The following poetry selections have been curated by Tuhin Bhowal , Poetry Editor of Bengaluru Review.
Three poems by Kunjana Parashar
When I got my act together,
the actors went on strike.
I offered them 8 AM sunlight,
antioxidants from walnuts,
and plenty of leafy greens.
But they just hovered at
the boundary of the house,
threatening to leap to
the other side like horses.
I begged I will give you anything–
plants, poems, guided meditations.
All I could hear was a neighing.
A slow plodding of feet like hooves
In the 1990s, diclofenac was used to treat cattle diseases. Many
vultures started dropping dead after feeding on the medicated carcasses:
Gyps bengalensis, G. Indicus & G. Tenuirostris: they took a hit so badly,
that later, the Parsis planned to build vulture-aviaries for the traditional
departure of their dead. I was born in that decade–somewhere around
the confirmed end of Javan tigers. Since my birth, there are others who
have gone extinct–birds, civets, rhinos. And yet, countless anurans hide
in the Western ghats. Turn this shola, peatland, lateritic plateau–and you will
find a species still willing to live, shy only of the blessed grace of taxonomy.
When my mother asks how I want to celebrate my birthday this year,
I say quietly.
Published in SWWIM Every Day
A Poem about Rain
Even the rain does not spare my mother. It is
the middle of October and the lightning makes all
the fig trees look like a ghastly white. Mother rushes
to rescue her almost dry laundry from the clothesline
with the same panic with which she watched my sister
once slip in the waters of Godavari where teen boys
swam like fishes. She was saved – but the clothes are
wet again. Someone once told me that you mustn’t write
a poem that is too aware of itself, of its intentions.
But I always know it is going to be about my mother
even if it might disguise itself in odes to corvids
or horses. I do not mean for her to be my golden scarab
but she permeates everything. She is everywhere.
Published in What are Birds?
Kunjana Parashar lives in Mumbai. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, MORIA, 45th Parallel, Columba, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @wolfwasp.
Three poems by Vismai Rao
Shopping for Exit Holes
We are sauntering through a sixty-page catalogue
of wooden doors: flush, frame & panel, sheesham, teak— at page eighteen
I don’t want to do this anymore. There’s a village in South India
where there are no front doors— it was on BBC— neighbors
simply walk in, walk out. No doorbells rung. No knock-knock jokes.
Nothing to demarcate the inside
from outside. I have dog-eared pages six and ten. You reject them saying
not welcoming enough. And I am shocked—
that doors could mean more than a means
to exit. In cartoons, characters didn’t need doors to leave rooms.
They simply bolted through walls leaving behind
shocked holes. Listen, I’m tired of rectangles,
frosted glass, rosewood.
Of porches, wrought iron fencing, false ceilings. Let’s carve out our outlines
into these walls— let’s hatch
into outside from inside the borderlines of our shapes.
Previously published in Indianapolis Review, Issue 6 (Fall 2018)
(Nominated for Pushcart Prize)
The colors of dawn sputter in sky’s Teflon skillet,
sun’s yolk, a bright acrylic spilt across
the horizon. Avian trills erupt
like bubble wrap bursting, morning swallows
boomerang against polybag clouds—
In Chennai a 450-year banyan tree meets
its match in an empty Coke bottle. Locals
place incense & camphor beneath its trunk:
Holy tree! You who have seen more sunsets
than any of us—
A menagerie of made things obscures
the vanishing point, creations outlasting
creators, who in the end
inherits the earth?
A boy snips a tiny triangle off a milk packet:
a glass of calcium for his bones while
for miles & miles an ocean hums itself
awake— a galaxy of glittering triangles
the sky mistakes for dragonflies—
Previously published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry [Poets Resist], January 2020
The instructor points out the weight-bearing joints of my body
on the map of his body: hips, knees, ankles and I’m thinking of how we sail
our dead on shoulders. Through the penultimate lap—
And how lugging a thing on shoulders gives weight
a whole different aspect. Think of Atlas
for eternity shouldering a big ball of heaven
as punishment— must forewarn us a little of
The instructor now shows how to do hamstring curls
which will do my one bad knee good— I am gasping
for a stronger spine to spread even
the weight of my living. I need to turn my rigid arms
think olive branch, paper crane, the pit of my stomach
to freshwater lagoon. I need to melt the iron of my veins—
forge bridges, steamships as I wait
for this body to buckle to perfection
I need to be light as plum petals, light as moonbeam
on the valley of your shoulders.
Previously published in Indianapolis Review, Issue 6 (Fall 2018)
Vismai Rao's poems appear or are forthcoming in Salamander, Indianapolis Review, RHINO, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rust+Moth, The Shore, Parentheses Journal, & elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Orison Anthology. She lives in India.
Three poems by Madhura Banerjee
from 'Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing', Dhauli Books (2019)
Life's Little Detachments
We must celebrate life's little detachments,
even when they weren't ours to have
The chrysanthemums peeking into the café window
after you missed the bus to college
The third cup of elaichi tea
that shall reflect its moist earth perfection
in the broken shards of your allowance
Getting stranded on College Street in the rain,
makeshift tarpaulins fastened to walls of old books,
watching the earthen cup of monsoon spill over the roofs of trams,
through windows made of Nietzsche and Shakti Chattopadhyay
The hairclips of the sequinned sun
strewn over an old park bench in Maidan,
where Time relaxed its tight plaits, and threw its dew-stained forehead
over the horse carriages and colonial statues,
the hidden breeze of midday freedom and frangipanis in its hair
I remember dressing up for school,
the weight of Christina Rosetti and unsolved fractions on my shoulders,
Lenin Sarani whirling in a watercolour mess before my plus two powered glasses,
as I was turned away from the gate -
I remember leaping cautiously over puddles,
unsure of what to do with this sudden chaos in the name of Rainy Day -
I now jump ankle-deep into the pools of unfinished childhood
every time the fractions of maturity rattle too loudly on my back
We must celebrate life's little detachments
especially when they weren't ours to have
The Gangulys’ Gardens
A pair of window shutters, coloured
a shade of mint so whimsical that
it never dipped its toe in the pools of reason,
too detached from the ripples of time
to fall prey to its ruins.
A verandah coloured a silky lavender,
slung like a scarf over the naked body
of bricks and skinned concrete flesh;
The red sun over Purbachal lifts its saree pleats
and walks barefoot into the broken doorways
Lives exist in room-shaped shards, tiny fractions
buried within the peeling paint
and fading political campaign posters -
A blistered neighbourhood, where homes are wounds,
and wounds are refugees on the cement skin
Everywhere, there are loose pages of lives -
slipping behind lamp posts,
hammering through walls in silent alleys,
playing the radio in tea shacks at night,
scattered from the book describing the soil of Bengal
And borders do exist, as resilient as half a century -
Walls, collecting fallen mangoes from both gardens,
Walls, with dhotis and blouses laid out to dry,
Walls, where they rest their elbows
and share stories from either side
When did the boats arrive, all those years ago?
Must have been the final hours of sunset, like this
The traffic turns from the docks of history
Crimson waves wash up against the Bypass,
stained with the memory of the Ichhamati river.
For Anusmita's memory of Ganguly Bagan,
and other refugee colonies in South Calcutta
In the afternoon, upon the Dal Lake,
the world beholds Kashmir twice in one frame
Lyrics are strewn, like fallen chinar
over the surface, crying for lost families
who now bear fruit in foreign trees,
their leaves rustling with broken stanzas
Upon the Jhelum, the uncertainty
of waves are knit by clouds and poplars
into the stillness of faith
Children grow up around
this partitioned line of blood
Lullabies hummed on one bank
echo, through the trees, in the other
Friends find themselves on two sides of the river,
one, a reflection of the other
In Srinagar, I asked, if it scared them
to have shops and post offices on water
They told me how, one day, a traveller
looked over the ghats at dawn,
and found a mosque and a temple
between the oars of a shikhara
His eyes later found the mountains
from where they cast their reflections
And so, they said, before the upside-down world
pushed valleys between the azaan and the kirtan,
and tore the sky in two,
if he could find god first amidst the water,
who in the world could fear it?
In the Ganges, when we lay our deities down,
does the paint wear off in the colour of blood?
And the pale faces of mountains at dawn -
Who are these lost brothers I see?
Madhura Banerjee released her first book, 'A Tenant of the World', at age 21, and her second book was published in 2019 by Dhauli Books. She is a contributing children's fiction writer for 'Telekids', the children's supplement of the national newspaper, The Telegraph. She also wrote freelance columns on science and technology in the same paper. Her work on science was also recently featured as part of the Scholastic Yearbook 2020, published by Scholastic India. She has narrated her poetry and travel prose on All India Radio multiple times. At age 23, she delivered her first TEDx talk at IIEST Shibpur. She also serves as the Creative Writing mentor for UN-certified educational platform, The Climber - MyCaptain Program.