Category Archives: Poetry

Litanies for a Past Love: A Tragedy in 3 Parts

“Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men.”
Ludwig van Beethoven

 I

our love was a disaster in making
my sullen socialism was anathema to your fierce patriotism
I’m sorry the redness of my blood failed to turn saffron
I was looking for a comrade, and you for another devotee
don’t worry, baby
everything will be alt-right(?).

II

Even if I were to smother the revolutions I carried within me,
call you Daddy (and not Marx)
and learn to erase the contours of consent my womanhood etched all over my skin;
how could I let you venerate my altar
with the debris of others?
maybe I am different from other women.
help me locate my spaceship,
won’t you?

III

If I could contort myself
into nothingness, I just might be desirable for you again.
but my arrhythmia, when coupled with my anxiety –
already makes me feel that I’ll shrink until implosion.
when did the charred remains of my mental health become the shingles of your new home?
you became my saviour when I was simply being.
but then
did I ask to be saved from the burning house of your imagination?

Written by Aarooshi Garg

Image by Sheena Kasana

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(Not) My Funny Valentine

Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson: “Sure, I guess I pay attention.”
Sister Sarah Joan: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

I’m sorry I sometimes want more than insipid coffee and flowers in February.

I’m sorry even my words don’t know how to be flowery anymore, my intravenous cannulation didn’t blossom into roses under my skin, it just made my hand swell up the next morning. From a wallflower, I’ve now come to feel like a cobweb among the fairy lights at a terrace party, for the lack of a less sentimental simile. Just hanging on the wall, unspeaking.

Unspeaking and thinking how the men I’ve tried to love all seem the same, too caught up in the serious labour of being masculine to spare a moment. All the women I’ve tried to love seem like Lucien Carr, which might just be worse.

Have I really loved at all, to be able to call somebody my valentine?

I can’t seem to shake off the conviction that love is definitely waiting on the other end of the phone line or a text message while love only really seems to exist in the cup of tea that lets off steam at the end of the day when I can sit alone on my bed and worry about going back to the same infernal corridor bottleneck the next day. Maybe the problem is that we always talk of love in abstraction instead of context, as an idea or image rather than something real.

Maybe love is growing sunflowers on the window sill in an old ice cream tub or cooking spaghetti with my sister at night. Maybe it’s familiar voices telling me I’m not alone and how insipid the coffee really is, while barely conscious in the Emergency room. Maybe it’s the endless days I’ve waited at the vet, watching Misty slowly slip away and my mother who holds me when I can’t fall asleep on my own, night after night. It’s probably hearing “Don’t panic, we’ll go to Lodi Gardens,” in the middle of panic attack and the cup of tea the same friend made me when I couldn’t stop crying. Why can’t it be sharing sadness along with instant noodles at midnight?

You probably don’t have to try that hard when there is love. Maybe those who know a thing or two about loving do their best to make you feel like there’s more than insipid coffee and flowers in February.

Written by Priya Tripathy

Image by Aanchal Juneja

 

Comes And Goes

“In the shower, sweating under cold water,
I scrubbed and scrubbed.”
Ocean Vuong

i
the change in the object

when viewed from a distance
is far too great

If someone asks me
(which they obviously will)
I’ll say that
there will always exist
a moment in time
when your smile was so deep
that I could feel it
in my bones,
that I had mapped out the lines on your face
and its inherent disappointments and joys,
that I had bought a new couch
on which you hadn’t ever sat
or dropped popcorn in
or slept on peacefully
and that I hate it,
and that I love your
little habits, your little eccentricities
the way you ate Oreos or how your eyes crinkled when your
mother made that dish with aubergines every time we visited her
or how you secretly recorded trashy television shows for Saturdays
and how every Valentine’s day, I woke up
to a bunch of roses on my bedside table
that made my insides warm up
with happiness.
I’ll say that,
but I’ll tell myself that
it wasn’t like that at all,
It wasn’t like that at all.

ii
a disease involving telephone
and alcohol at night

9 missed calls,
an accidental like,
21 texts full of gibberish,
a blocked number,
and an oath
to never drink again
(PS: never = 4 days).

iii
dominoes

Your breath used to stink in the morning
Your love for restaurants that served bit sized portions wasn’t cute
I was not okay with cleaning the dishes all the time or with
the way you left your dishes five centimetres
away from the sink
I hate that you slept with your socks on
and still hogged all the blankets
I hate that you take two-hour long showers
I hate that you never pick up the phone or call back
I hate aubergines
I hate how you twist Oreos and eat them
like a five year old
(Nobody in real life actually eats Oreos like that.)
and how you keep the spare key under the pot in a neighbourhood like this
and how you always leave the bedside lamp on
and suck at folding t-shirts
and how you keep watching that scary movie at night
even if it disturbs me and I can’t fall asleep
and
even after I’ve told you not to watch it
Why do you keep watching it?
Why do you never listen to me?
Why do you never listen to anybody?

iv
please, please, please let me get what i want

If you wanted,
I would’ve written sonnets about the time we
met in that stupid bar,
learnt how to cook well,
chosen what I wanted to order on the first try,
gotten a puppy even if I like cats more,
learnt to appreciate metal music during car rides,
worked on my habit of planning and organising everything to its last detail,
started leaving cute little post-its for you everywhere,
given you flowers,
surprised you at work,
given more time,
given more truth,
given more love.

v
phantom limb
(a minor fall, a major lift)

One step forward, two steps back
lingering on
all the things that are now just mine my
rumpled up side of the bed
my sheets which don’t smell like your green apple shower gel
my living room which doesn’t feature you dancing to classical music
my playlists full of our songs
my plate filled with crusts of bread
my mug from which I drink coffee during sleepless nights
my couch which is new and unused
my spare key which lies in the cupboard
my friends who will offer some comfort
my calendar mocking me with
anniversaries and trips we never will have
my cleaning supplies that can’t clean out your
touch from these surfaces, your smell from within these spaces
and me,
left
bemused
bruised
broken
behind,
because
How do you un-plan a life?
How do you clean away an existence?

vi
cough syrup

It’s 14th now
but it’s just a day now
in a year full of days
blurring together
till they start losing meaning
Another day of being stuck in a job that I dislike
Another day of eating out of a takeout box
Another school shooting on the news channel
Another day without you
Same old, same old.
At least, it’s sunny.

vii
hand covers bruise

I do not miss it.
Sometimes,
I open the door
to winds of guilt and shame
reminding me of all the time we spent
on building this
and on how little time it took to break it
but I do not miss it.
We hear so much of what love should
look like, sound like, feel like
but I know that was not love.
This isn’t love,
That wasn’t love.

viii
freudian slips
(when you mean one thing but then you say

I miss you)

How are you?
Good (I don’t know)
Does it hurt less?
Yes (I don’t know)
Do you miss it?
Every second
A bit but it will get better.

ix
apple, apple, apple

These days
I wake up early every morning
and run
and eat an apple
to give my life
some structure
and remind myself to
breathe, breathe, breathe
Your roses died early, anyway.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Chetanya Godara

THROUGH THE WINDOW

‘There are days when outside your window I see my reflection as I slowly pass
And I long for this mirrored perspective when we’ll be lovers, lovers at last’
Death Cab for Cutie

Things were different that day.
You, for one, were far too enticing.
I could almost feel the breeze
That your eyelashes stirred across
The planes of your cheekbones.
I envied them-
They got to caress the silky softness
Of your skin.
There was something bewitching
About your dress, too,
As it fell in soft drapes
Across your curves.
I could almost hear
The words it whispered
Across your body.
Perhaps it spoke
Of the damask roses
On your countertop,
As their heavy musk
Sweetened the sultry evening breeze.
Your ignorance, too, was alluring,
For you never knew
Of me. You never knew
Of the scars upon my fingers.
You never knew about the neighbours, either;
They were unhappy
About their barren rose bushes.
I hope they realised
That love needs expression,
Love needs manifestation,
And Damask Roses are far too tempting.
Things were different that day.
Instead of wooing me
Obliviously
Through your silhouette,
As it danced delicately
Across the creamy warmth
Of your curtains,
You seduced me
Through your unconscious naivete,
As the evening breeze
Flirted with those wretched curtains.
Honey,
You should leave the windows open more often.

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Radhika Aneja

 

7.19

“For several hours my heart ached,
but I woke up—smiling.”
– Ha Jin

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
Before the digital clock starts beeping
Before I kick my blanket
open my eyes
wear my socks and
shiver as the first wave of cold air hits my bare arms.

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
with my bed holding me
with the world outside still not awake
Seven minutes and nineteen seconds of
seeing and hearing and
feeling and thinking about –

How the scar remains from when the
steaming cups of coffee had burnt our hands
How the dog is sitting, panting at the foot of the bed,
wearing an ugly sweater your grandmother will keep
on knitting for him despite refusal, after refusal, after refusal
How the heater refuses to work for ten minutes
till you curse and yell and promise yourself that you will buy a new one and
will then start when you don’t need that warmth anymore
How the gloves lie on the table,
a wide array of colours and patterns
and how I pick up the black ones every single time
How the windows of the cars are shut tight and
glazed with fog, random things drawn
– a tree here and a heart there and a name scribbled all wrong by
tiny hands and old ones too.

How the dogs howl and growl at each other
while a stranger shrinks back from them
shoving his hands into his pockets
casting shadows all across the street under the lanterns
How the workers grumble and whisper complaints
disappearing into the fog and
how their families make homes on the frozen pavements
with a fire warming them through the endless nights
and the days filled with grey skies
How the people will rush outside as soon as the sun comes out and
sit on the foldable chairs and beds
eating oranges under the slanted rays.

How the old lady in my building will sit outside,
soaking the last bit of the sun
her grey hair scattered across her face, her hands knitting mittens
she hasn’t completed in three years
How the crying child on the first floor
with a running nose and a fever
is asked if he wants soup every five minutes
with his mother whining,“Oh god, it’s flu season!
into her phone every time I pass by
How I long for the soup my mother used to make
and how it would’ve been easier if I had just
agreed to this last night
How the boy in the neighbouring house
will come outside in the evening to play
his violin, the tunes getting more melancholic
as the air gets harsher
How the soft music flows
and how the winter blues enter each soulit
will be months before they come out
How the remains of the tune still remain
in the air in the mornings for me to catch
if I listen closely enough.

How you drove from the library, your coat covered with snow
and your face smiling
at the passages in a book you found
How I can still see the smile and
can still feel my hands brushing the snow off your coat
How your nose and eyes were red
as we sat on the edge of the grass that warm winter afternoon
and I told myself
it was just cold and not tears
and how I believed myself
How the polaroid pictures
stuck to the refrigerator
are beautiful and necessary
and not brutal and unwanted
How the months in the calendar are now filled with X’s
and when did the year pass by – so suddenly, so quietly?

How you can faintly hear the birds screeching and shrieking,
flying across the horizon
I wonder if they are cold too
but deep down, I know
none of us are warm
at least not warm enough
But I also think of the little boy who
hated winters here
looked at pictures of children playing in the snow
and said, “It’s cold here but not cold enough.

How after
seven minutes and nineteen seconds
of this and that
of life turning and twisting and tossing
and settling,
my weary hands will go all across the bed
past the empty space next to me
and the empty space within
to shut it off completely.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Chetanya Godara

Coping Mechanisms / Things You Don’t Say Over the Phone

“How hot is it in Delhi now?
You had better be
Drinking lots of water,
Eating the right food,
Wearing the right clothes.”
(We wish we were there to take care of you.)

“It’s okay, mom, dad, I’m taking steps.
I have
A full water bottle,
Yogurt in the fridge,
Light cotton clothes,
Knowledge of what foods will heat me up from the inside.
I have all the wisdom borrowed from you.
I am taking care of myself.”
(I wish you would come and do it for me.)

“Mom, the weather was actually nice today.
For once, I didn’t feel sweaty the whole time.”
(I’m sound much more excited
Than I actually am
For your benefit.)

“Oh, really? It’s so cloudy and grey and depressing here today.”
(But I’m vicariously enjoying
your pleasant day.)

“Mom, I had to wear socks today.
It’s getting chilly.
By the way,
when should I add the tea leaves
to the water on the stove?”
(I’m trying to keep warm here
The same way I keep warm at home.
But I wish you would make me tea —
I always tend to overbrew.)

“Make sure you ask your Delhi friends
What kind of covers will be enough.
Will you be able to go buy it on your own?”
(I know you’re putting off these essential things
And I hate that
there’s not much I can do about it.)

“Dad, we were all choking in college today.
The masks I bought are just fabric,
They keep out dust, not smoke.”
(This experience was so surreal
And so scary.
My description doesn’t do it justice.)

“Please buy better masks.
Should I order them online for you?”
(I’m cursing the strange, faraway city I sent you to.
The city which is so fast and harsh,
With a survival code of its own.)

“Mom, dad, today I went to Lajpat Nagar
and bought a nice, thick razai.
Dinner was quite sad last night
But my roomies and I made eggs.
My new masks arrived in the mail,
And my friends are taking me sweater-shopping soon.
I have to go now–
The tea I made is getting cold
And I have a reading to finish for tomorrow.”
(I have a lot on my plate
But I am as chipper as I sound
And I think I am doing okay.)

Written by Madhuboni Bhattacharya

Image by Aanchal Juneja

 

Cold

“The hills, they’re glowing with warmth,”
You’d say
As you shivered
Underneath the hand-knit sweater
That Nani had compelled you to wear.
You’d be loath to admit
That the sharp winter breeze
Left you
Chilled.
“The sun burns earnestly this time of the year,”
You’d say
As you’d sit staring at the river,
Lost in the decaying memories
Of places you’d almost forgotten.
You’d come out of your musings
With songs that would speak
About the glory Of the rains.
“There’s something comforting about this weather,”
You’d say
As you nursed the scalding cup of tea
Thrust forcefully into your hand.
You’d sit in the balcony,
Prolonging the sunsets
With your delicately short
And sparse
Sips.
“Conversations are cozier in winters,”
You’d say As you gasped for breath
After a coughing bout.
You’d barely manage a croaky hello,
Yet we’d hear you the most,
Within your muffled coughs.
You’d feign good health
For the sake
Of words.
“It’s unnaturally cold for this time of the year,”
You said, that day
As Nani reluctantly turned the fan down
On a sultry, August evening.
That day, within the orchards
Of your private world
It snowed.
Icy snowflakes kissed
The cherry trees
That watched you grow old.
Soft gray clouds beckoned
With morbid comfort,
And silence,
Calming,
Reassuring,
Gnawing silence
Enveloped everything.

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Sheena Kasana

Year’s End

What does one want in any body but the world?’

The other day,
I drove to the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

I don’t know how to drive
And the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
But that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean
Silence, I don’t mean
Peace, I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

*

In the recent past, I’ve learnt that.
I’ve learnt that how are you is a question spilling over with potential
And doesn’t necessarily formally inquire after your emotional state
I’ve learnt
We exist in the spaces we create
Between our selves
And we can’t breathe when we talk because
You can accept either the words or the air that existed in a body.

I’d rather take the air because there is something you can’t control
And swerve and veer and stop and slam the door on
And there is no safety valve, no fire escape, no water to swallow pills
No first aid no punctuation no rehearsal
No moments of indecision over conversations and situations you handpicked
And stitched together in a patchwork sweater, of
Bad sentences, bad beginnings, terrible conclusions, a body that
I completely ignored because of the ringing in my ears.

No, I’d rather take your heavy breathing into my mouth
And your heavy breathing when you slam the door
And believe that both of them is love.

*

The other day,
I drove into the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

Because I don’t know how to drive
Because the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
So that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean silence, I don’t mean peace,
I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

‘Of course it is happening inside your head. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

 

Sweater Weather

I love winters
Because they remind me, how
being warm is so important;
not just by the body,
but by the heart.
How proximity,
when knitted with affection
sometimes, to great boundaries,
can calm the soul down

I love winters
Because the fog reveals
how oblivious I am
to the power around me, which asks me
to shine apart
Which teaches me
to be fearless and
to celebrate the oblivion
that harbours inside me

Yet

I love winters
Because of the longer nights
for me to decipher
What exactly is scarier,
The demons around, or just
my conscience,
Personified.

Written by Megha Tej Kaul

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui

A Wednesday in Pink

“On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”
The Wednesdays are not pink anymore
like your presence,
like your absence.

The petals of the Alliums you gave me were pink
with a stiff stem
and
fabricated leaves
hanging like a tongue.

The silky sheets on our bed were pink
dented and scattered
that the street lamps outside would illuminate
in the darkness of the night
like our breaths mingled in the frosty air.

The pencils kept on the table were pink
stacked together to write notes and letters
full of words rejected and thrown
into a dusty bin
and hugged and stored in a small box
at the back of my bookshelf.

The Cali CD you loved was pink
and it played in the background
with you whispering along
C’est quand le bonheur
I didn’t understand it then and now
I do.
When will I finally be happy?

The tissues at the restaurant were pink
as we ordered through
audible sighs and hissed breaths
hot, hot anger
flowing through our veins, as it
spilled over and died
unlike the ticking clock which exploded in the back.

The cherry blossoms in our local park were pink
as they fell on the bench
and then the ground
slowly, slowly
and were picked up by me for my niece
and were trampled upon by you.

The last piece of cheesecake with
too much strawberry syrup on it was pink
which you ate
leaving the crumbs on the plate
in the overflowing sink
for me to wash away.

The leash of our small dog is pink,
filled with white polka dots
who will sit in the tired sunlight
at your feet
like the world you believe you live in.

The post-it on which you wrote
“Need toothpaste, butter and socks”
for me was pink
that will stare at me
until the cheap glue dries off the wall.

The laughter between us was pink,
soft, ugly, true
and loud, loud and loud
just like our anger, just like our tears.

And the memories of you are pink,
bright, happy
vivid, furious
pale, faded
and just out-of-reach
like your old and warm t-shirt
kept at the top of my closet
wrinkled at the sides
and ripped
in the centre.

The skies were pink too
on that Wednesday
Tinged with pink
Stained with pink
Consumed by pink
As you screamed me, me, me all the way down.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Sheena Kasana