New | Three Poems | Madhu Raghavendra

A Journey Towards Vanishing Point, Oil on Canvas, by Sukesan Kanka

Bastariya Beer

I go to villages to record hope and love
and anthropometry of children
suffering from centuries of inaccurate averages.

In Bastar, the Gonds live
in villages without roads
their independence yet to be taken.

It’s morning; the rains have nowhere to go,
no men, no women —
no brokers, none broken.

We sit around in a thatch hut
smeared with cow dung
and drink salfi—Bastariya beer.

Milk is for calves, meat for people —
minced, hung above smoke and fire,
cured to taste.

The dance of vegetarianism is across the river,
where men did not learn to hunt wild rabbits
or enjoy the pleasures of cock fights.

We pick children playing with piglets —
you frolic with the ones you love
and eat them when you are hungry.

We time travel to the BC era
to tell them they are undernourished
according to some org in Geneva.

There’s no ‘free the nipples’ campaign, they’re free.
Their eyes, hollow from the sounds of the rounds

of gun-fires in neighboring villages

tell us more than their mid-upper arm circumference.
The measuring tapes go green, go yellow,
the red ones look better than urban anorexic models.

We invade homes with stadiometers.
A woman tells me she can make these
height measuring machines herself.

We are on either side of the widening river.
I cannot translate stadiometer in Gondi nor
tell her it’s ConformitĂ© EuropĂ©ene certified.

I tell her, ‘You don’t know, they are global standards.’
She tells me, ‘You don't know our village wood,
only I may not get that, that unnatural shine.’

The infinities, right and wrong,
who can tell the potency of their
stale rice porridge, page?

(Page: watery rice porridge consumed in Bastar)

Once you start breathing
the sex organs come first
then the name to float beyond the named.

Names change into (other) names
In every story, in every defiance
list of fictional names post-incendiaries.

The sides of triangles have names,
the vanished or the vanquished have names,
the puppets of ventriloquists have a name.

Names can be like Sisyphus's—meaninglessness
which leads to despair
and somehow despair feels home.

Raghavendra is a chauvinistic name
for a Hindu child with male sex organ;
it’s another name for Maryada Purushottama Ram.

Raghavendra, Raghu, Raghav all sound nice,
but they are sounds of
inconsistent masculinity or utopian perfection.

Utopia should be left to fiction,
appropriated texts and state-owned museums.
Madhu is a girl's name,

I have been told over and over again
but honey, Madhu is honey
gender is as free flowing as cerebrospinal fluid.

What scares you the most?  

A Miya writing poetry.
A poem from a Dalit. 
The song of an Asur.
An Adivasi who can rhyme. 
LGBTQI+ poems.
Poems by women. 
Women poetry groups secretly meeting 
and writing poetry in Kabul.
Social media poetry.
Unpublished poetry.
Bad poetry (which is any poetry which you, 
or your gurus or chelas have not written).
Poems by non branded writers. 
Poems which have not been sold to you 
by big publishers, vogue magazine, 
or other market forces.
Poems by children and teenagers 
(that you can brush off as amateur).
African-American poetry.
Poems on atrocities, history and slavery. 
Poetry by farmers.
Poetry in unknown languages. 
Slam poetry. 
Poetry you can't control. 

That this is not poetry. 

Or are you just scared 
that truth will be heard. 

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