand. Begs me to take a flower for a loved one. And it’s not even Valentine’s day. 

I buy a rose for twenty rupees and gift it back to her. She smiles impishly and runs with the money crumpled in her hand to her mother who is squatting near the metro station with a newborn in her arms. Waves to me from a distance. 

I climb the stairs to Easy Tiger, take my favorite spot on the balcony, order my beer. And watch the comings and goings on church street. 

She continues to plead with her bunch of roses, singling out young couples and single men. I continue sipping on my local ale. She looks up , sees me on the balcony and smiles . 


Quarantine lockdown- 

a wind rustles 

the roses on my balcony 


Will she still be there when the lockdown ends? Or has she gone back to some remote village with her migrant mother?

I want my city back. 

Some years ago, in my earlier workplace, a few of us colleagues formed the Bangalore Bar Crawl (BBC ) club. The idea of the BBC was to go bar hopping along the streets of Bangalore. Not the regular high end pubs, but the seedy shady bars along the market places and old areas in Bangalore. The ones where you can stand and order a nip, drink it raw, gulp down water from a plastic mug, shove your hand out to the bar tender for free peanuts and have a quick lick of pickled mangoes from the common bowl. Strictly one drink at each bar and we move on to the next one. 

Maheshanna -who served us the free peanuts at Sagar Bar with a zoned out smile. 

Quarantine lockdown- 

house plants grow  

in empty whisky bottles 

Will he still be working at the bar? Or has he returned to his village home with meagre resources?

I want my city back. 

*All pictures by Bindu TG. 

Bindu is an intrepid world traveler, photographer and writer when not being a techie working in the virtual reality of the dreary tech world. Her greatest passion is to share the beauty and the hideousness, happiness and poignance of the world through her pictures and words.


New | Two Poems | T S Hidalgo

by Howard Kanovitz, Image via worldwideweb

Kanovitz’s Vernissage, by Haneke

(The McDonaldization of terrorism)


George Ritzer and a corner are not the same thing:

enclosed, the vernissage fifteen, in an unending McDonald's,

in the attic of a skyscraper,

gasoline smell and no Process,

without having been able to call your loved ones

(or already having lost them? maybe).

In this billionth case of terrorism,

they detected you had arrhythmias,

all sorts of disturbances

(one of the fifteen lost the twins he was waiting for); 

no medication none,

yes, really, all of this is, potentially, a red Postdamer Platz:

no coffees no theaters no tobacco shops no square:

a terrace, an attic:

just a desert a yard a Gothic cemetery.

Those fifteen arrogant bearings

would have to return humiliated:

you, for whom spring was consecrated;

no medication none,

yes, really, all of this is, potentially, a red Postdamer Platz:

no coffees no theaters no tobacco shops no square:

a terrace, an attic:

just a desert a yard a Gothic cemetery.

Those fifteen arrogant bearings

would have to return humiliated:

you, for whom spring was consecrated;

Song-objection-obsession, facing a grave not
William Carlos Williams’


In a tank, the cited obsession.

A prosperous eccentric, war veteran,

decides, every once in a while,

to steamroll the door of a nearby cemetery,

pulls his body up through the hatch,

and hums, walking through hallways,

names of his fellow soldiers,

there, under his eight wheels,

while, in the background now, he thinks,

facing the cross of his beloved, to himself

“We weren't married yet, of course,”

but, also,

“These are just the rules, right?”




New _ Poetry _ Robert Wood (with original artwork by B. Ajay Sharma)

original artwork: B. Ajay Sharma


Poem for Mumbai

We watched cellulose turn into celluloid 

and they spoke of a city 

known by names that had succumbed 

to the water a ruin, a blade,

a memory of a time before

when the people made rafts from plastic

hid themselves in oil drums.



We listened, attentive

to the ten thousand grains of salt

that crystallised in their eyes

the colour of flies before mud rained down from the sky.

Kings Park Walk


Every morning, dew,

you and me go walking

past clover

past cloud

through mists to everlasting

no dust, no mind

through fields of sorrow, of joy

to healing and aid

to tea made of lime.

Every evening, when we retire

make recluses of conspirator

the light catches gold

of the morning tomorrow,

for the dew we hold and so.

School Homework


We climbed mulberry trees

stained fingers with youth

threw paper planes past paper tigers

from branches with silkworms the size of utes.

Added peach blossom to seashells

turned mud over to dirt

returned to the summary of haze 

and dawn found our selves waiting in turns.

original artwork: B. Ajay Sharma

For you each day, my child


Walk across the bridge that is my back

my vertebrae your ancestors

free of all that,

and the currents and the whales

and the seals called elephants,

floating like blood

that courses through my spine

welcomes you like hands, like wine.



Walk across the bridge that is my back

my neck your happenstance 

your answer found in returning homeward

calling where coconuts stand.


original artwork: B. Ajay Sharma

At the Future



At the future,

owners get together

gather to discuss what matters

from birdsong to myrtle to smoke the shape of 

water and we wait in the silence, in the breaks, 

wait like offshore breeze

for the calm to reign

for the day to graze again.



When you came in

with wattle in your hair

with lavender from the field

we asked you to wait for a moment

to remember who came before us

to remember the colour the stars had been

before they fell to earth and made ash of our elders all together.


original artwork : B. Ajay Sharma

To Leave is to Come Home


Like a stone grown cold

they say rest when you are tired, walk when 

strong and no harm will come your way.

Walk the path with the open heart

make the lungs big enough

to swallow the sun and go on

and on, till the hay is brought in

till the kangaroo paw unfurls

and all the chess games are won by pawns not 

kings on a bridge that is rainbows of waiting.


New | Poetry | Kevin R. Pennington | Three Visions in the Mental Ward II (Final)




I was

no longer in a

Garden. The

world was liquid

metal. The ground

flowed like water.

Was it quicksilver?

I stood on an island

just big enough

for myself,

in the middle of a

silvery sea.

She floated beside

me. Her gown flowing

in the wind, though

I felt nothing.

She had smooth skin,

like a dolphin or a whale.

I think she was

aquatic. She lived

under the ocean

or perhaps

in a teardrop.




Her voice was music,

yet more than song.

Each word was a melody,

it’s own story.

I did not comprehend

her speech.

I can’t remember

what she said.

I do not know

her name. She

did not speak it,

or perhaps I

didn’t understand.


I only know

she conveyed


I knew I was safe.

The terror in

my mind


I could breath

easy again.




I stood

in an apartment

in New York.

It wasn’t spacious.

Outside was a

spectral Greenwich



Spirits floated down

the street of

the skeletal city

of skyscrapers and

subway trains.


In the doorway

was the poet-guru,

teacher of my teachers,

David Quick’s Jewish grandmother,

lover of men and grandfather

of poems, condoms, and

golden sunflowers.

It was the

Lion of Dharma himself,

though not in the flesh.


He wore a modest

brown suit

with matching

tie. He wore

his signature


face half-frozen,

even in this dream

of mine.


A halo of light illuminated

him like a great saint.


Is this my Blake vision?

Is this my poetic revelation?

Is this all an ego trip?

I must really be losing my mind.


Allen spoke,

his voice a whisper:


“the weight,

the weight we carry

is love.”




A year passes by.

I write new poems.

Something within me

remembers the violence

before the visions.

It is a hard knot,

locked in my chest,

best forgotten, until

dredged up in counseling

with a therapist.


After much thought

it comes to my mind

that I am not kind

to myself.


It's time to plant

a new field

wherein the flowers

of myself can grow

toward the sunlight

in the window.


Author’s Note

After having these three visions, I was released from the mental ward on June 3, 2019. It was Allen Ginsberg’s 93rd birthday.


New | Short Story | Invasion | Anna Lynn




It is a cold morning. Wet like Monsoon clouds. I pick up my deep red sweater. My bodily warmth stays in it. Like coffee in the morning – burning your tongue, smarting your eyes with tears as the brain-fog lifts. Warmth like the burnt edges of a cigarette. (I’ve only seen them. The back-bencher boys tell me that I shouldn’t start the habit, because they now regret it.)

My body fills the gaps of the sweater and I watch a fat woman stare at me in the mirror.

To whom can I say, “I hate my body because Pa always said I had fat thighs?” Who will not look, and still love me anyway? There’s a loss here – cold like the clouds and discarded cigarette butts.

Today is a side-saddle-bag-day. I like that college days can be assigned type-of-bag-by-the-feel- days. I like that my powder blue coloured jeans hold the fat in. Makes me lithe. Or what I imagine lithe to be – a woman in tassel earrings, hunched over a book in a calming corner made of stones – hidden by the college corridors because the architect suddenly thought of the water tank. And the milling students hide the flaw in the architecture. The bag hangs at my side.

How do you make mistakes like that, always? Choosing impractical side-saddle bags because you feel like it accompanies your casual, insecure outfit. Unable to hold the heavy books I will have to borrow from the library. Op Amps and Linear Integrated Circuits by Ramchand Gaikwad.

I hate being a science student. Electronics is still somewhat interesting (electrons and their relationships are polyamorous and exciting), but physics is a pain in the ass (especially because of the judgemental teachers (AF!)). And math? That was a shitty breakup. Now we tolerate each other exactly three days before the exams. BSc. Mathematics 1st Sem, 2nd Sem, and now, 3rd Sem. By G. K. Ranganath. He is not so bad. The teachers are even better – especially when they give us the solved problems in the exam so we can throw up what we already know. But it bothers me. I want to be a literature student. 

I imagine it sometimes – old dusty books come home with me from their lonely shelves in the library. Yellowed pages hold secret promises; someone ate a samosa while reading Elizabeth and John’s adventures and misadventures; it was the first time I was reading an entire novel in rhyme – sonnets to be precise. It was also the first time I was reading details about homosexuality (in rhyme). I was curious, because there was something about it that felt natural, but also forbidden.


I picked up The Golden Gate because Vikram Seth wrote it. (More for the surname of the author than for his fame).

Someone else went on a marking frenzy on the pages of Multiple City: Writings from Bangalore (I read it only to find out that I hadn’t been to any of the most important places in the city I have lived my whole life in and so returned the book, feeling a little depressed). 

Heart of Darkness depressed me even more. I hated the book. Hated reading it. Hated the dehumanisation. Hated that I just could not understand this “self-other colonization dichotomy” bullshit. Maybe, if I were a literature student, I could pretend I understood. But that’s not why I loved reading. I loved it for the image in my head. The image of a woman lost in the art of reading.  The femininity of it, somehow. There was grace and sensuality in the moment of reading.

Feet curled under each-other, head nestled in your palm, even as the elbow protests lightly. Your eyes travel across space. You exist where pain is yours, but accountability is not. When you’re there, you’re not aware. Everything around you dissolves into the words on a page.


When you see the word “engrossed” – this comes to mind. What is it about women’s bodies – their hips, their arms, the book and a face lost in the pages? Does the other Seth – the one named after the author of The Golden Gate, the one who may be my boyfriend – think about women’s bodies like this? About mine? Probably not.

That day, two books are cradled in my palm. Electronics and Mathematics. The bus from Town Hall to KR Market is crowded. I should wait a little, but some days the evening light just reminds you, you have 15 kilometres of public transport commute to bear with, a boy-friend like a question-mark (who is not answering your calls currently) and a home that waits for you outside the city. There are other college kids as usual waiting to board. Aravi and Samir also get in with me. Aravi is doing her Bachelors in Chemistry, Biology, Zoology (CBZ) and Samir studies Visual Communication.


We know each other from college corridors. Through silent smiling nods exchanged in between easy or brisk walks – depending on how late you are to class. These friendships are easy. Unlike the groups I hang around. Girls and boys are always having serious conversations about Game of Thrones and “What is a Classic?” and “Religion and Atheism.” When I’m among them, I am always missing Rcahel and Revu. How we hooked arms and sang random pop songs out loud in the school corridors. How we created a world with just the three of us and no one bothered us too much. Because they probably thought we were crazy. But it didn’t matter. With Rachel and Revu, I never had to think a million times before having a conversation. I didn’t have to be afraid of teasing and how it made me feel stupid. Now Revu is doing engineering. She is happy. Rachel is studying B. Com and regretting it. Like me.


In the midst of this uncertain loneliness, corridor friendships are soothing. Simple. No judgments. No efforts made to know another. I remember Karthigayan Sir telling someone he taught the Natural Sciences batches, while I was at the Department Staff Room. And from the one conversation I’ve had with Aravi, she mentioned that Karthigayan Sir was a great teacher. So, we have English Teachers and the college corridors in common.  To make us smile-exchangers.

An old uncle also gets in. He occupies the space between the books I tightly clenched to my sweater-ed chest and the silently nodding college-mates. It’s funny, isn’t it? You can hate your body, but you still protect it. It still tells you when something feels wrong. Will there ever be a time, when I can just be? Without that gaze measuring and deciding upon what makes my body mine, and how much I can own it? Probably not.

Probably only within the fantasy of the reading girl.

I turn after nodding to them. I am thinking about easy friendships again. Sometimes, you see these people with their close ones. Laughing. Swearing. Hitting a boy. And you are surprised. Smile-exchangers have their own personalities with their friends. You never imagined them like that. They ceased to exist beyond the shared public space. That’s what made you strangers anyway. Argh!

I thought it was the strap of my bag. Nipple pinched against the heavy books, jostled like the people in the bus. Funny. How you don’t want to admit certain strange invasions. But in college corridors, strangers can turn into smile-exchangers. And you’re not thinking about your self-loathing or your fear of molestation in the college corridors. Funny. How self-loathing becomes moral policing becomes disgust becomes sleep paralysis. Except now, you’re fully awake. The old man’s fingers are slowly leaving. He stares into a distance as though his hands have a mind of their own accord. As though I will brush this away as just another incident. WHY DID I WEAR MY JEANS? WHY ONLY THE SWEATER TOP? WHY NOT A PRACTICAL BAG TO PUT MY FUCKING BOOKS IN? WHY THE FUCK DID I GET INTO THIS BUS?


Later, in a less crowded bus, the tears evaporate before they fall, and a black puddle in the middle of the road that curves onto the flyover (that will go all the way until Rayaan Circle) swallows some of the shame. And then I scream at the man in my head.


He looks a little scared and a little ashamed.

(But I did not believe in feminism then, so maybe that’s why I couldn’t shout at him, when it happened.)

Aravi saw. Samir did not. Thank God. Maybe Aravi will tell me a story like this, and maybe we will become more than smile exchangers.


No. I was wrong.

Samir had pushed the man down the cold steel steps of the bus when it stopped at Market. Then Samir got down and waited. I think there was concern in his eyes. Aravi had patted my sweater-ed back. Sweaters don’t protect you from prying fingers. They should put that on the DO NOT WASH DRY CLEAN ONLY slip of cloth.

Are you alright? She asked.

Drink some water, she said.

I nodded. I smiled. I’ll be okay, don’t worry, I said.

Then we went our separate ways. Aravi took a bus to Chikpet. Samir to Girinagar.

I wonder why we tell people to drink water when something bad happens. I want to ask him this. It’s been a bad day. Maybe he’ll know and reply. And he will comfort. But I was still scared of a rejection on call, so I texted him. When the bus reached Rayaan Circle.

I feel horrible, I type. What words describe an assault? Pain? Anger? Shame? Powerlessness? I feel empty and horrible. I wish you were here, with me.

(As if that would change things)

Back home, I bathe for the second time that day. Can soap scrub away bad memories?

I cry a little.

He would dilute this nauseating sickness. He would negate it.

(That’s what they do in the dark young adult fiction that Rachel is always reading.)

No texts. The minute hand on the clock counts the number of times I check my phone. It slowly turns into an hour. Then there’s a message notification.

Oh, it’s okay ya, it happens. Especially bus and KR Market that too. Forget it.

How do you forget. It. I want to ask him.




Finally, Ma does it.

Was it my fault?

No, sweetie no.

Her face is the colour of a monsoon cloud.

A blinding fury and pain hits me like the storm outside. Wet. Hot.

I will ask the boys to teach me to smoke tomorrow.

Ma lets my tears burn through her sari.



*Artwork by Nicoline Tuxen, Portrait of a Woman Reading in Bed, courtesy Wikimedia Commons