"Nothing has changed within / the doors, where hunger / prowls, fights, fails.": Three Poems by Jose Varghese

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"Nothing has changed within / the doors, where hunger / prowls, fights, fails.": Three Poems by Jose Varghese

Poetry by Jose Varghese

This feature appears in the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators x Bengaluru Review Special Issue: Step Outside the Frame, September 2020.

Migrants Go Back as the Cities Burn

From places that denied them homes, people who fixed them
to invisible roles, buildings that squeezed their essence out,
fancy mansions and safe offices that kept them waiting outside,
and rules that erased their existence from all visible documents

With meagre possessions heavier than the skyscrapers they built
balanced on their heads, food to be split wisely among themselves
or with others whose needs were always greater, drained eyes,
bloodied feet, set on the winding lonely miles that take them back

To where they never belonged, to siblings turned to rivals in their
own fights to exist, homes that had survived shame and starvation
with their sweat-stained savings and blissful absence, folks who see
them as claimants, of spaces of refuge that were never to be theirs

In their endless search to find peace in eyes that smile in validation
of futile sacrifices, before they vanish, sucked in by clouds of dust.

***

People of Power, in Crises

Windows closed to streets
of downed shutters in
quiet mourning.

Those who needed it so once,
all noise muted, don’t care
enough to admire it.

Lives hidden from the public
for fear of rude invasions
are still insecure.

Nothing has changed within
the doors, where hunger
prowls, fights, fails.

You turn off your conscience
to sign documents that
kill what flickers.

***

Angels Wait on Victims

My angels shed some feathers in their zestful
Icarus skits. Burnt wax drip down and fall
on my face. Dream-waves fail to hold them
as they melt under my heat. Tears wet the flakes

that refuse to settle down. The smallest, cutest,
moth-eaten angel sits by my bed, its eyes close
to my lips. It counts my failed attempts at a
sensible smile in deep sleep. Chided by mother,

it stops acting stupid, learns to jump high and
float a few seconds before the inevitable fall.
They have all grown fat, sitting idly on my table,
atop cupboards, lying down next to me.

They wait for me to open my eyes, to look at
what is left of life. They wait, scratching hopes.

***

Jose Varghese is a writer and translator from India, working as an English teacher in Jazan Unversity, Saudi Arabia. He edits two international literary journals and is working on his first novel.He is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ and his short story manuscript ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the Beverly Prize. His second collection of poems is scheduled for publication by the Black Spring Press group, UK, in 2021. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in The Best Asian Short Story Anthology, Dreich Magazine, Meridian: The APWT Drunken Boat Anthology of New Writing, and elsewhere.

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