Poems | Salil Chaturvedi

Photo : LeeLa

Udaipur, October 2016

The moist edge of the city
black scum
from the five-star hotel
brings in nutrients
into tall reeds   thorny acacia bushes     date palms    
spot-billed ducks   crakes     snipes     and stilts
the hills in the distance
        dry scrub
egrets flash whitely amongst the red algal bloom
 a family of whistling ducks winds its way through
    the water hyacinth
a purple heron loiters in the shadows
of a dying tree


On Divar island
rain water
in the plastic
pouch over the lock
that seals the premises

blades of grass
lean their heads
through the metallic gate

two bumblebees
curve into the courtyard

a platoon of ants
explores the cracks
in the driveway’s moss mosaic

a red spider
pulls gossamer
from the gate 
to a monsoon shrub

a grey-blue butterfly
closes and opens its wings
on the edge of the board

that promises 
dire consequences
to those who enter
without permission


ISIS has begun killing
disabled children
with lethal injections

The barbets
have been screaming
all morning

There are new leaves
on the Shaalmali

Hey, She’s Awake

Friday night, the naked lady sits in my apartment
Thick grasses around her pudendum
Dark weeds in her armpits
Lizards in her hair

I’m hungry, she says
Slapping her stomach
Caked with what looks like dried blood

I can hear the hungry rumble
For no reason I think of sinkholes
I notice the blood-dripping lions tattooed on her breasts

I’m hungry, she says
Haven’t eaten in a while
The last snack I had was when, in nineteen forty seven?

But now I really want to eat
I mean a full meal
And I don’t care what you give me

Cooked, uncooked, stir-fried or roasted
Sons or daughters
Husbands or wives
Brothers or sisters
I’ll have them all

Oh, I could easily eat an entire generation
Munch through the bones of your friends
Eat the muscles of your enemies
It’s all the same
It’s blood I like
Can’t wait to put my tongue through your eye 

Give up your body, give it to me

I run out of the apartment
Half-crazed into the night, shouting
Bharat Mata ki Jai
Bharat Mata ki Jai

Ascent of the Asclepias

          less than an hour's drive to the east
          and there it is:     milkweed!

        perennial hardy erect evergreen
          weedy plant of wastelands
            ruderals and roadsides

flower stem bark root!

           “mix the latex with camel's pellets
            to reduce swelling and joint pain;
         take one or two flowers with water to cure fever
         (but not during Chaitra or Vaisakh);
 mix the latex with sand
    and ingest to cure a snakebite;
     smoke the powder of dried leaves
in a chillum to cure asthma”

            and if you're lucky you'll find out
                 that silence doesn't mean quiet
           silence means being filled with the noise
of your own lavender self

hey listen,

the crickets have started singing the songs of our death
the spoonbills have arrived
do you ever get that nature-heart-stick-lollipop feeling?
they are using bulldozers to have a conversation with the rice fields
you don't really know a place till you've seen it in moonlight
inside the stunned oceans are echoing the sounds of terrifying liquid screams
if i could choose between fresh thoughts and fresh leaves i'd choose fresh leaves
take off your clothes and tell me about angels, goddesses
and other cosmic beings living inside you
the tv is on too loud

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