“The gun was there where he left it”: Three poems by Barnali Ray Shukla


I found your shadow on my left
right behind the door that wore

a window to my thoughts, opaque
to your world views, North Korea,

gluten and gun control, but closer
home, than our common yesterday.

I let me unpack, a backpack with
pockets deeper than memory—

unzipped, lighter than muslin
unworn, laced with denim drives

dusty with laughter, our footprints
on the fallen shadow which now

dances with the candle ambitious
to grow into a lantern, certain about

the light that shines on with fireflies
in the bottle that once housed

marmalade and a smuggled sun
in our very own backyard.


No man’s land

The gun was there where he left it, felt it
with his left foot, the right foot lay wrapped
in a cast like a secret — that wars are like

cigarettes you hide from children, parents,
only a lover can tell with a kiss about whiff
of smoke or gunfire, like she could tell each

time the story a night of strange lipstick on
his collar that you first hid but then wrote
a code with your fingertips on the cast on

your foot, this time she knew it was blood
not lipstick that you thought hurt her more
than shells, you were wrong—she knew

you lay longer with war then her, knew that
blood was not lipstick, you found your dreams
safe inside her but she sealed her lips of that

night as they opened the lips of her womb and
mowed the war in her — he felt the gun again
it was there where he left it—its loaded now.


No God’s land

See water catch fire, friends grow into strangers over
conversations that never happen. Few play with vitriol

others poke fun at stones, give them wings in
crossfires likes elves who fix it all over no man’s

land, sew contracts, win arms, lose limbs over
one kind of green fans strife, buys whims to

trend in a losing battle, new waters burn the
journal of unpaid history, a mosque lies where

was once a temple, some say, they say, we say
nothing, do nothing but wait for the waters to

burn, the tide to turn again

red again

to bury or burn gods.


Barnali Ray Shukla is a writer, filmmaker and poet. Her creative writing has featured in journals and anthologies including Indian Ruminations, Sunflower Collective, OutOfPrint, Kitaab.org, OUTCAST, Vayavya, Madras Courier, Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong),  and elsewhere.  She was the India-winner of the R L Poetry Award 2016 that resulted in her debut poetry volume, Apostrophe (2017). Her new poems feature in the Sahitya Akademi anthology of poetry by Younger Indians (2019).

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review:

“You must be proud of the scars”: Four poems by Cat Dixon

“I remember my brother’s sudden screams”: Three poems by Yvonne Morris

“Bones are not love-handles”: Four poems by Kuhu Joshi



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