The city is a fragment of itself - a small piece - sometimes in the circling of a church, sometimes in the headless mannequins that stare at tourists and sometimes in the ripening of a traffic signal. In this maddening landscape, " How must a poem be / to approximate the city? ". The poems you find here have one thing in common - an easiness of observation that allows them to approach the city from different streets. There is reluctance and trepidation and even joy in this journey "lit by the city's skinless sun".
Self-Portrait in Another Town
by Smriti Verma
Grandmother’s Funeral, 2011, Ranchi
We children never sat still for so long, wrapped in a blanket of orange flame.
Our mothers chased us until the food burned, the roohafza spilled, and the pandit
huffed. Dressed in starch, I pulled at the collar until it came loose, reminding me
of that last night in Delhi. Dew heavy with sweat, throat silent with the sweetness
of sugar. Your body – purple wrinkles, ribbons of colour and my veins pumping
blood while I served food to the guests. I ruined my bed with open eyes, hands
twitching at dawn. Souvenir house, memorial, land of quietness. My shore of
childhood forgetfulness. That summer, I caught three mangos, learned to make tea,
and wore my first dress. Cut to the end and we saw blankets of rain, salt, feet soiled
with dirt and cancer. I slept where you had slept, turned where you had turned,
closed my eyes to yours in the moonlight. Nestled in strange comforts, of returning
to days when mothers measured our heights against the porch door. This was
also an ease in a city of rain. Also exotic, no- also, the sizzle of water against
a parched heated tongue.
by Suhit Kelkar
I part with a coin
to dismiss you
from the traffic signal
before you prod awake
which I've chloroformed
for as long as I can recall
which on waking
can bestride the world.
The signal ripens
my taxi pulls over.
The palm of her hand
the earth's curvature.
I roll down the window;
I hold the horizon
and pick the setting
sun as alms.
The beggar woman
looks a little
like my lost love.
Getting Comprehensively Drunk After Four Years
by Ishan Sadwelkar
downtown Panaji calm neon slow cooked
white rum - vinegar - coconut winds
new mate from Melbourne teaches me how to drink
careful first pour throw past troubles into the creek
whisky - rocks - sea salt - soda - rum - gin - lager
do you even feni i ask being all polite
no let’s do shots
pedro who’s been too quiet now suddenly jumps
is there urak too yes of course thanks man
pour - pour
we down it and share mutual stares
holy **** this is amazing i need more
pour - pour
we down it and screams are heard all the way in Mapusa
screw you why didn’t i know of this before
soon we’re dancing outside with cats
everything’s extinct but we’re alive
coffee was is was my real alcohol you know I claim
**** no alcohol is your alcohol she says
soaked by the breeze we circle the church
swaying like two long free and independent skirts
is there any other place that still serves elixir
thus 3 a.m. we’re dancing on a karaoke floor
do you want more feni i ask being all polite
yes let’s do shots
francis at the bar does his thing and slaughters a lime
drink - drink
Panaji hugs Melbourne
holy fuck this is the best we should do this more
Words Never Tell
by Arathy Asok
Her mother gives her a photograph and a hundred and twenty postcards,
to write home,
a post card every week to be slipped into the red box
from the city to the village far away.
Words are a betrayal.
They do not speak of how the night was a goddess with a tongue trickling blood;
of how the trees whispered wind ink blue stars,
and the rustle of a drunken lamp ploughed sleepless nights.
The city lights in her oceanic dreams different from the hills, green skies.
It opens fishes gutted, with eyes glassed open and dreams too
how a child went looking behind open doors
for a grandmother left far behind in the village,
whose long hair she stretched into the lonely roads
lit by the city’s skinless sun.
The City and the Poem
by Madhav Ajjampur
How must a poem be
to approximate the city?
Must it – like the midtown mall – sprawl,
or like sore-stricken beggar crawl
in desperate search?
Must it – like the city bright – hold in it
ten thousand hives,
teeming with lives
both crooked and straight;
lives done and undone by fate?
Must it be sentenced by the sun,
delivered by the moon?
Must it genuflect – abject – before the gods,
in a myriad modes?
Must it with each pulsing breath
teeter between life and death?
Asweat – entrapped –
within vast webs
of greedy money,
fed by warm gunny
bags of blood
and mud and the dead,
lubricated by lies
more corrupt than dark-hearted caves,
the city burns,
yet never turns
So too, perhaps,
must a poem draw breath from the fires
of man – woman – human – unhuman desires.
by Vivekanand Selvaraj
Thabang passes me the just lit Dunhill in the cool Durban cicada night
The only damn thing I ever care to smoke, but brotha, you should definitely
taste the Kanonkop Kadette(Cape-blend) before you leave, he says,
feeding the cinder to darkness.
It rained in the afternoon, but now, the sea is silent. Upstairs in the hotel
lights have gone out in rooms, where souvenirs from Victoria Street
have packed themselves for a red-eye tonight.
When they enter your displays tomorrow —
the Ubuntu women staring into the savannah
the beaded ostrich egg brooding on your fortunes
the motor mouthed mask guarding your secrets
the bird on the roost frozen mid- safari
the un-heavy Trojan giraffe indifferent towards Lilliputs
—- nothing about them would suggest a relocation
from neighborhoods, where headless mannequins atop
apparel stores gaze at tourists, hunting for souvenirs
in cities too disturbed for sightseeing, accompanied
by gun-packing Zulu accountants.
No, they rather look like NRI kids holidaying in India.
Sad Demise - Bangalore, a eulogy
by Poornima Laxmeshwar
This city is a curious case of a failed family planning
Now that it's womb has outgrown the space
It has delivered and adopted faces in millions, growing every Nano second
In dingy corners, in shanties, in dark alleys, in IV Fertility clinics or any other place that can hide its umbilical cord still clinging to its originality
Where the garbage and dreams settle
Uncollected, piled like a stairway that will definitely lead to death if not heaven
The potholes carry the speculative skies in pieces as shattered as the dweller's wishes and the traffic lights are mere blinks of color coated lies playing a nasty game - True. False. True. False
This city is slow by a season. How? Look at the metro. Started when I conceived and now my little one is six years. The metro is still taking shape in phases. Challenging the pace of time with fingertips painted with corrupt mouths (never saying enough)
On one side you have Hutchins Road and on the other you showcase Goripalya the issues of the extremes and their co-existence for a fight of superiority
The spread of aromas of idli- vadas to kababs in the streets, the jasmines to filter coffees talk out loud of the bygones while the eagles and crows fly in circles playing catch with half discarded garbage lying in street corners besides temples, mosques and churches with neon crosses
The blind beggars near the Dargah, the kids playing cricket near the crematorium,
BMWs and Audis passing silently like they are in a maiyyat
You are everything I don't ever want to be
A heavy dream on an eyelash
A neon light in a pub
A toxic blended in the lake and frothing in a fit before death
A woman waiting near the dark signal
A manhole forgotten to be sealed
A code, a software, a startup
A thousand ways to die
Even before death comes licking its ears
Dip, Or Separate?
by Sonali Bhatia
Vishnu Sagar, early morning
After a walk at Wipro Park.
I wait for the cashier.
Idli-vada and tea.
He prints out the coupon.
I hand him exact change -
the cash box isn't open yet.
Idli-vada and tea
I tell the guy at the counter.
Dip or separate?
This is a crucial question.
Dip, or separate?
He waits, poised to serve you
depending on your answer.
Do you want the idli doused in sambhar
completely soaked, totally overwhelmed?
Steeped in the flavour
Or would you rather have it separate
and, a spoonful at a time
Flick the idli in the sambhar
to savour it bit by bit?
"Separate," I reply.
I like it that way.
The steaming idlis and
I prefer the sambhar-chutney
in separate bowls
So that I can break off bits and eat them
And how do you want to enjoy the city?
Do you want to take a bus to Majestic
at peak hour
Or would you rather go to the mall, in an Ola?
Do you want to go to PVR for a movie
Or read a poem at Let Poetry Be?
You can steep yourself in the city
Or savour it bit by bit
Like your idli-vada sambhar.
Let Poetry Be was founded in 2014 with a vision or, let us say, an innate desire to create a happy space for lovers of poetry to breathe, eat and read some poetry on the third Saturday of every month. Sheltered in Atta Galatta somewhere between politics and love, this community of poetry enthusiasts has hopefully grown over the years to become a safe space for poetry in an increasingly nebulous world.