23 July 2017

where is a poem?

I always thought a poem was in
the thick gold of afternoon sun

and how it fell briefly upon the world 

like a passing lover

I thought you could find a poem 
if you travelled outwards

or looked at the world
in the right

But recently I am coming 
to the conclusion that a poem
is a sturdy thing
it can survive all kinds of light

I think it lives 

in the fleshy heart of my mouth

10 July 2017

the usual

the scent of you lingers on my skin for hours
after you leave. I have lain in bed with you so long
it feels like I am still there.

it is all about comfort, you assured me,
and we laughed a golden laughter
in a new room.

I am trying to write poetry that is wild
but well-contained, sharpened like a weapon,
extra metal all peeled off the sides
and scrubbed so well
I can see blue skies
reflected in silver.

love and poetry always find their place
on my tongue at the same time.

29 June 2017

Rain Time

These days, the only measure
of time
is between when the rain stops
and starts again. My ear is always
waiting, it seems, for the murmur
of drizzle on mango leaves outside
my window, or the incessant gunshots
of hard rain thundering on the roof.

In the garden, the roses try not to drown.
The wind rushes through the bougainvillea,
the bottlebrush, the amaltas, the mango trees.
Plants fly off our terrace. The rain hits our house
like a war, and I cannot hear my parents talk.

The days are long and empty, and I never
wear a watch. Darkness gathers in all rooms.
A limp light fills and empties the house
as and when it wants. There is no measure
and no reason to measure, time collects
at the bottom of shallow pools on the road
and makes no demands. Time is off on
summer vacation, on monsoon break.

A strange freedom lines the air.
Sometimes the sun emerges suddenly
and everything outside becomes
muddy and gold

13 June 2017


It is strange to know that my grandmother
is still dead
even after all this time — just because
she died then. Like it is strange to know
that I will always
be woman
just because I am one.

It is not like I can imagine it any other way.

Yet sometimes it is hard to accept that this
is unending — this skin that is mined for meaning
until I am ready to shed it and hand it over
to the next man who looks.

If there is a wish, let it be this:
if I must be woman, let me
at least
be defiant.

Let me stand on the streets 
like a man — not graceless,
but with a swagger to

shake nations.

20 May 2017

Delicate Day

All of a sudden I am made aware

of how people open up to each other
only in rawness, how every word is a flower
offered to the other. Today, we work hard

to hold the spaces between ourselves
delicately. Most of the things we say to each other
are not held down by words. Words are dangerous, we realise,

each sentence left half-broken and incomplete while we watch
each other think. It is a long and hard thing, to be human,
to want to know the world, to want to know each other.

But words are also lovely, delicate in so many ways: we lie
on a bed full of sun and read poetry to each other
in wonder. The words wash us open and leave us aching,
new dreams dripping down our spines like dew. It is not
about knowing anymore. We let the afternoon envelope us.

The world seems well-scrubbed, almost new.

Context and meaning has vanished: so we must then
understand everything again, start right from the ground.
The self is fading, a strange figure at the horizon, hard to
recognise today. Other things have become more tangible:
the electricity between us three, the talking without words,
or the giant clouds propped up against sky. Beauty suddenly

has become so real. In a corner of S's room, the plant gestures
to me in such deep intimacy I almost want to weep.
The moss in the AC vents waves to me gently.

The next day it feels as though nothing happened,
as though these lessons are hard earned and once is
not enough. I must climb these mountains many times
must re-remember
again and again
how lovely and soft the world is.

7 May 2017

a quickie

as always, I write only
in desperate times.

when my literature teacher asks us
with a smirk - do you miss me
when I am not here? the right
answer (we learn partly) is that
we miss her even when she is
here. we miss each other all the time.

not in a purple or hazy or sentimental way,
although that too. she means it about words
and angles and reflections, how we look
to each other like flowers aching for sun,
but find nothing. no solace, no meaning.

another literature teacher from the past
was kinder. but she too told me, face
lined with compassion - no two people
are ever having the same conversation.
so i wonder - do we all always
just bounce off each other
like badly angled lighting
on a strange stage?

oh, words, words, words.
we hit and we miss, and hit again.
I give up trying to make sense
of conversations, and let my essay
breathe like a fresh puddle in rain,
all muddied and muddy. we are not
reaching anywhere today. nor tomorrow.

1 April 2017


After J. Estanislao Lopez

“All you can offer anyone suffering in the world is a sentence,
which is more often than not not enough” — of course, of course
this is true, but still it wrenches my gut every time, a rusted punch
right where it hurts. My mind is a strange ocean, and the more I learn
the deeper I swim. Language is the deep blue water I travel in:
there is no way of escaping it. This much I have learnt. My debts
to the world shall be paid in an economy of words, with sentences
I will build like monuments. It is all I have to my name, to my self.
The words create whole landscapes, and it is where I always return
to search for that most elusive dream in a human life: meaning.
The words are all I have to understand my small body and this
vast world, they are all I can offer to the small gods in prayer.
I want the words I write to be the shining lights of a harbour
for a stranger’s faltering boat, I want the words to carry me, to
save a drowning lover. The sentences I carve should be some kind
of solace, should be lamps of comfort for somebody, somewhere.
I have nothing else to give of myself but these strings of words.
O poet, do not tell me about my predestined failure in your words
sharpened like swords, do not reveal my helplessness to me
in the very language of my hope.