When we became forgetful
We cannot remember what gives us pause
On days which seem to never end.
To forget is to die once more
Through Moses’s Egypt to the Wuhan spectacle.
There is some comfort in knowing that scorching heat would kill it,
force its death in the stomach, maybe.
The newspapers also say that it wouldn’t survive in extreme cold
but that is only for the foreign born. Till then, we linger between
the passing of the hours and the silent streets—one day living into
Have you heard a parrot speak Urdu?
I have, in my friend Zahiruddin’s house.
A mynah talking in Hindi?
Even that, in my friend Nimai Singh’s house.
What about an ass reciting Sanskrit slokas?
Yes, very often in Agya Gokul Shashtri’s garden.
A cat speaking Bangla, meow meow, ki bolo ki bolo
A dog mouthing English
A goat conversing in Meiteilon?
Like the waiting to meet
The woman you’ve been burning for
Who had messaged saying she’ll come on her own
I also waited for many days
For those unknown gentlemen
Who told me they would come to shoot me.
They arrived one afternoon and
We met at last, face to face.
After having endured it all,
The heartbreak of parting
Chasing after one son in your dreams
Raising the other on your own
our kitchen taps are broken
and our dirt hides thick on tile lines and
unscrubbed bathroom walls
the laundry bag is full and if you peeped into
our sixteen year old washing machine
you’ll find clothes there
from the laundry attempt made by
eleven years old
Things being as they are
I carry my forehead in my pocket
If I leave it home some jerk might break in
And fuck with my forehead
So phone in one pocket, forehead in the other
My pants remain balanced
My forehead remains safe.
Tired was I because of the hectic college schedule.
Hadn’t had breakfast because the class test was too important to be missed.
Exhausted and burned out, I returned back to my room.
Pondering whether I still have enough energy to cook some food.
Also wondering whether it would be good to have some snacks at the nearby tea stall.
They appeared one fine day
These young men
And occupied every corner
Of our street.
They wear khaki of various shades
Some with stripes
And black boots.
The winding trail that makes a road
Follows me with its ghostly tremor
Of wintry dryness
Of fallen papery leaves
As the naked trees lift their arms
Up to the sky
A rapture of Indian classical dancers
Embracing their bare beauty
Even this birth reveals my weakness
Rainfalls reminiscent of monsoons of my previous birth
The wet earth lingers to seize my footprints
Footprints intend to take my stead
Even in this new birth, I am still myself
Recollecting river’s flow
we like waking up at strange places
that smell of burnt rice and yongchaak
we don’t find stars in our skies
and crawl our ways in loose stockings
in supermarkets where men-women-men hold hands
to pretend they’re not lonely
as if trying to learn to walk away from
the shadows of long days that we’d tucked into our sleeves
O land, my land!
Our first home, my first breath
Our first step, my first love
This day I am merely a seasonal visitor,
Though change in each air
Brings feelings of you in my skeletal bosom,
Today the winter fades
And I chronically sneeze into the next season,
the autumn breeze
came crawling into the valley,
writhing in music
that is haunting to some ears,
passed through every pore of the shekpin
stored in corners from past festivities,
darting from alley to alley
mangol to mangol
often bowing in front of the holy basil
often ignoring the pleas of the living
and non-living spirits.
but it said, light one more for mera
because the stars have vanished
above my brothers’ roofs,
choked by smoke from the new cities
and old mistakes made in rage.
it said, light one more for mera,
for when the fervent footsteps of chali
will rise with the hunter’s moon,
their tremors will reach the hills
taut at mid-day, blue at dusk,
promising the birth
of another star.
The blurred image on my phone (of my name on the NRC website)
Confirms I belong
To a state I have mostly only disliked
For its filth, cunning and cruelty
It has told me in ways
The slant of my eyes and the size of my body
And the way I roll my R, are all wrong
So are the smells that I carry in my bag back from home
A derelict train of pain and memory offloads us at January.
Something freezes birdsong at dawn and
We see only ashen arms of woodless trees. And
Even if you hum at it, January is not going to leave.
At the rear end of February
Yellow-coloured leaves at the passing of their stalk
Endure by clinging on to branches,
New leaves stick out their necks,
From branch to branch;
Eyes of shoots, eager to appear
Look on timidly.
I carry ticking minutes
in my bamboo basket.
~ for Linthoi
Ishaanou cannot trace
the wild etymology of her name.
The rags of faith come loose
from the ends of her phanek
in whispers of a language
she had once deciphered
with her rice-body.
‘The death of the sun
is the death of the shadow
I lost him
in so many
When Afzal refused to talk about violence
There was a hushed murmur of confusion,
A re-checking of notes.
Who is to play the other now?
An idea was expected to appear
Instead, here was a man, human.
(for all the women I met in the city)
we met in the city of flocking birds
our migrant hearts slung on slender shoulders
looking for a ground to stand and perhaps, speak.
In my one-windowed kitchen,
Two pots of rice sat
One of alloy and another of clay
With dry marigold garlands hung around their necks
They look like two deserted gods in an abandoned temple.
(Dedicated to the countless women killed on the suspicion of being witches)
Breaking the earth sprouts
That burning body
In the air, hangs a screech
Slowly, it fades into thousand screams