Poetry | Suhit Kelkar

pc: Brian Michael Barbeito


In this vineyard,
the earth's quiet work
makes the unripe ripe,
sends the overripe into oblivion.
The circle of life
is a cliche
that exists only in language.
Here, there are beginnings,
there are ends,
distinct and disconnected.
Here, the call of the birds
embroiders heavy shadows
between rows of vines
where the crop, like bats,
hangs, grows, dozes,
after farm hands midwife it in the noon.
No one here but the farmer
viewing an unripe clump of grapes
the way a new father
regards his newborn
with a hint of pride.
As it is, I avert my gaze
from the primal sight
and turn to the acreage.
Here, if I wished to,
I could lose myself in the horizon,
I could sing without shame
A song if I had one.
But there is only silence
within and without.
The grapevines send tendrils
into my thoughts.
I am nourished. It is enough
on the farm's margins
where the birds fly low
over the sun-whitened grass of winter.


The world is a haunted hotel
and I, a lonely lover,
wandering its corridors,
cold in the clasp of fear
as strangers unwittingly take
rooms for the long night.
I fear for them, and for myself.
I can hear them whisper,
quarrel, move the furniture around,
even moan in pleasure through the walls.
Or are those the ghosts?
Outside the open window
between two breaths of the waves
god is an innuendo.
The sea is turbid
for it contains
our evils and our sorrows,
our leavings and our refuse.
Through the moon's keyhole,
night sprinkles through,
soothes my eyes like balm.
Yet my backbone is a guitar string
twanging to the footfalls
of some invisible beast
that has trudged for ages
from the stars to reach this place
with a message that I hope
I will understand some day.
Then my gaping wounds may yet
grow feet and slither away.
And I will feel it amiss-
to see by starlight
the plain, smooth skin
that had once, so beautifully, bled.
That is why I have checked in.
I must heal here,
must fill the wounds
I acquired before birth
and then move on
with a light heart.


I saw the way they raise
the chickens that go on our dinner
plates. And why the phrase
'to be cooped up' is euphemism
for prison. I could also tell you
about the extraction
of cocks' semen in syringes
the holding-down of hens
for insemination.
How they flinch, startled and soundless
as the nozzle is dabbed between
their legs, their cloacas staring
like red, reproachful eyes.
Yet I'll go home tonight
and probably order a chicken dinner.
In this way lies evil just beyond
the corners of the eyes
woven into each day
of our pure and virtuous lives.
Love is a stretch of water
dammed till tight as a bowstring
that has to find its way downhill
by one way or the other.
In this manner
inner evils must be made love to
even when brought to sight.
Most people like the leg;
I, however, prefer the breast.


This evening, the food is continental
and therefore, mild on the palate
in the chic South Bombay restaurant
not far from where the functional avenue
off Churchgate station meets
the art deco seafront.
On the white tablecloth,
pasta for her, fish and chips for me.
Even in this, we could not have been
more dissimilar. This evening
when we speak of everything else
but what we mean to say
my beer and her red wine
nonetheless sing to each other.
Maybe this'll work after all, I think.
Maybe no one's really
ready for love
and when we get into it
we surprise even ourselves
and stumble from day to day
in each other's arms
like beginners at a Lindy Hop class
till we aren't winging it any more.
Beneath our dancing feet
tectonic plates feel up one another
yield a Himalayan erection.


At thirty seven,
when I visit my folks,
it pierces me, the sight of mother
swaying out on arthritic feet
out into the stairwell, to entice
our old cat back into the house.

And I am swept back
to my wanderings as a child,
into supposedly snake-infested,
stranger-frequented grounds,
from which she would haul me back
in a basket of love or threats.

There wasn't much to do there-
no other children of my age-
and the grownups lived in their own
world, so I was left to talk to trees.
Or, there were stacks of comic books,
if I was coralled at home by mother.

As for the cat, safe and bored today,
it overeats instead, and destroys
mother's sandals with overgrown,
unused claws. I say, better it than me.

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