Poetry in Our Time
Lying on the earth, the ears
close to the soil, he asked:
Is there the sound of water
In the depth of the earth?
He asked the trees:
Did the roots feel wetness somewhere?
He asked the sun:
Did the rays feel dampness, at all?
He asked the clouds:
Did you see the flow of water
While sinking into the earth as rain?
He asked those who woke up
after a sleep: Did you see wetness
in your dreams?
He asked the sea:
Did the waves touch the fountain-head?
He searched with the grapnel
of the mind for the wet heart of the earth.
Water is honey.
Life is a journey holding honey
In the hands. It spills.
Honey and poison are alike
If they spill on the ground.
Boring the well in loneliness
The darkness in the depths
He who descends into the deep well
Holding on to the rope of dreams
Wastes half his life in the well.
His dream and his agitations
Make the well.
When the spring-head is within view
He is driven away.
Those who slake their thirst
With drinking water
Do not remember the one who dug the well.
It is a memorial for the lord.
He who scorns the well-digger
Finds his well dried-up
The people desert him.
Oh God! save me.
My hands are unclean –
They are dry, no wetness in them
My dreams do not seek the fountain-head.
Make me truthful, above all.
Labour can be sold.
Water is not for sale.
If it is sold, Nature will resent.
Traveling with the Moon
In between the leaves festooned
At 50 km speed the moonlight
The bike stopped
The moon stopped
After filling fuel
The journey resumed
The trailing resumed.
Inside the bar
Inside the glass
In one gulp
You were staggering
Trying to keep
Pace with the bike
Was it to give me company
Or to see me fall ?
With different travelers
With different speeds, you
Run, walk, fly
Till the end of the world
I may stop for ever
With every birth
A new moonlight rises
With every departure
A moonlight sets
If on a rocket
I come towards you
Will you turn towards me
Or drift farther and farther
Away in to ‘Amavasi’*
*Amavasi – New Moon Day
For the crow,
Many different tunes.
Lie face downward
on the earth’s breast
The earth’s heartbeat.
Chanting the sun
Turn the ears to the sky
The sound of the first explosion
Shut the ear tightly
Like the sound of the sea in the conch
A roar within you.
In the silence
A roar that combines
When you start hearing it
You’ll become Nature
A devout let life be listening to it.
The Fading of the Hues
Where did the green hue
of the withered leaves disappear?
Where did the colour of yesterday’s sunset hide?
In the studio of God
Or in the gorgeous sari-clad paintings of Ravivarma1?
In the place where
the souls of the dead reside?
Like the transmigration
of the soul
Does the blue go to the sky
The green to the sea
And the red to the earth?
From the colour of the flower
which first bloomed on the earth
To the colour of the flower
That faded today
where have they disappeared?
O Green, that has clothed the whole earth green
O flowers, that have finely decked the earth
O blue sky, that has canopied the earth
Where do you come from?
O rainbow, that has come to the firmament
Like God appearing in the empty space,
I’ve seen you in my infancy;
Do you have with you the same yellow
which accompanied you then?
Has the same friendly colour
come with you today?
You and your colour
will indeed come tomorrow too.
When I’m reborn
Shall I come with you
As a colour?
Blue, green, yellow, orange, red
Any matching colour?
1A great classic painter of Kerala.
Santhan Haridasan is an Indian poet, essayist, translator and journalist living in Trivandrum, Kerala state. He won Kumaran Asan Award for Best Young Poets for his first collection of poems ‘While Riding on a Motorbike through rain’. He also won K.Ramachandran Poetry award for his work “The Blue Stream”. He has also published widely noted books ‘Yudhavum Mrithyunjayavum’ and ‘Suvaranachakorathinte Kadha’. He was awaded Sri Raveendra Nathan Nair Smaraka Award for his series of essays on his experience with cancer patients at Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, where he is working as a Technical officer in the Radiation Department.
Journeys that Trains Take
I take this train every morning
leaving scores of people behind
on the bustling train station.
This seat by the window
waits for me like an eager wife
and aligns itself to my need for comfort.
The usual folk are always there
sitting by me, across from me, above and below.
My grandma’s mom, her copper coat cat
whose little kitten I had killed back then,
the English reader from the brown satchel
that went to kindergarten with me, Tina,
the yellow sunflowers from van Gogh’s painting
Bachchan, my father’s wooden sandals,
his Sanskrit chants and some blue-green marbles,
a pair of eyes that multiplies by its squares,
Lear, Shylock, Desdemona, Anna and Heathcliff,
the cherries on my birthday dress, stolen cigarette butts,
the birds on my pencil, the silver moon,
the college president who confessed her love to me,
the black dog I secretly got drunk on Mahua,
dried roses, Christ on the cross, the smell of kerosene,
blood smeared bloomers, orange candy,
the blue report card saying, ‘Can do better,’
dental floss, Sita, crayons and bright pink rubber bands,
lips that had kissed my six-year-old breasts,
the white metal peacocks on the mantelpiece,
a newspaper headline of Indira Gandhi’s murder,
the transistor, Burnol, a steel ruler, Cinderella,
butterflies, apples, Kabuliwala, a broken tooth and snakes,
iodine-stained bandage, Krishna, seashells,
cones from the forest bed, mom’s poetry
my dismembered one-eyed doll,
a grey raven feather, Chacha Chowdhary,
the ten-headed demon burning in the twilight,
leeches and the neighbour’s servant
who dragged me under the bed and stuffed my mouth
with something that tasted metallic and salty.
He had tickled me till I cried.
Also, the maggot infested chocolate.
There’s chatter and tears, giggles and sighs
every day as I take this journey.
I knit our conversations into patterns and cables,
wear them and un-wear them a dozen times
while I go and not go from my home to yours.
And then you tell me, I am not yours enough.
The Holy Grail
Do you talk of peace?
The Holy Grail in eternal flight!
I see it in the haloed sky in Gaza
lighting up its horizons in the middle of night.
I see it dance across the ribs
playing hopscotch with dazed children
in the parched fields of erstwhile glory.
I see it perched on mountain passes
with a solitary eagle ready to swoop
into the valley with the first gunshot.
I hear its song in anthems of pride
blaring though public address systems.
I hear it in the gurgling of a farmer’s belly—
the music that rocks governments’ dance floors.
I smell it in putrid wounds of history
sanitised for visitors in museums and memorials;
gas that leaks out of chambers
into dreams on plush couches.
I taste it on the nipples of my estranged spouse
like rancid milk.
I hold it tight in ever empty hands
and keep it safe like dynamite on my tongue.
The Holy Grail seeks no quest—
it seduces in its sparkling absence.
She hangs upside down by the giant oak
swinging with the wind, singing
songs of confused notes, a discordant harp;
too many fingers have played her,
dipped into her and drawn her out.
She has walked the streets and the open fields
in sweltering times;
she has washed down cinders
with home brewed spirit
every time her core burnt with rejection
to keep her feet going, to reach
this giant oak torn by lightning
the last time her sister sang her own song.
On a night such as this
when the butter paper moon
burns like molten gold,
she likes to swing like a broken lute
abandoned, forsaken and forgotten,
free to sing the song she loves the most,
away from all schools of music,
outside the walls of the city—
the song that scares the passersby
but fills her heart with laughter.
It’s fun to hang against gravity
and see the stars kiss her feet.
Ah! For a moment of gay abandon
in the company of leaves
that rustle their own myths.
Some decisions are impossible to make,
Abortion, for example—
killing what you have created,
dying in the moment when life
seeks to live through you,
muffling a past and a future
to let an empty present sing.
Gaping darkness framed by scarlet lips
of the opera singer
smiling to wipe out evidence
of the handful of mass that was flushed
down the drain in a nondescript hospital.
The body that bleeds on
in mournful memory of what it has killed
can be plugged with tampons
and justifications of God’s will.
And of course, the sanity of the decision.
It’s a const
saving my wares from the monster.
Locking the door each minute
keeping the windows curtained
plugging the gaps and chimneys
sealing away the water pipes
putting out all lights
like we did during the war
and then sitting up
all night to catch the slightest sound.
There’s always a storm threatening
to blow away the roof above
to shatter window panes
to surprise silence
to drench the warmth.
And it’s never easy to keep my wares
safe from themselves when
they turn self-cannibalistic
loving, hating, creating and destroying
all that they have been,
sitting here in their little worlds
atop the mantelpiece, inside the drawers
under the table…beside the heart.
It’s always a battle
I have not been able to
touch base with the corruption
In the meanwhile, I spend time
loaning my thoughts to trivia
and body to the grind.
I scout the hills in search of oceans
and return to my hovel
in search of nights full of dreams.
I recce faces in search of people
who left conversations mid-sentence.
I feel the scurs on my head,
my back and my knees
grinning in complete embarrassment.
There’s impotent poison
waiting in the studio pottery mugs
tempered with green tea in the living room.
Counterfeit perfume screaming foul
in my armpits and on my temples,
I conceal darkness in shades of light
before I lend my face to a smile.
Between the goings-on
of sin and salvation
I eat a cookie I haven’t paid for
and rinse my mouth
with a swirl of holy water.
Come sleep in my bed
and feel this Christmas tree
before it burns in the inferno
and leaves you to taste ice.
Kamayani is an Associate Professor who teaches English at the Government College in Shimla. Her first book, Dioramas of Girlhood: The Faerie Recast, published in 2016 is a critical reading of contemporary retellings of the European fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, applying the gender lens. Her first collection of poems, The Witch Must Die and Other Poems was published in 2020 and offers the first flavor of her poetic expression. The Recipe for Ladyfinger Pickle, published in 2022 is her second collection of poems and stands testimony to the evolution of her poetic sensibility.
I wish you were a man,
Shredding me with your judgement,
Spreading me in angles of only imaginary thoughts,
Dousing my spirit with your muscle strength,
Addressing me as your problematic support,
Alluring me with gift and vacation to cheat behind my back,
Probing me with those roving eyes to deliver the best solutions in best business,
Being the rocking spirit of the house who dares to dare and delivers the best,
I hope one day you will be an equal,
You, a complicated disillusioned woman!
Those were your words,
I left it in your closet,
maybe you will need it when I am gone!!
Delay the flow of meaty words,
Fill the pregnant pause,
Define the silence in our relationship,
Like silver cutlery lying in the cupboard,
That is conversation too!
Your love letter in a faded yellow shade,
Still lies inside the cupboard,
Conversing with me on mundane home affairs,
Pining to meet in silence of future tenses,
I touched it many a times,
the old arm chair,
Its heart broken, carrying weight of our bodies,
Pillow cover on the high heeled teak-wood bed,
That hide our thighs from our children sleeping on floor,
That was a conversation too!
LP records playing our best Hindi film songs,
Old diaries and letters in that cotton bag,
That was a conversation too!
Folded the cry, folded the palms,
Kept under the pillows,
The ten rupees, a plain pleasure of a treasure trove,
Release from the senseless cacophony of tender limbs,
Dearly devils of school deadlines,
Dusted rupees under the matted old newspaper piles,
Stripped red cotton towel on the iron wire between the bamboo poles,
Open sky and knitted Charpoi with the round pillow,
Hush-hush sweet nothings that round off post midnight,
Candle light study hours and sweaty nighties in blacked out evenings,
The trunks full of baby clothes, handed between elder cousins,
Melting ice sneaked out of cold drink boxes in between the afternoon nap,
lullabies sung by mom and dad in their absence,
Days of dubious happiness, and obvious nonsense,
Stood still when you left me an orphan.
Kasturika Mishra belongs to Odisha and the beach town of Puri and is a trained classical singer. She has also trained in Odissi and gazal style of singing. She worked as a senior cataloging Librarian at the US Embassy New Delhi for twenty years.
She writes and recites her poetry in English, Oriya, Hindi and Urdu mostly on social media especially Facebook and has performed live sessions on almost all leading English, Hindi and Urdu literary platforms and festivals. she was featured in Amar Ujala Cafe, 2021, Orange City Literature Festival, 2021, 2022, Koshala literature festival, 2022, Global Literature Festival, 2022, Marwah Studio, Ahmedabad Literature Festival, 2022. She has been part of the Kalinga Literary Festival advisory team for many years now and curated the poetry sessions.
She is empanelled as book reviewer for The book review.
She has adopted a baby girl fifteen years back from an adivasi region of Odisha and is a unmarried single mom along with her childhood friend minati mishra and has been advocating adoption since she adopted one child.