New | Poetry | Pratibha Nandkumar



You are shirking your responsibility as a woman
if you don’t, sometimes, wear high heels, do your
hair and wear a bit of pink.

Isaac Mizrahi, Fashion Designer


The untimely doorbell
brings me hurrying in bare minimum
And he stands there, the god almighty,
all dressed up in expensive silks

It was no wardrobe malfunction
my torn nighty, untidy hair,
does my mouth smell?
did I wash between legs?!

Why are we discussing some
godforsaken seminar, goofed up by some
good-for-nothing idiot, who should have been kicked out
but was given a promotion and an award too?

The coffee comes to the rescue
and the mug is big enough but
allows an unintentional touch and then
everything changed

That carpet, the windowsill, the afternoon sun
that blaring music from the next door
cart vendors calling out fresh tomatoes
Nothing was pink.


He mouthed an impromptu poem
on my brown lips,
my flat feet and of course
on my thick dark eyelashes.

Translated from original Kannada by the poet 

Defining pleasure

If you are searching for that poem written especially for you,

you must remember that

writing a poem is like drinking coffee

brewing, filtering, whitening, and sweetening

precedes consuming

which is what happens in courting

But then drinking coffee is like making love

hot yet not scalding

sweet but not too much.

Enough but not unlimited. 

Now, if you are thinking what I am thinking

let’s have some coffee.


The fish at the pond were a surprise;

Didn’t expect such abundance.

The snake in the grass evoked a hearty laugh;

What did it symbolise for the modernist? 

The golden sunset was a perfect backdrop.

Someone had made a proper bed;

Fresh sheets tend to have an allure

God, when was it, the last time? 

To get under the shower and get ready

was a pretext. You went for a drink at the bar

and I stepped out onto the lawn to speak to the fish.

When we finally met in bed 

I didn’t notice the lipstick mark on your shirt collar

and you didn’t bother about the grass in

my dishevelled hair.

What an orgy it was!


You know every detail.

The black mole on my back

the small scar behind the left ear

the thumb with a nail lost.

You recognise every single curve

the silky smoothness

even in the dark.

You did not know...

when my sighs burned down the roof

when I crossed the seven seas

buried in your hug

when I just slipped away, vanished

while I kept kissing you...

You did not know. 

The Shadow of a Crow

The shadow in the shopping window shows a crow

The nude mannequin is untouched by the crow's beak

She is not tickled. Nor does she make any effort

to pull up the sheet

there is nothing to cover. The artist left out the details.

The display boy hugs and dresses her up

like she can feel

his erection but sorry, no wetness,

she is dry right through.

It’s important for him to place the price tag prominently.

It’s a sale. Discount is the order of the day.

If you don’t get a butter-fry

piece of meat you only have to pick at 

the toes made of the paper mâché and

it is at that exact moment that the shadow

of the crow disappears and the glass-eyed

mannequin stares back

with her fixed smile and the crow is

not interested anymore.


Did I unwind all of my

binding six yards

carefully chosen by him

like a snake uncoiling? 

Did I reveal in a careless

or calculated casualness

the unmentionable? 

Then how come you know 

of all the bruises and black marks

on all my most intimate parts

hidden well under the six yards? 

I don't know, but why did you, 

didn't you, by the end of the second cup

tremble, remembering a woman in rage?

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