#36

 

A SELECTION OF WORK FROM SOUTH ASIAN
& SOUTH ASIAN BORN OCEANIA-RESIDENT CONTEMPORARY POETS

 

Edited by Raj Nair & Les Wicks

 

 

FEATURING: Vinita Agrawal, Usha Akella, Ganesh Bala, M.K.Gnanasekera, Amlanjyoti Goswami, Sunil Govinnage,

Lakshmi Kanchi, Ali Afzal Khan, Likitha Kujala, Suzi Mezei, Sonnet Mondal, Anita Nahal, Natsha Nair

Raj Nair, Maithri Panagoda, Roya Pouya, M.P. Pratheesh, Jaydeep Sarangi,

K Satchidanandan, Rati Saxena, Sudeep Sen, Keshab Sigdel, Kuma Raj Subedi,

Bhupen Thakker, Priya Unnikrishnan & Sanaa Younis

 

 

 

Notes on Contributors

 

 

Archived in Pandora

PREVIOUS ISSUES

 

from Meuse Press –

https://meusepress.tripod.com/Meuse.htm

IN COLLABORATION WITH

WORLD POETRY MOVEMENT – OCEANIA

 

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Vinita Agrawal

I Tell The River That I Shall Pray Again

 

For years I've been trading promises with God.

Offering flowers for mercies

Fasts for protection

Money for more wealth.

 

And now, it’s not as if I've stopped praying,

but something's muted over the years.

When I fold my hands at the altar

I'm thinking the flowers in the vase

need to be changed

the brand of incense leaves too much ash,

the silver needs polishing, the frames need dusting.

 

Cremating you

and returning to the raven blackness of our home,

I fastened the urn of ashes

to a clothesline outside the house

because it was bad omen to carry it inside.

 

Nothing epitomises waiting more

than a boat on the shore

or an urn of warm ashes

tied to a tree or a clothesline.

 

The river is the end to the wait

the final quencher of thirst.

Tonight I lie porous

Tomorrow the river will consume the ashes

and fill me with prayers again.

 

 

 

First published in Twilight Language (Proverse Hongkong)

Translation by Kinshuk Gupta

 

मैं नदी से कहती हूं मैं फिर प्रार्थना करूंगी

 

सालों तक मैं ईश्वर से वायदों की फरोख्त करती रही.

कभी दया के बदले फूल अर्पित किए

सुरक्षा के लिए व्रत रखे

धन चढ़ाया अधिक धन की कामना में

 

ऐसा नहीं कि अब मैंने प्रार्थना छोड दी है,

पर इन सालों में मेरे अंदर कुछ मौन हो गया है.

मूर्ति के सामने हाथ जोड़ने पर

मुझे याद आते हैं गुलदान में बदले जाने वाले फूल

किस ब्रांड की अगरबत्ती से ज्यादा राख गिरती है,

चांदी जिसे चमकाना है, पल्ले जिन्हें झाड़ना है.

 

तुम्हारे क्रियाकर्म के बाद

घर के भयानक अंधेरे में लौटकर

मैंने अस्थि-कलश को बाहर की रस्सी से बांध दिया 

क्योंकि उसे अंदर ले जाना अपशकुन था.

 

तट पर खड़ी नाव

या रस्सी से बंधा

गर्म अस्थियों का कलश

इंतज़ार का कितना सटीक प्रतीक है.

 

प्यास को शांत करने वाली नदी

अन्तत: इस इंतज़ार को समाप्त कर देगी

आज रात मैं बिल्कुल खाली हूं

कल नदी इस राख को जज्ब कर लेगी

और मुझे फिर प्रार्थना से भर देगी

 

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Usha Akella

Embayed

 

…every city I live in is a rib ruptured from my ribcage in

     turn the city teaches me to cover my naked

ness  offers me serpents’ tongues, devious Gods

ss         poisoned apples bringing heart/break;

then on, we kayak

rapids

          falling from a God’s hair, home-longing the slim

paddle pushing                       us on in unsaid desperation

then on we are free!

flight

with

 

Giddy                                     

 

                                 a smear of landings and take-offs

borders melt, blue-blooded with

anthems of loss, our father’s voices re       cede

like balding hairlines from our memory.

 

There are no Edens we know by now

                                    only orchards of lament

passports for exile      and      visas of unbelonging

 

                                      for the embayed.

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Ganesh Bala

Eternal Quest

 

Falling hair, they kissed me with profound ecstasy

In the past I rendered those enlightened prophesy

The irrational mystic love

Love with no bounds

Brotherly love, erotic love  and what not

I found the touch of nothingness

There is no gateway to human hearts

No transparency, no secret, no mystery

There’s that love for power

That lust for money, that spirit of avarice

I sought the simplicity of events

That innocent sound of music

Found the dreadful lady Macbeth

Fiercely deadly wish, piercing frantic gestures

Where did you find this passion?

The passion for disguise, of playful manipulation?

But I know you, much more than you know me,

You are the scapegoat of human alien love

You are the victim of my profess

My eternal quest for worthless passion.

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M.K.Gnanasekera

Inevitable

 

It is inevitable 

 

like a bullet  fired

from the opposite end

it is coming 

for the fateful meeting .

 

Knowing it is coming 

I am running towards it

ducking the crossfire 

in the battle field

hurriedly picking flowers 

and titbits scattered around 

beating the others in the game

to build a wall

my fortress

as if  to avoid 

the fateful meeting 

 

"surrender "

is the command 

no option 

surrender to the knife

surrender to the Fire 

surrender to the sand

surrender  to the wind 

get ready for the ride 

to the unknown 

 

It is inevitable

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Amlanjyoti Goswami

The Last Potter of Mohenjodaro

 

Little is known of the last potter of Mohenjodaro.

What he had for breakfast.

If rain lashed his shadow.

Did he know of the storm coming?

 

Was it wheat, or barley he loved?

Who loved him more – his wife or his child?

Did he like to talk – before – or after work?

Did he start his day at dawn or dusk? Did he toil all day?

 

Were there dancing girls in his dreams? Perhaps summer storms?

Did he earn an extra buck for that pipe under the rich man’s house?

Who did he bake his kiln with?

When he fired it – was he alone?

 

Was he silent most days? Or did it depend on the weather?

Did he like a drink or two?

Did he play the fool? Or was he taciturn?

There’s something else – unanswered –

 

Why did he take this up?

What inner urge, what outer fire?

Forged with bare hand this wheel of time

This cup for water, glazed sunshine pouring into his life

 

Like a mixed blessing?

This red dark earth, baked with the dry clay of ambition.

Or was it just vigour, desire to make new?

Did he know what he was about to do?

 

Was work and play ever one?

What did he munch for lunch?

And who did he call out to, that day, after the meal?

Knowing he would return, for one more summer.

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Sunil Govinnage

The Mute Sea and My Heritage

 

I came leaving my heritage

like a drop of morning spittle

breaking free from the fear of war

That hung heavy on the heart

Swiftly crossing the Mute Sea.[1]

 

My babies on my shoulders.

Their mouths still unsweetened

by the first golden breast milk,

the sound of their mother tongue.

 

We have come to a land

strange and unfamiliar

swiftly crossing the Mute Sea,

killing all our heritage

leaving behind mother and father,

a close host of friends,

casting away life’s riches

thrusting away our language

from the tongue’s tip.

 

As constant sneezes stream like rain,

like steam rising from a kettle

the burden of my catarrh

flows to my mind again

like some inheritance

banished from the homeland

it has come here,

my catarrh,

the burning,

the pain.

Translated from the original Sinhala by Lakshmi de Silva

This poem first appeared in Sinhala in Mathaka Divaina,

(Isle of memory) (2007)

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Lakshmi Kanchi

The Silkworm

 

The Mysore silk saree is my wedding

present.  I feel the tender writhing

of the silkworm            in its texture

where others may revel in its beauty.

 

Against my skin,

silk becomes second skin. The threads—

unwrapped from the cocoon inside which

the silkworm sleeps and dreams, feeds on the kino

—become textile. Become yards and yards

of colourful yarn spun from the undoing

    of the silkworm's spittle-

         cocoon,

          its last shroud. 

          The chrysalis is cleaned to extract the fibres.

         I tremble thinking

       of its body curled-foetal into a soft mess

     as it is boiled whole.

  Raw fibres then pass through hands of artisans

who weave and weave, pour sweat and labour

into the textile that    finally    becomes my saree.

 

I adorn the saree, wear a bindi.

Wear jhumkas and mangalsutra and kajal.

 

The silkworm is sacrificed.

Each time a woman becomes a bride

and stands on the threshold. The silkworm

is sacrificed each time—and it serves as a reminder

to the bride. The woman. The dreamer.

 

Decades later I learn that the silkworm remembers its dreams

even when it becomes a moth, through the pain of metamorphosis.

Its whispers emerge and whirr like pale motifs on my saree

 ¯

Ali Afzal Khan

Bellybutton

 

A tiny lotus

On the bosom of a formless sea.

A small river

To get drowned and to get lost into.

A small wave to immerse yourself under.

A Hijol tree keeps standing in the pond.

A rose of gold

On a cot of gold.

A wideopen tunnel.

The first word

In primordial silence.

Translated from the Bangla by Jewel Mazhar

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Likitha Kujala

all i want to be

 

in love with the way

she plays with those bangles,

she stares at her own mehndi and smiles a little.

the way she teaches her sister rather than do the work for her,

the fact she doesn’t notice what a good elder sister she makes.

her perfect face with that nose a little too big,

the way she scrunches it when she bursts with laughter,

the space she takes up in the room when she walks in,

those huge brown eyes that hold so much truth.

the way her eyes narrow a little when she’s concentrating,

the way she learnt to voice her ideas coming about from being the eldest daughter of immigrant parents.

the way she doesn’t swear for she is too intelligent to use those basic words,

the fact she doesn’t hate for she knows everyone has a little good in them.

her stop when she spots the sky with sunset hues and her admiration for what seems so simple.

her acknowledgment that life’s too short to not enjoy the little things,

the fact she’d kill for a pint of ice cream.

her need to understand people, the ways in which their hearts come into play.

the sound of her own heart beat slower than the rest of us for she is at peace.

her smile lines ever so subtle on her face,

those dark circles from the insomnia she inherited from her mother.

the way she goes to sleep so early to help herself,

the way she doesn’t search for validation in others.

the way her body is curvier than most,

the way she moves with the confidence that it is perfect for she knows that it is.

the way she wakes up early to catch the sunrise each morning,

her read for 26 minutes right before bed.

the love she radiates to those she wants in her life,

the need to turn everything she touches into something with purpose.

for she is all i want to be.

all i want to be

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Suzi Mezei

Karapincha: Endowments from My Mother

 

I keep the curry trees in neat black pots        behind glass

        in the smallest room

that gets the most sun                near a window

where they can watch the untamed garden        riot

unhindered, its earthen scalp a knot of unkempt botanical hair,

clogged with the heavy syrup of July’s winter rain

on the other side of the double glaze; inside

I keep the house warm.

We were not born to embrace chills,

the trees and I, our tap roots        meander

through dense Kulin loam, infiltrate the sea and end

        in the subcontinent, intertwined with an island fringe

frequented by turtles and tsunamis. In recycled heat, my trees

arch their backs, unspool verdant canopies, adorn their heads in pinnacles

of tiny white bloom,        the aroma of their eastern disposition

fills the place like goddess-breath and        drops

        in cavernous pots that wait to be filled

with the taste of shared history.

 

First published in Burrow Feb 2022

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Sonnet Mondal

Hungry Faith

 

The fisherman in the Sundarbans

was hauling his boat out of mud

and into an intoxicated river.

 

Between the prow and his hands

a sweat-soaked turban

hollowed out the sounds of struggle.

 

His bulging veins more resolute

than the wary holes

of the fishing net—soaking up the sun.

 

The stooping trees of the forest

tried to lend a hand

but, held by the riverbank,

moaned in the wind.

 

The water looked warm

but didn’t rise to the boat.

 

Somewhere in the fragmented sun

hunger was savouring muddy toil.

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Anita Nahal

What’s wrong with us Kali women?

 

There’s nothing wrong. Nothing wrong. That’s your fear labelling us. We are the Kali women. And all other female, male, androgynous gods. We don’t distinguish. We seek. We learn. Comprehend. Embrace. We are the Kali women. In the forefront, striding and yes, strutting our stuff too. Some men gulp and gawk. Making a tight knot of patriarchy right in front of their balls. They are the same who have been bowing before Kali’s statues for centuries. Marking their foreheads with mitti from her robes. And then they call her Ma Kali and walk away brash, brazen, evil. Don’t think she’s not watching.

There’s nothing wrong. Nothing wrong. That’s your fear labelling us. We are the Kali women. And all other female, male, androgynous gods. Always in front, straddling between pathways, poles, blocks, and behavior. Between screams and footsteps pinning for justice denied. Justice battered. Justice flagged. Murdered. Burned. Their dark skin, their gender, religion, their sandals blood stained, their clothes drenched and smelling of your foul breath, with your hands striking, your feet jutting and hitting. And then some in their sinister voice sing well into the murky night, Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Don’t think she’s not watching.

There’s nothing wrong. Nothing wrong. That’s your fear labelling us. We are the Kali women. My skin is kali, my heart is gold, my soul is a child, cries, laughs, jumps, feelings flow like fresh churned cream from cow’s milk. My skin disgusts you. Yet you try to tan yours. My skin disturbs you, yet you find it exotic. My skin you call gandi. But I am clean. I bathe. In winters when my skin lightens a bit, you proclaim, I’m looking saaf, fair. I was always clean. It’s your mind that is dirty. Even mock bathing in river Ganga might skim above your falseness. Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Ma Kali. Don’t think she’s not watching.

 

 

 

*Mitti: Dirt/Earth *Kali: Of Black color and also Goddess of destroyer of evil

*Ma: Mother

*Gandi: Dirty

*Saaf: Clean, also, a colloquial word to imply fair skinned

*Ganga: Considered to be one of the holiest rivers in India.

 

This poem was previously published in the authors prose poetry book, What’s wrong with us Kali women? (Kelsay, 2021).

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Natsha Nair

Handwriting

 

Erasing is impossible for I still write,

Changed my F’s to crochet stitches like yours

My L’s twice as long,

First to you, then returned to me

Sitting across from each other.

 

You made me selfish with words

They don’t mean what I write,

Follow the dotted lines, blurred lines

Gone with you is their loyalty,

How cruel I find you in this place.

 

I reminisce this grip,

Having envied your pen closely,

Two fingers kissed on top

One kneading underneath,

You never held me like that.

 

Sitting across from an empty chair

My L’s know no limit,

They slip off the page and drip to the ground,

Don’t look at me for answers

When do we turn around?

 

The clock mocks me still,

Forgotten how to bite my nails

A dangerous game of blood,

Ink is thicker yet

Write me back you thief.

¯

Raj Nair

Silverfish of Anahuac

 

silverfish disrelish my insatiable curiosity

yellow was the colour of her home

 

an obese silverfish jumped to the left

and dived into a thick Don Quixote

 

a skinny one – must be a lad –

crawled inadvertently

 

and vanished in Spanish Great Gatsby

torn of the spine into equal halves

 

an easy kill that I relinquish

death in between cymbals clap

 

eye raped pages shut in the fallen past

diverting my madness into a dug up channel

 

blue green brown black and Athena’s grey eyes

 

what would alphabet of words feel

lost on pages for aeons?

 

who rejoices the spreading of pages?

questions never needing answers like sunrise

 

afternoon sea roaring in my left ear

 

screaming of an old man a father

through the camera of baby monitor

 

from my thighs his daughter

separates her wet half naked body

 

his daughter running to her father

squeaking the blue painted stairs

 

his granddaughter screaming spanish

onto the ocean blue black

 

horses gliding with silent hooves

in the black flowering sand of deep salt

 

two dolphin male lovers exposing

their white sex filled bellies

 

lone lovebird afloat with wings lost

within invisible winds

 

I wiped her juices dry

a blind sun within a cloudy sky

 

through the dark wet ocean

Neftali came splashing his fins

 

his mouth was open like a creature

I pulled out my lungi to stop his shivers   

 

his belly fell over the yellow table

we rejoiced pouring tequila

 

mixed stale columbian coffee

our cigar stained fingers teased each other

 

wrote a poem at the age of ten

hate the name father had given

 

we rhymed senses instead of cheers

we laughed open mouthed like dead

 

ageing books fell upon us

virgin pages slashing our bellies

 

we dived into them bleeding white blood

wagging our split yellow tails

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Maithri Panagoda

Silenced

 

Small groups gathered around the capital

only glances and whispers

hand signals

punching phone screens

eyes moving in different directions

 

Suddenly they converged

like all the rivers meeting at sea estuary

 

Hands transformed into fists

placards came out

voices raised

 

Eyes that cried tears

turned into angry spotlights

 

Demands were simple enough

freedom from hunger

right to live

 

Shaken rulers took notice

planned a solution

invisible army went into action

 

Candles turned into a conflagration

teargas blinded the masses

masked enforcers took control

as thick black smoke blanked out the sun

unarmed pigeons darted away

 

Next morning

several bodies washed off on the beach

hands tied behind back

faces unrecognisable

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Roya Pouya

Her Voice

 

History has cut me off,

one lost between the borders,

the other parading through time.

 

Can you hear the voice of her?

 

Landing in the past,

or flipping over the future,

if you’re not a so-called “good” soldier.

Just for a few seconds,

hearing how she is demanding to breathe,

and then staring at the street.

Watching how millions of strands of hair have fruited,

even though they killed the gardeners.

 

Can you hear their voices?

 

Women who came to wear the world,

even like a sea with broken boats,

or like thirsty captives who licked the pain,

Women who took off their fears

Became naked just like this poem,

and the poem that was always slow steps,

from the imitation of history in the hollow of time.

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M.P. Pratheesh

Stones

 

Heard a stone rub against stone

Fire spreads over the entire hill

Beasts run for life

 

Between stone and stone

Grains of paddy get ground to dust

 

At a distance beyond remembrance

A sharp stone moves

Between my ribs

Translated from Malayalam by K Satchidanandan

 

 

കല്ലുകൾ

 

കല്ലിൽ മറ്റൊരു കല്ല് ഉരയുന്നതു കേട്ടു

കുന്നിഞ്ചെരിവിലാകെ തീ പടരുന്നു

ജന്തുക്കളോടിപ്പോകുന്നു

കല്ലിനും കല്ലിനുമിടയിൽ നെൻമണികൾ പൊടിഞ്ഞമരുന്നു

ഓർമ വരാത്ത അകലത്തിൽ

എന്റെ വാരിയെല്ലുകൾക്കിടയിലൂടെ

മൂർച്ചയുള്ളൊരു കല്ല് നീങ്ങുന്നു

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Jaydeep Sarangi

When I Lose My Home of Poems

 

All started with the poems 

All  can end  with silence .

 

Poems to silence is a long  book

We planned, we travelled together

 

I couldn't touch her words, shades of thoughts

She remained a virgin  poem 

 

It's time to leave for no tomorrow

Tonight is a long thoughtless  spell.

 

My ancestors are lined up, gates are open

to welcome me  with no unfulfilled wishes. 

 

I understand how I made crude calls 

behaved like a bull of no reason 

 

Each home has a lantern, not in my house 

deep dark of no words, no poems 

 

Without poems promises smile,

some leave behind  in a tunnel of no tomorrow

 

When you change your mind 

I wait, I listen to silence 

 

Some unbearable darkness kill me 

my rites are done , guest leave too early 

 

When I lose my home of poems, all will be well for the poems

Silence is my muse, no opportunity to pull myself out.

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K Satchidanandan

On This Earth

 

1

We landed on earth from different stars

That is why we speak different languages.

Each word carries the aura

Of the memories of the stars we left.

In sleep we travel to those glittering homes.

There we speak to our forefathers

Like geckos that know

Every one of its walls.

 

We wake up to discover its star- dust

On our skins.

 

2

From which star did you come?

I ask, watching the blue dust

On her shoulders at dawn.

She stares jealous at the red dust

On my chest.

 

We are now characters

in some  science fiction

Even our heads do not look human.

 

3

As we die we return to the

Stars we left.

We will forget our sojourn on earth.

We will float in space,

As weightless souls, until we get

Another body and another language.

 

4

I want to be reborn on earth,

This time as a tree.

You will be a bird 

perched on its bough.

I will recognise you by the

Blue dust on your wings.

And you, me with the

Red dust on my bark.

 

This time we won’t quarrel.

I’ll exchange my fruits for your song.

There won’t be humans

To see or hear it.

Butterflies,

Only butterflies.

from Questions from the Dead

(Copper Coin, Delhi, 2021).

Translated from Malayalam by the poet.

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Rati Saxena

Refugee

 

They came to this land

as if by sea, the way wind

clings to spar, like the dew

on a humid morning

somewhere near the equator,

or the way moths on rainy nights

fly towards the light,

they took shelter in this place

the way wasps nest in the holes

of old wooden doors, or a letter

wrongly addressed in its post office box,

or unwanted email in an inbox,

they settled in this land

the way ice floats in a glass of juice,

like kites holding tight

to the ruins of buildings,

and each night they return

by marshy paths

where footprints stipple the land

like goosebumps, their hunger

stubborn as the blackened ash

stuck to the bottom of a pan,

one step backward

to lurch one forward

they disappear into the land

that is not theirs.

translated by Seth Michelson

 

1.     शरणार्थी

 

वे  कुछ इस तरह चले आये

इस जमीन पर,जैसे कि

जहाजीय पताका पर लिपटी समन्दरी हवा,

विषुवतरेखीय प्रदेश में उमस भरी भोर में ओस

 

या फिर

बरसाती साँझ में रौशनी की और उड़ान भरते पतंगे

 

वे कुछ इस तरह बस गये

इस जमीन पर, जैसे कि

दरवाजों की सुराखों में तत्तैयों के घरोन्दें

पोस्ट बाक्स में गलत पते वाली चिट्ठी

इनबाक्स में अनचाहे अनजाने मेल

 

वे कुछ इस तरह रम गये

इस जमीन पर, जैसे कि

रंगीन प्यालों पर तैरते बर्फ के टुकड़े

अधूरी बनी इमारत के खण्डहर से लिपटी पतंगे

 

वे हर रात लौटते हैं

दलदल के पार उन पगडन्डियों पर

जिन पर उनके पाँवों के निशां

सर्द हवा में रोंगटों से  खड़े हैं

 

टूटी पतीलियों कें पैन्दों मे भूख

जम कर कालिख बन गई है

 

हर कदम लौटे हुए

हर कदम आगे बढ़ते हुए

वे बिला जाते हैं इसी जमीन की हवा में

जो इनकी कभी नहीं रही

 

¯

Sudeep Sen

Disembodied

                    a triptych

 

1.

 

My body carved from abandoned bricks of a ruined temple,

                                                from minaret-shards of an old mosque,

from slate-remnants of a medieval church apse,

            from soil tilled by my ancestors.

 

My bones don’t fit together correctly                        as they should —

the searing ultra-violet light from Aurora Borealis

                                    patches and etch-corrects my orientation —

magnetic pulses prove potent.

 

 

My flesh sculpted from fruits of the tropics,

                                                            blood from coconut water,

skin coloured by brown bark of Indian teak.

 

My lungs fuelled by Delhi’s insidious toxic air

                                    echo asthmatic sounds, a new vinyl dub-remix.

Our universe — where radiation germinates from human follies,

                        where contamination persists from mistrust,

where pleasures of sex are merely a sport —

where everything is ambition,

everything is desire,                           everything is nothing.

                                    Nothing and everything.

 

2.

 

White light everywhere,

but no one can recognize its hue,

no one knows that there is colour in it —      all possible colours.

 

Body worshipped, not for its blessing,

                                    but its contour —

                                                artificial shape shaped by Nautilus.

Skin moistened by L’Oreal 

            and not by season’s first rains —

skeleton’s strength not shaped by earthquakes

                                                or slow-moulded by fearless forest-fires.

 

Ice-caps are rapidly melting — too fast to arrest glacial slide.

In the near future — there will be no water left

or too much water that is undrinkable,

                                                excess water that will drown us all.

Disembodied floats,                           afloat like Noah’s Ark —

 

no gps, no pole-star navigation,       no fossil fuel to burn away —

just maps with empty grids and names of places that might exist.

 

Already, there is too much traffic on the road —

unpeopled hollow metal-shells                                  without brakes,

swerve about   directionless —                      looking for an elusive compass.

*

 

DISEMBODIED 2: LES VOYAGEURS

            for Bruno Catalano

 

To understand yourself, you must create a mirror

                                    that reflects accurately what you are ….

Only in the understanding of what is,

                        is there freedom from what is.

J Krishnamurti

 

 

Bronze humanforms sculpted, then parts deleted —

            as if eroded by poisoned weather, eaten away

by civilisational time —

                                    corrosion, corruption, callousness.

Power, strength, gravitas residing in metal’s absence.

 

Men-women, old-young, statuesque —

                                    holding their lives in briefcases —

            incomplete travellers,

Marseilles les voyageurs, parts of their bodies

                                                            missing

surreal —                                steadfast, anchored.

 

Engineered within their histories

                        of migration, travel — over land, by sea —

coping with life’s mechanised emptiness.

 

Artform’s negative space or positive? What are we too see?

            Have these voyagers left something behind,

or are they yearning

                        to complete the incompleteness

in their lives?

            They are still looking —

                                    as am I,            searching within.

 

 

Marseilles, France

 

*

 

DISEMBODIED 3:Within

     for Aditi Mangaldas

 

You emerge — from within darkness, your face

                                    sliding into light —

you squirm virus-like in a womb,

draped blood-red,                               on black stage-floor.

                                    Around you, others swirl about

dressed as green algae,

                        like frenetic atoms

            under a microscope in a dimly lit laboratory.

Art mirroring life — reflecting the pandemic on stage.

 

Your hands palpitate,

                        as the sun’s own blinding yellow corona

cracks through the cyclorama.

            People leap about — masked, veiled.

                                                You snare a man’s sight

with your fingers mimicking a chakravavyuh

                        you are red, he is green, she is blue —

trishanku — life, birth, death —

                        regermination, rejuvenation, nirvana.

 

Everything on stage — as in life —

                                                moves in circular arcs.

Irises close and open, faces veiled unveil —

            hearts love, lungs breathe — breathless.

 

Lights, electromagnetic —     knotted, unwrapped

                        music pulsates, reaching a crescendo,

                                                            then silence.

Time stops. Far away in the infinite blue of the cosmos —

            I look up and spot a moving white.

I see a white feather

                                    trying its best to breathe

in these times of breathlessness, floating downwards —

 

and as it touches the floor, in a split-second

everything bursts into colour, movement, the bols/taals

                                                try to restore order,

rhythm,           both contained and free.

 

The backdrop bright orange,

                                    the silhouettes pitch-black.

As you embrace another humanform,

            the infinite journey of timelessness might seem

                                                            inter_rupted,

but now is the moment to reflect and recalibrate

immersed in the uncharted seas, in the widening circles,

                        telling us —                others matter,

the collective counts.

 

I examine minutely the striated strands

                        of the pirouetting feather, now fallen —

its heart still beating, its blood still pumping,

                                                its white untarnished.

Life’s dance continues — with or without us —

only in the understanding of what is,

                                    is there freedom from what is.

¯

Keshab Sigdel

Colour of the Sun

 

My daughter is busy colouring her thoughts

The fingers restlessly

Move across the drawings

On the card board paper.

“What is the colour of the sun?” she fumbles–

Yellow, orange, or crimson red–

Who knows it? The colour of the sun?

She takes a colouring pencil, and before she fills in

The colour, she tries to sharpen the tip of the pencil;

The tip breaks again and again...

And it only sharpens her nerves.

Irritated, confused,

She raises her head, and slowly, turns it a little right,

And gives a puzzled look at me,

Her eyes are enough to tell what she feels

About me; But I have never coloured

A sun, you know! I have never felt it closely

To know its colours. At times,

I have hated the irresistible heat, or

Its absence too. But colours?

Does the sun have a colour at all?

With my little daughter, the sun smiles, and how

Do I tell what colour is the smile?

It’s raining heavily outside, and inside

My conscience erodes to create a grim, bleak lake

That receives the reflection of the sun.

What colour is the sun in the lake?

The colour of my mind, probably.

To my daughter, I just said—

Paint your own sun, dear!

 

Publication credit:  Barve Sonca/Colour of the Sun.

Published by Poesis in Ljubljana in 2017.

¯

Kuma Raj Subedi

Assassination of Dreams

 

Thus is the plight-

vibrant wedded youths march 

towards foreign lands

like a colony of ants 

for a dream of contentment 

they are setting fires to domestic dreams! 

 

Oldies' hearts, like a drought, split the land 

despise downpour of memories desperately 

utterly unable to uphold delusion laden brains!

 

Wives, in the fountain, fill pitchers with dreams of reunion 

until rolled tears splash 

tranquil waters like hailstones in a lake.

Wetting pillows when the world is asleep, 

Fantasise caresses till the ominous cock-a-doodle-do

unfolds new hardships reveries!

 

Children's envisaged shelter 

drowns like a failed paper boat-

decorated with flowers and crimson, 

adorned dream coffin returns home 

defeated waging wars of the wages

assassinating the dreams of the dreamers!

Publication credit: The Colours of Spring, 2023

Previously also published in The Gorkha Times, 2021.

¯

Bhupen Thakker

Heaven (Jaise Swarg)

 

My father touches dance anklets decorated with red beads as soon as he rises in the morning Is heaven red? Then orange flowers …Is heaven orange? He may then tap a yellow silk fabric. Green leaves await him next Is heaven yellow-green?

 

At this time light blue naturally awakes in his throat.

If it is the season he will whisper affirmations of red stillness, orange touch,

yellow stillness,

green love

light blue words,

indigo blue sound,

navy blue pink gold clarity

purple good thoughts,

gold reach,

white reach,

and

all-encompassing black

Heaven could be light blue

 

The flute music comes on each day

so his indigo-blue hearing is in rapture

as he softly weaves 

flowers in a navy blue thread.

There could be a pink ribbon or gold stars.

 

silence is maintained at this time ...

could this be purple?

 

A golden plate and serving vessels are also washed during

the silence

Food which may be white is gently placed on these

-he will see black when he shuts his eyes to do this

 

is heaven indigo blue navy blue pink gold purple gold white black?

 

Is peace in the traditions of India?

¯

Priya Unnikrishnan 

Great Sadness

 

I can feel a grave,
A grave of graves
Under each footstep

Only eyes can recognize
The voices of silence
That created a sovereign
Between our mourn.

I fear my death
In this decayed wind of a
Midday depression

If you don’t break this loneliness
By your words,
Cosmos, assigns
A strange Kismet to the day
When earth stands completely still.

 

അഗാധദുഃഖം

 

ഓരോ ചലനത്തിലും
ശവകുടീരങ്ങളുടെ സമുച്ചയങ്ങ
എന്റെ കാൽപാദങ്ങളറിയുന്നു

നമ്മുടെ വിലാപങ്ങൾക്കിടയി
രാജകീയമാക്കപ്പെട്ട
മൂകശബ്ദങ്ങളെ
കണ്ണുകൾക്ക് മാത്രം തിരിച്ചറിയാനാകുന്നു

വിഷാദപൂരിതമായ
നട്ടുച്ചയിലെ
ദ്രവിച്ച കാറ്റുപോലെ
ഞാനും മരിയ്ക്കുമോ എന്ന് ഭയക്കുന്നു

ഏകാന്തമല്ലെന്ന് തോന്നിയ്ക്കും വിധം
നീയെന്നോട് സംസാരിക്കില്ലെന്നിരിയ്ക്കേ
ഭൂമി പൂർണ്ണമായും
നിശ്ചലമാകുന്നൊരു ദിനത്തിലേക്ക്
പ്രപഞ്ചം, അപരിചിതമായൊരു
കാലത്തെ നിയോഗിക്കുന്നു 

 

Published in Madras Courier

¯

Sanaa Younis

She stands tall

 

Her edges are frayed, yet

Her centre is earthed and electric

The outward vitality of her neighbours

Betrays a hollowness of spirit

Like all the storms past, she’ll weather

The tempest that swirls without

 

Forever green while they change with the seasons

A constant among variables, limitless

No one can contain you

You’re beyond their limitations. It’s your

Transcendence they can’t unriddle

A diviner of possibility, you are

 

Your heart is receptive, full and wide as all the galaxies

Through you runs life and all that is sacred

Equanimous you remain, while oceans rise, and

Southerly winds blow.

A candle to banish the darkness,

Steeped in oils divine.

¯

¯

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

 

Usha Akella has authored nine books that include poetry, one chapbook and two musical dramas. Her latest poetry book is I will not bear you sons, was published by Spinifex, Australia. The Waiting published by Sahitya Akademi, Delhi was translated by Elsa Cross in Spanish and published by Mantis Editores, Mexico. She edited and conceived Hum Aiseich Bolte! This is just how we speak, a poetry anthology on the city of Hyderabad released at HLF 2023. Recently, in February 2023 she was invited to read for the literary festival organized by the Ministry of Arts and Letters, Mexico.

She earned an MSt. in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge, UK.  She is the founder of Matwaala (www.matwaala.com) and www.the-pov.com, a website of curated interviews. She was selected as one of the Creative Ambassadors for the city of Austin in 2019 & 2015. She is widely anthologized, and has been invited to numerous international poetry festivals.

Ganesh Bala, Academic for 22 years in India, Dubai and Australia. Published his PhD thesis with a German publisher Lambert on “Global Economic Crises - 1930s and 2007 - An Economic Policy Analysis with special reference to India in 2019. A Corporate trainer with leading multinationals in Dubai. A writer who has published 4 books in English and another 5 in his mother tongue Malayalam. A musician conducting classical concerts in Sydney.

Amlanjyoti Goswami’s new book of poetry, Vital Signs (Poetrywala) follows his widely reviewed collection, River Wedding (Poetrywala). Published in journals and anthologies across the world, including Poetry, The Poetry Review, Penguin Vintage, Rattle and Sahitya Akademi, he is also a Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. His work has appeared on street walls of Christchurch, buses in Philadelphia, exhibitions in Johannesburg and an e-gallery in Brighton. He has reviewed poetry for Modern Poetry in Translation and Review 31 and has read at various places, including New York, Boston and Delhi. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.

 

Lakshmi Kanchi, pen name SoulReserve, is a Western Australian poet of Indian descent. Her debut collection, "Lakesong," explores themes of love, nature, and culturation. She won the 2021 Pocketry Prize and was shortlisted for SCWC Wollongong’s 2022 Poetry Prize. She is currently the Poet-in-Residence at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.

 

Likitha Kujala, an Indian-Australian student at a school in Melbourne, Victoria. With so much change in life through immigration, adolescence and the people I so often encounter, I find that there are days where writing my thoughts onto paper makes them that much more beautiful. To be able to put thoughts into words is a satisfaction that I will forever appreciate and hope to give those around me a little glimpse of into my own. I hope that ‘all i want to be’ will be a little relatable to every South-Asian girl as it is to me.

Suzi Mezei is a Sri Lankan born Australian writer from Naarm.  Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas and has also been performed on stage. It will also be included in a forthcoming  podcast. Suzi is currently reading Shankari Chandran and Louise Gluck while editing and collating her own works.

Sonnet Mondal is an Indian poet, editor, and author of An Afternoon in My Mind (Copper Coin 2022), Karmic Chanting(Copper Coin 2018), Ink and Line (Dhauli Books 2018) and five other books of poetry. He was awarded the Gayatri GamarshMemorial Award for literary excellence in 2016 and was one of the authors of the Silk Routes project of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa from 2014 to 2016. Founder and director of Chair Poetry Evenings – Kolkata’s International Poetry Festival, Mondal edits the Indian section of Lyrikline (Haus für Poesie, Berlin) and serves as managing editor of Verseville. He has been a guest editor for Words Without Borders, New York, and Poetry at Sangam, India. His works have been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Turkish, Slovak, Macedonian, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, Hungarian, and Arabic.

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP, is a Pushcart Prize-nominated Indian American author-academic. She has one novel, four poetry collections, one of flash fiction, four for children, and five edited anthologies published. Her third poetry collectionWhat’s wrong with us Kali women(Kelsay, 2021) was nominated by Cyril Dabydeen as the best poetry book, 2021 for British Ars Notoria, and is mandatory reading in a multicultural society course at Utrecht University. Her just released novel, drenched thoughts is also prescribed at the same university. Anita’s poems have appeared in numerous journals in the US, UK, Asia, and Australia and anthologized in many collections, including The Polaris Trilogy, which will be sent to the moon in the Space X launch. Anita is the editor of the Newsletter, Poetry Virginia Society and secretary of the Montgomery Chapter, Maryland Writers Association. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC.  Anita is the daughter of Sahitya Akademi award-winning Indian novelist, Late Dr. Chaman Nahal, and educationist Late Dr. Sudarshna Nahalwww.anitanahal.com

 

Born in Sri Lanka, Maithri Panagoda has lived most of his life in Australia. He began writing when he was a teenager. His creative work in Sinhalese consists of poems, lyrics for many popular songs and other writings. A lawyer by profession, Maithri has been involved in many landmark cases on behalf of indigenous Australians. "Pages of Life", his latest poetry collection was published in 2022.

 

Natsha Nair enjoys writing poetry. She is a medical student, a visual artist and an ocean lover from Queensland, Australia.

 

Raj Nair is an Australian bilingual writer, academic and clinician from Queensland, Australia. He published his first poem at the age of eleven years. He has written poems, short-stories and novels in his native language Malayalam and English. He is also a writer-director of feature and documentary films. He was educated at the universities of London, Harvard and Hong Kong (PhD). Raj is a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Medicine Hospitals in the US.

 

M.P. Pratheesh is a poet and artist from Kerala, India. He has published several collections of poetry in Malayalam language. His texts and images were part of 'let me come to your wounds; heal myself', a cross -disciplinary art event curated by C F John. His poems and object/visual poems have been appeared or forthcoming at various places including Singing in the dark (Penguin), Greening the earth ( Penguin) Portside Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Oxford Anthology of Poetry, RlC journal, Tiny seed, Indianapolis Review, kavyabharati, Nationalpoetrymonth.ca(Angelhouse press), The bombay Review, Keralakavitha, Guftugu, Experiment-O, Acropolis, Tiny spoon, Door is a jar, Ethelzine, True copy, Indian Literature and elsewhere. His recent books are Transfiguring Places,(Paperview books, Portugal) and The Burial, (forthcoming from Osmosis press, UK). He is the recipient of Kedarnath Singh Memorial poetry prize,2022

 

Jaydeep Sarangi is a widely anthologized poet with  ten collections, latest being, letters in lower case (2022). A  regular reviewer for poetry journals and newspapers, Sarangi  has delivered keynote addresses and read poems in different continents and lectured on poetry and marginal  studies  in universities/colleges  of repute. His books on poetry and Indian Writings, articles and poems are archived in all major libraries and online restores in the world, including Harvard University, Oxford University, Sorbonne University, Barkley Library and University of Chicago.  He is the   President, Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) and Vice  President, EC, Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library,Kolkata. He has been known as ‘the bard of Dulung’ for his poems on the rivulet Dulung and people who reside on its banks. Sarangi is Principal and professor of English at New Alipore College, Kolkata and actively spreading the wings of poetry among generations. He edits Teesta, a journal devoted poetry and poetry criticism. With Rob Harle he has edited six anthologies of poems from Australia and India which are a great literary link between the nations. . With Amelia Walker, he has guest edited a special issue for TEXT, Australia. His website is : https://jaydeepsarangi.in/

E mail: jaydeepsarangi1@gmail.com

K Satchidanandan (b.1946) is a bilingual poet, critic, playwright, editor, fiction writer and travel writer. He has been a Professor of English and of Translation Studies, , editor of Indian Literature bimonthly and Beyond Borders , a SAARC literature quarterly, the executive head of the National Academy of Letters, invited National fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, He has thirty-two collections of poetry in Malayalam, ten in English, seven in Hindi, and thirty collections in other languages including Arabic, Irish, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese besides all major Indian languages. He has won sixty one literary awards - including the National Academy award, Dante Medal from Italy, Poet Laureate Award from Tata Literature Festival, Bombay, five awards in five genres from Kerala Sahitya Akademi besides the topmost awards for poetry and total literary contribution from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra. He has read his poetry and lectured at several festivals and bookfairs in over thirty countries in six continents and translated poetry from across the world. He has also edited dozens of books in Malayalam and English besides several journals. His latest books of poetry in English include While I Write (Harper-Collins), Misplaced Objects and Other Poems (Indian National Academy), The Missing Rib, Not Only the Oceans ( Poetrywala, Bombay), The Whispering Tree, No Borders for Me (both Hawakal, Kolakata) I am a Language ( Dhauli Books, Bhubaneshwar), Questions from the Dead ( CopperCoin, Delhi) and Singing in the Dark ( ed. with Nishi Chawla, Penguin-Random House, India). His selected essays on Indian literature, Positions was published by Niyogi Books, Delhi in 2020 and a collection of resistance writing, Words Matter edited and introduced by him came out from Penguin Random House in 2018. Greening the Earth, an international anthology of eco-poetry edited by him is due for publication from Penguin Random House in 2022. K. Satchidanandan is now the President of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.

Sudeep Sen’s [www.sudeepsen.org] is one of the leading international poets whose prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions), EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House), Kaifi Azmi: Poems | Nazms (Bloomsbury) and Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation (Pippa Rann, 2021-22 Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize winner). He has edited influential anthologies, including: The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), World English Poetry, Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians (Sahitya Akademi), and Converse: Contemporary English Poetry by Indians (Pippa Rann). Blue Nude: Ekphrasis & New Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) and The Whispering Anklets are forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell), and Name me a Word (Yale). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS, editor of Atlas, and currently the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Museo Camera. His professional photography is represented by ArtMbassy, Rome [http://www.artmbassy.com/artists.html]. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.” Sen is the first Asian honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival.

 

Keshab Sigdel, born in 1979 in Bardiya, Nepal, is the author of two poetry books, Samaya Bighatan (2007) and Colour of the Sun (2017). He has edited Madness: An Anthology of World Poetry (RedPanda Books, 2023) and An Anthology of Contemporary Nepali Poetry (digital volume, Big Bridge, 2016). His work of translation, Shades of Color (2021), is a collection of indigenous Nepali poetry published by Nepal Academy. He co-edited literary magazines Of Nepalese Clay and Rupantaran. He is also the editor of Poetry Planetariat, a magazine of poetry published by World Poetry Movement. He is the recipient of literary awards Bhanubhakta Gold Medal (Culture Ministry of Nepal, 2014) and Youth Year Moti Award for literature (National Youth Fund, 2018). Sigdel teaches Poetry and Cultural Studies at Tribhuvan University.

 

Born in 1997 in Parbat district of Nepal, Kuma Raj Subedi, is a bilingual Australian published poet and translator. He is also the recipient of The Best Poet of the Event Award in the International Nazrul Poetry Festival-2023, Bangladesh. ESL lecturer and an associate member of the Ethics Academy, Mr. Subedi, often writes about nature, female suffrage, memories, history and has been featured in international journals, magazines, anthology and reviews. The Colours of Spring is his anthology of collected poems.

 

Bhupen Thakker - Obsessed by the colour Light Blue / Winner of NSW Poetry Sprint/ Highly Commended CJ Dennis awards/Three-time State Finalist in Australian Poetry Slam/2016 Winner Australian Multilingual Slam/A blog post number 2 in the world/ Currently missing a tooth?/Performances at 2018 Sydney Biennale, Manly Art Gallery, Gosford Regional Gallery, South Coast Writers Centre, Damien Minton Gallery, Don Banks Museum, Word in Hand/Featured on ABC radio/Day Job International Finance/Novel “A New Gandhi, a New Monet and many others” emerging.

 

Priya Unnikrishnan, a writer from USA. She is originally from Kerala, India. Her poems have been published in many magazines, both in Malayalam and English.

 

 

 

MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.

All work © the authors.

 

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[1] In Sri Lankan folklore, the Indian Ocean is named as Mute Sea.