Editor’s Choice



Give up everything!

My therapist tells me,


                                                     Give up everything!


I take off my gold,

money from my purse,

my books, my handloom

clothes that chafe against my skin ,

I spread them in front of him.

rainbow clothes, feathers , beads.

                                                          Take them all!

I pick up my paintings

with a pang; the bristle of brush

on canvas, the swish of

filbert, hog hair spike my skin,

goose-bump pinpricks

aroused with the metal smell

of cadmium red tubes.

Feel the squeeze,

wiggle out of an oil tube,

exposed, I remove  the frame

and shred my paintings with scissors :

                                                every shard bleeds.

I tear my words

inked lines worm

up my skin,  they crawl

against the mulch of

a childhood:

I lift and fly on a swing,

feel its inertia as I push

it high,  I has a strong 

will not to fall from the sky.


I mark

emotions with a charcoal.

I scribble, overwrite

with closed eyes,

right hand first and then left,

I want to hit my therapist

when he asks me to write a happy poem,

I feel letters slither down my spine,

word worlds whorl over

my discs, they are a whirlwind

they touch the G-spot of my spine,

carry me over  the top

over the green feel of the trees.

What are the colours you see?

his purple

   his dreadlocks,

 my obsession.

I swoosh down the swing

these falls are never swift.

My feet brake

on the ground raising

some dust.

It’s charcoal.

Your childhood ended:

tear it up,  says the therapist.

I tear up my art sheet

toe the mess I call life

feed it to fire.

Fire licks my art

with a hunger,

turning it to ash,

it flies in the sky

settles down

with the night

and my sighs

That night

I hide my ashes inside

my pillowcase.


With my Dog on Diwali


A constellation

spreads out its

sting-rays in the sky.

I listen to the crackers,

loud and muffled,

huddled in the corner.

My dog shivers,

pants and hangs

out his tongue,

I do the same,

I switch off all lights

to become darkness.

Last year, I combed

through the streets

buying a cracker here

and a diya there.

I lit a fire-hill

in the middle of a street ,

a Catherine’s wheel

swirled so fast I stepped

away from its bite.

I twirled a snake out

of the matchstick,

held Roman

candles like trophies.

I looked up from darkness

to watch silver streaks

illumine the sky.

This year, the sky broods down

to look at the silver lines on my hair.


Painting the Himalayas with an Art Therapist


My art therapist wants me

to go to Sri Chitra, stare at

Roerich for hours and hours.

I knock at my doors to cringe

in the corner of my dark heart,

count the cobwebs on its cornices.

                                                The Himalayas replicate me,

                                                rock, layers of ice, decay

                                                  in pastel pink, grey and turquoise.

I am the woman in the sea of

brown, wanting to dive into the deep

to meet the black gods often painted blue.

Svetoslav or Nicholas? I ask.

The one who painted the mountain, he says,

whose clouds are waves of mauve, yellow and green.

I once counted the blues of the sea,

Siva’s dreadlocks hid Ganga in its Prussian blue.

Ultramarine melted with lust in Krishna’s skin.

Lilac and Purple, Orange and Grey,

Yellow and Violet, Green and Blue,

Nicholas strung a colour wheel on the peaks.

I want the blue of Krishna, Rama and

Shiva, burnt umber of the Mediterranean

Christ and black kohl of Madonna of Czestochowa.

You listen to the musical salon of colours,

walk east and go into a shrine, forget your

desire by kneeling before peaks.

He asks me to forget my desire

like the Buddha, lick my wounds, tuck my tail

between my legs; disappear into the cliffs.

                                                      You need to paint your rainbow on the snow-

                                                       white peaks, you need  to gather colours from

                                                       the gallery, make them your own.

I listen to my art therapist, who asked

me to paint the Himalayas after killing

my lust. I walk to my pyre, light a flame,

lose myself, burn my body, watch it turn

into wafter-thin starch and carbon-hard ashes.

I disinter my bones to paint the peaks afresh.



*Sri Chitra Art Gallery in Trivandrum houses precious paintings of Svetoslav and Nicholas Roerich. The latter had painted the Himalayas in dreamy hues. My art therapist took me through a meditative journey of the Himalayas during my session, and during the sessions, he advised me to take a  residency in the mountain and paint the landscapes as much as desired.


Babitha Marina Justin is an academic, poet and artist. Her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in Taylor and Francis journals, Marshal Cavendish, The Yearbook (2020, 21, 22), Singing in the Dark (Penguin), EclecticaEsthetic ApostleJaggeryFulcrumThe ScriblerusTrampsetConstellationsIndian Literature,  etc. Her books are Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (Poetry, 2015), I Cook My Own Feast (Poetry, 2019), salt, pepper and silverlinings: celebrating our grandmothers (an anthology on grandmothers, 2019),  From Canons to Trauma (Essays, 2017), Forty Five Shades of Brown ( Poetrywala, 2023)

Post a Comment