Poetry | ‘Anuvaad’ by Sanket Mhatre | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Anuvaad

Translation happens when two languages make fervent love
on the creaky charpoy of literature
It doesn’t commence on the pure whites of serene pages
But in musty rooms on dusty bedsheets, rented by the hour
Creased with years of isolated destinies and skin coloured cravings
Languages undress text and strip semantics
Unbutton sentences and unzip grammar, like hungry lovers
They reveal their naked selves
In the never-ending gaze of two mirrored silences
sizing their own infinite possibilities
Then,
one language climbs atop another in a feverish, teenage frenzy
As if to make love
Instead, they trace one on the other
with chalk like hands on the slate of their chests
celebrating the akshar and the alphabet
the shabd and the word
Redefining the age-old alchemy, not known to any linguist yet
They giggle, knowing they were born from the same birdsong
One language yields
Her letters part to reveal their honey warmth
And the other language penetrates,
Infusing the scent of fresh earth of the land it came from
Translation happens when languages give each other
the solace of their rhythm
When they impart not just their syntax but their faces
When they both experience a unified star burst
of uncaptured meanings
They lie after this maddening rush
Legs intertwined in the mesh of satiated phrases
Whispering softly the million ways, in which
they could keep translating each other
not knowing when language took the surname Bhasha
and translation transformed into an Anu‘vaad’
so they could argue and enjoy this beatific makeup sex, repeatedly
Until a new dictionary is born each year,
in remembrance.


Sanket Mhatre was the chief assistant director of Kavyotsav 2001: the first bilingual poetry reading festival of Marathi and Kannada poets. He has held several poetry reading sessions across the country. He performed at Kavyahotra 2018, the 72-hour poetry reading festival in Goa with 9 poets from other languages. Widely published, he has also been the first Marathi poet to read at Vagdevi Litfest & Jaipur Literature Festival in 2020. He’s also the creator & founder of Kavita Cafe: A Youtube Channel that captures the best of Indian Poets in recitation. 

Poetry | ‘Reincarnatic Rage’ by Amit Majmudar | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Reincarnatic Raga

    Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
    What are the names that I’ve been called?
    Emmet, Ahmet, Ahmad, Amos—
    Amit by any other name is
    Oblivion redivivus, né Oblivion.
    Rebirth ain’t much, but it’s a living.
    Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
    Show me the bodies you recall….

A hazeleyed Chickasaw humming Brahms while spitshining his hatchet,
Hybrid highbred Injun even then:
                                                      Identity a polyhedral
A black boxer whom Tommies a world & a war away named artillery shells for:
                                                      Identity under construction now but someday my cathedral
Aurungzeb’s easygoing Sufi brother, translating into Farsi
The Isha Upanishad out of ishq:
                                                      Identity the selfhell’s watchdog Cerberus-cerebral
A five-foot pigtailed indestructible Cantonese laborer
Perforating the Sierra Nevada with staccato headbutts:
                                                      Identity that puts the hole in wholly writ
A Jesuit worrying his crucifix while Cabeza de Vaca trotted on ahead:
                                                      Identity the problem that I have a problem with
A Kilkenny clergyman on neither the Cuyahoga nor the Nore, his gaze
In a blue flux between fleabane and wild phlox:
                                                      Identity knit unknit reknit to naught
A mongrel whelped by a minor Mongol in entourage of Hulagu:
                                                      Identity a net in which only the water is caught
Goethe, for love of Shakuntala, dancing with his shoe on his head:
                                                      Identity branding its numbers on the forearm of this river
A Norman fiddler in a forest north of New York
Teaching the eager Onondaga gigues and gavottes:
                                                      Identity kaleidoscopic improvising patterns out of inner slivers
A movie producer, born a Belorussian Jew,
Who gave Kansas a wheatblond mythology of Kansas:
                                                      Identity a simulacrum crumbling into something real
These are my forebears, né, my forebirths, my ten avatars, atavisms all
                                                      Identity this sentence I cannot appeal
Throat-singing this twelve-tone hip-hop calypso qawwal:
                                                      Identity this holographic hollow that I step inside to feel


Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist. Majmudar’s latest books are Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary (Knopf/Penguin Random House India, 2018) and the mythological novel Sitayana (Penguin Random House India, 2019). His fourth poetry collection is forthcoming in the United States, What He Did in Solitary (Knopf, 2020). His novel Partitions (Holt/Metropolitan, 2011) was shortlisted for the HWA/Goldsboro Crown Prize for Historical Fiction and was named Best Debut Fiction of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and his second novel, The Abundance (Holt/Metropolitan, 2013), was selected for the Choose to Read Ohio Program.

His poetry has appeared in The Best of the Best American Poetry 25th Anniversary Edition, numerous Best American Poetry anthologies, as well as the Norton Introduction to LiteratureThe New Yorker, and Poetry; his prose has appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2017The Best American Essays 2018, and the New York Times. His first poetry collection, 0′,0′, was shortlisted for the Norma Farber Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and his second collection, Heaven and Earth, won the Donald Justice Award. He also edited an anthology of political poetry, Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf, 2017). Winner of the Anne Halley Prize and the Pushcart Prize, he served as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. He practices diagnostic and nuclear radiology full-time in Westerville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, twin sons, and daughter.

Poetry | ‘Round Rotis’ by Rachna Sethi | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Round rotis

She struggled to make
her rotis round.
Round like the supermoon
that excited both the astronomer
and the lover,
round like the pizza
that is confusedly packed
in a square box.

After Sisyphean struggles
with round rotis,
she turned to paranthas
that can metamorphize into
squares or triangles.
They face no pressure
to inflate like balloons, or egos.

Size zero roti
with glowing complexion, 
is forgotten when she serves
the stuffed parantha
Noone body shames it
or taunts its duskiness.
He asked for achar,
the parantha blushed with butter.


Rachna Sethi is Assistant Professor of English at Rajdhani College, University of Delhi. As an Associate at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she pursued research on urban narratives of Delhi. She has edited with A.L.Khanna Dialogues: English Studies in India (Aakar Books, Delhi, 2020). She is on the Editorial Board of Fortell Journal and has edited several issues of the same.

Poetry | ‘Odd Hour Woman’ & ‘Rehab’ by Kankana Basu | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Odd Hour Woman

Between the crevice
of mid morning
and the pressing weight
of noon
I shall gently place
my languor

Between the white noise
of a bustling city
and the voices
in my head,
I shall quietly balance
fragile silences

On the shivering cusp
of tea-time
and post-tea soliloquy,
I shall drop,
delicately,
a sliver of angst

Amidst the swiftly fading
shards of light,
I shall sit back
and contemplate,
in a leisurely manner,
the nature
of nothingness

Between the fall of dusk
and the meditative eruption
of stars
I shall try
and sneak a sip
of forbidden elixirs

 


Rehab

 

Shingled beach sloping down
to still waters, pewter coloured,
and a leaden sky
that promises nothing,
absolutely nothing.
Corkscrew memory
that turns constantly upon itself,
that persisting sense of familiarity,
I’ve been here before.

No bird song, no delicious prick
of pretty sea-shells underfoot,
strange sort of geography, this,
belonging neither here nor there.
Squint around for a better look
the light is of a silver-gray variety,
you will notice,
it spells neither morning nor dusk
I have a hunch, just a ghost of a hunch
I’ve visited this nameless land before.

Skeletal branches of dead mangroves
creep out of the waterscape stealthily
gliding closer with swift malevolence
Beware, beware.
I must row my canoe gently
weaving my way between them
they are carnivorous, I’m told
and can eat one whole and alive.
The horizon has disappeared suddenly,
merging into my private seas
I must be careful
there is always the fear
of toppling off the globe
if one rows too fast,
or too far

Who says I’m drifting down
turbulent uncharted waters?
I’m no adventurer.
There are a few figures
crouched and hooded
offering things from the banks,
pills, I think, in their gnarled palms,
candy, toffee, marshmallows
they whisper hoarsely
or boiled sweets?
Nah, I know better
than to stretch my hand and accept
their offerings
trick pills I know those to be,
tickets to another place
where dreams and desires collide
where time and space plummet
down unimaginable spirals.
The colour wheel can spin fast, so fast,
in that land
that all the colours could mix to make white,
black is not a colour,
they informed me very kindly,
it is the absence of colour.
I haven’t told the doctor yet
that my soul is all black
an unredeemable charcoal black.
Get away from me, you twisted men
peddlers of enchanted pills
I munch on peppermints these days,
lettuce leaves and rosemary
my days of munching magic mushrooms
are over,
at least for now
I don’t dare disobey the doctors
who loom around me like specters,
get away from me
you haggard bent men
I’ve been there, done that,
all of it

Doc, dear doc, says
that the pineal gland calcifies
due to the stresses
of a materialistic
addiction-bound life.
Decalcify it, boy,
he orders,
decalcify instantly.

I shall think clean thoughts
queue up dutifully for enema
get my colon cleansed
along with my soul,
when thoughts, words and emotions
are in perfect alignment once again
I might walk the night, as before,
in the company of twisted friends

 


Kankana Basu is a Mumbai based writer. Her work includes two collections of short stories: Vinegar Sunday (Indialog Publishers) and Lamplight: Paranormal Stories from the Hinterlands (Pan Macmillan)Her novel Cappuccino Dusk (HarperCollins India) was Long Listed for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize and a stand-alone short story, Graveyard Shift, was included in The Pleasure Principle: The Amaryllis Book of Erotic Stories (Amaryllis Publishers). She reviews books and writes human interest stories for The Asian Age, The Sunday Hindu and The New Indian Express, and also assists in the Bengali-to-English and cinematic translation of the works of her grandfather, the late Bengali writer, Saradindu Bandopadhyay (creator of the bhandralok detective, Byomkesh Bakshi). 

Poetry | ‘Amygdala’ & ‘Traffic’ by Bishnupada Ray | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Amygdala

the sound of a hooter
comes from the very depth
of my brain gorge
like a skyward red alert
coming from a city street
mystique with night lights
as we see in a Hollywood film

is it a police car chasing
or an ambulance
or is it my own amygdala
scouting for new images
of unmitigated death?

the gong of my tears
raises a spectre of hell
but the water has
no quality of redemption.


Traffic

a set of gnashing teeth
is on the tail of a holy cow

holier than thou
and looking like a beak
in the company of prig

shining after morning brush
and flaunting, like fun
as if brighter than the sun

the point of crossing
is a level of attrition
where the upper and the lower
meet in a civil war

over who will take
a malicious peck
a racist dig
to put off the other
and get ahead.


Bishnupada Ray is an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Bengal, West Bengal, India. His poetry has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Indian Literature, New Quest, Makata, Brown Critique, Muse India, Shabdaguchha, Revival, VerbalArt, Phenomenal Literature, The Challenge and A Hudson View. He won a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2009.

Poetry | ‘Delight’ By Ananya Kanai Shah | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Delight

In the boudoir of the ecclesiastical, devotion
is not a learned art. The lambent banyan shrubs
the floor and our roots collapse in a hardy wave
I examine its delicate crevices for clues trapped

in wells of light or moss. The origin so close, so vast I can’t feel it
when auroral temple bells permeate the room. But to go deeper
into being Jain is harder: to quell attachment multiplying within tusked wood.
Hewn in sibilant haste, we face our shame in streaming roots.

Attachment is the hardest to kill
The host hides in the center, always elusive, watchful
Attachment, it bends the spirit into mildewed curd
I can’t seem to free myself in air pungent with wistfulness.

I covet the stillness and peace, but I’ve forgotten what they mean.
Under the banyan, our picnic melon exposes a cold spine
Once I bartered pickled lust for honey and figs at the crossroads,
when the allure of domesticity was too great for my loneliness to bear.

To my relief, I found few takers. Nimbus engorged with frying garlic
and turmeric, the shadow of health against an open sky.
Ahimsa, non-violence, to never inflict violence upon others in the intimacy
of one’s own mind. In the twilight, the earth fails and fails as it traps the moon.

How can I expect it to be easy? I recite the Navkar Mantra, just as
my grandmother taught me, morning prayer stubbled with promise.
Arabesque silhouettes halved by the games of delight. The meaning is
somewhere in between the word and its symbol,

a face wrung with lint decadence and poised for flight. To go deeper,
roots birth themselves and I have to let go of my need
for this poem to be good. Ecstatic in the pungent afternoon, we do our duty,
culling bad grain, bad thoughts haptic with sacred songs of delight


Ananya Kanai Shah was born in Boston and raised in Ahmedabad, India. Her essays have appeared on the Ploughshares blog. She was a 2019 Kundiman Mentorship Lab Fellow, and has read original poetry in New York and Washington, D.C. She lives in New York, where she works for a marketing firm. 

‘Raw Deal’ by C. Christine Fair | Translation of Balwant Gargi’s “Kaani Vand” | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Balwant Gargi’s original short story – ‘Kaani Vand’ was written in Punjabi.


Rulia arranged his sons’ weddings for the same day.  The brides-to-be were sisters. The older son would marry the older sister and the younger son would marry the younger one. 

Both families were happy with this relationship. It would save money and strengthen relations four-fold. The brothers would become brothers-in-law and the sisters would become sisters-in-law. Moreover, the wife of the older brother would be both bhabi–the wife of a brother—and saali, a wife’s sister

The older son, Balauri, was simple while his younger brother, Kishauri, was cunning. Only two years separated them: one was 19 and the other 21. However, it appeared as if Kishauri was the elder because everyone did as he ordered.

In the family’s wholesale store, Balauri would clean and weigh the grains while Kishauri collected the customers’ money.   Balauri was tall and lanky, with an unsightly cyst on his left eye, but was very conscientious. Kishauri was very handsome with sharp features, clever in conversation, but was irascible and angered easily.

Kishauri was habituated to his place of privilege, but when it came to their wedding preparations, in every respect the older brother, Balauri, was put first.  Balauri mounted the bridal mare first. The wives of his kinfolk applied kohl to his eyes first. The priest congratulated him first on his nuptials. As the younger brother, Kishauri was forced to countenance the fact that Balauri would be first to undergo the various wedding rituals. 

When the brothers’ marriage procession reached the village Bhuccho Mandi to pick up the brides, there was a single wedding band and one golden umbrella to celebrate their arrival. They would spend the next three days enjoying the hospitality of the brides’ family together. 

After bathing, the elder sister, Dwarki, and the younger, Godavri, were draped in capacious and elaborately embroidered shawls which hindered their ability to walk. The girls’ maternal uncle, per tradition, picked them up and placed them comfortably in their house.  Their girlfriends and the nain–who was the sisters’ attendant, coiffeuse and chaperone throughout the course of wedding rituals–braided their hair, dressed them in silken suits; covered their faces and heads under long veils heavy with embroidery; applied makeup, and draped the delicate chains supporting their cumbrous nose-ornaments across their cheeks and affixed them behind the ears. First Dwarki was seated upon the ritual reed mat and then Godavri. Both brothers were joyous. Later when the wedding procession set out to return to the brothers’ home, the same nain came along to take care of both brides.

Both brothers and their brides were seated in the car. Kishauri pinched the nain’s arm and placed a five rupee note in her palm saying, “Please have the veil removed.”

The nain looked at him askance and quipped, “What’s the hurry? You can’t drink scalding milk until it’s cooled off a bit!”

Kishauri thought to himself that this nain is very clever. He whispered in her ear “You won’t always be here to keep an eye on her. Just show me what she looks like!” Then he put another five rupee note in her hand.

Balauri sat in the front seat of the car gazing out and watching the jand and kicker trees flicker past. He deeply revered the marriage rituals and ceremonies and was even amenable to not seeing his wife’s face until the suhaag raat— the night when they were expected to consummate their marriage. For now, he sat aloof in the car looking out at the jand and kicker trees passing by as they drove on. 

Clutching the ten rupees tightly in her fist, the nain whispered into the ear of Kishauri’s bride that she should peek out from under her veil.  The bride moved her head nervously. The nain said softly “Why are you embarrassed? I am the one asking you to do this.”

Inwardly, Godavri wanted to see her husband but also wanted to maintain the appearance of modesty. As she turned her head and lifted her veil, Kishauri’s jaw dropped in shock. She had a fat nose, small eyes, was as dark as an eggplant, and her cheeks were pockmarked. “This is my wife?” Kishauri asked himself. His heart sank to his ankles. He felt as if his business had gone bankrupt and he was forced to auction off his home to pay his debts. “I have lost everything in a toss of the dice.” His head began to spin.

Balauri, blissfully unaware of his brother’s ruses, was bemused by the simple pleasures of watching the trees glide by.

Kishauri quickly wrestled his emotions under control and grabbed the nain’s feet with his hands in desperation, pleading that she “give me a flash of my sister-in-law’s face.” 

The nain turned her shoulders away to rebuff this wildly inappropriate request. Kishauri took a one-hundred rupee note from his pocket and placed it in her lap. The nain considered the demand briefly, then tucked the note into the purse tied to her skirt.  She  huddled up next to Dwarki in front, and whispered in her ear to ever-so-briefly glance back. Whereupon Dwarki slightly turned her shoulders, lifted her veil, and peered directly in Kishauri’s direction. He glimpsed her round, dark eyes, and searing beauty.  Beneath the nose-ornament, her pinkish lips glimmered. Dwarki quickly beshrouded her face once again with her veil. Kishauri quivered on this brief glimpse of her face. A dark shadow of connivance spread across his forehead as he weighed his options. Suddenly, his nerves settled, likely because he had decided how to fix this predicament.

Both brothers, with their wives in tow, reached their home. All the women and girls of the village gathered to ogle the new brides. The girls sang while the baraat band played very loudly.  Hearing their arrival, the sons’ mother came out of the main gate of the family haveli and began the paani vaarna ceremony, in which she vowed to take upon herself all the problems of her sons and their families. Standing at the main gate with a silver garvi containing water infused with grass, waved it over the heads of the couples, and drank from it. She repeated this seven times as the rituals demanded.

As the two sons stepped across the threshold of their home, the dhols began to beat loudly. The loud band and boisterous singing created pandemonium. Availing of the madness and the fact that no one in his home knew which bride was his, Kishauri forcefully pushed his wife Godavri away towards Balauri, then yanked Dwarki towards himself and announced, “This is my wife!”

The mother sprinkled the water upon the couples as the sons entered the haveli with the switched wives. Everything was lost in the clamorous singing. Balauri wanted to say something to voice resentment of his brother’s bullying, but his mother was already caressing the heads of Kishauri and Dwarki, while Godavri stood next to him with her head and face covered with a long veil. Both brides had identical makeup and were wearing identical embroidered shawls and velvet slippers.  None of the onlookers could have suspected that the wives had been switched. But Balauri knew. He felt as if scissors were stabbing his heart. His eye with the cyst began to twitch. He had no idea how he would endure this indignity. 

Both brothers, with their swapped wives, began the ritual wedding game of kangna khedna. In a large flat bowl, a mixture of milk and water glimmered. The nain was seated nearby and tossed a ring into the basin. Dwarki plunged her hennaed hand into the milky water while Kishauri immersed his manly hand into the same.  Duaarki found the ring and clasped it tightly in her fist. Kishauri hurriedly grabbed her hand and squeezed it, forcing the ring to slip from her grasp.  Both felt a titillating tingling as their hands met beneath the pearly water. With this innocent yet intimate game, their relationship blossomed.

When Balauri’s turn came, the nain again tossed the ring into the milky water. Godavri immediately found the ring and cunningly hid it. Then the simple-minded Balauri thrust his hand into the water searching for the ring.  When Godavri pulled her fist out of the water, Balauri tried to pry it open. Her face flushed red with bashful discomfort and he let go of her hand. From their inability to play this silly game, Balauri concluded that the hand he found belonged to a stranger, not his wife.

That night the brothers’ mother decorated their marital beds in separate rooms on the top floor of the haveli.  Balauri remained outside, quietly sitting on the garden footpath pondering whether, inside that room, his bride was waiting for him.  Finally, he resolved to go inside.

An oil lamp was burning in a niche inside the room, and Godavri was sitting on the floor. When Balauri took her hand, she cowered to one side. From under her veil, he heard her say “Do not touch me.” 

With those words, Godavri made it abundantly obvious that she was not his wife.  Meanwhile, in the other room, his little brother was merrily consummating his marriage with Dwarki, rather than his own wife.

Godavri’s words felt like a hot knitting needle piercing his chest. Balauri felt oddly helpless and could not see clearly through the foggy haze before his eyes. He began to tremble and sob heavy tears.

Balauri left the room and went outside to sit upon the garden footpath once again. He sat on that footpath throughout the night even as celestial constellations migrated across the sky. Hundreds of thoughts crossed his mind. All the injustices he’s suffered throughout his life appeared before him. 

His younger brother had oppressed him throughout his life. When the boys played marbles, Kishauri would always snag the ones with beautiful colors. When they played shells and walnuts, Kishauri would toss the shells into a pit or throw them across the road while keeping all the walnuts for himself. When gathering plums from the trees, Balauri would climb the tree and shake them free. The ripe plums would fall to Kishauri standing below, ready to fill his lap with the choicest plums, while leaving the worm-eaten and unripe ones for Balauri. Balauri tolerated all these outrages because Kishauri was his little brother. Over time, his little brother increasingly got the upper hand in every matter. 

Little by little, Balauri acquiesced to play second fiddle in the household. He was given second place in each and every matter. When their father divvied up sweets, Kishauri always had first dibs on the piles. For all intents and purposes, their parents considered Kishauri to be the head of the household. By acquiescing, Balauri’s sense of self slowly but surely withered. Because of the cyst on his eye, no one in the household ever regarded him as attractive, or even a sentient person with feelings and emotions. 

Balauri spent his entire life with this inferiority complex. But now, after his little brother snatched his bride as if she were yet another pile of sweets, he could suffer no more affronts. He couldn’t even bring himself to speak of this litany of tyrannies much less complain about this most recent indecency with his wife. This was the ultimate assault on his very existence. It was the final debasement which shattered his spirit into myriad scattered shards.

Balauri abruptly stood up from the footpath, descended the stairs, unlocked the main gate, and left the premises.

Dawn was breaking when the mother went upstairs with two covered glasses of milk and found Balauri’s marital bed empty and Godavri sitting on the floor.

The entire household was in turmoil over where Balauri had disappeared.

Two days passed, then five. Balauri had still not returned. His parents asked relatives whether they had received letters; they dispatched a man to visit the in-laws; they even sent telegrams to two or three of his old friends. Finally, they notified the police station. His panic-stricken parents searched high and low but there was no trace of Balauri to be found.

After ten days, a police constable appeared at the door and informed them that a man’s body had been discovered in an abandoned well in Rohi. A goat-herder had smelled a wretched stench emanating from the well. It was Balauri’s corpse.

Neither sister knew which one had become a widow.


About Balwant Gargi: Balwant Gargi (b. 4 December 1916 – d. 22 April 2003) is perhaps most known for his dramas in the Punjabi language as well his theater direction. However, he was also a scholar and prolific novelist and short story writer. In 1962, Gargi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, which is the highest Indian literary award, for his play Rang Manch. In 1972, he received the Padma Shri (1972). In 1998 he was bestowed the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Punjabi Playwriting in 1998. Gargi is one of the few artists who received both the Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. In 2017, the Government of India officially released postage stamps to commemorate the birth-centenary of Balwant Gargi (1916-2016). 

About the Translator: C. Christine Fair is an Associate Professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008).  She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Barzakh Magazine and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her visual poetry has appeared in Awakenings, pulpMAG and several forthcoming pieces in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and PCC Inscape Magazine. She causes trouble in multiple languages.

Acknowledgements: The translator is grateful to Galwant Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, for giving me permission to translate this story as well as for providing thoughts about how his father may have translated this story. I’m also grateful to my long-time friend and collaborator, Gurdit Singh, for being willing to discuss aspects of translating this story. I’m also grateful to my various Punjabi instructors over the years, especially Seema Miglani of the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Chandigarh.

Essay | ‘Rhapsody on the F.M.’ by Tristan Marajh | LGBTQ+ (Vol I) – Issue 35

Rhapsody on the F.M.

The first time I heard “We are the Champions” by British rock band Queen, I must have been a child. I had a sharper sensitivity to music as I grew older and into secondary school, where I knew that song by Queen as one of those timeless ones – ever universal, relevant and enjoyable. Indeed, it speaks about trials, tribulations and triumph and was and still is used as a motivational anthem for countless sport teams and individuals since it came out in 1977. It is almost impossible not to know the song; one would have heard of it or highly likely heard it before. Queen, indeed, were the musical champions of the 1970’s and 1980’s until Freddie Mercury, the band’s lead singer, passed away in 1991. Back in secondary school, I never knew his name or who he was, but was always rendered highly impressed by that vocal range whenever I heard “We are the Champions”, which Freddie wrote, sang and played piano for. The song was released eighteen years before I started secondary school and persisted in the decades to follow. Each time I heard it and “Another One Bites the Dust” on the FM radio, I remained privately impressed by the sheer classiness of the singer’s vocals. I still didn’t know who Queen’s lead singer was; nineties music was all the rage for my schoolmates and I at the time. Singers and bands from decades before – like Queen – were deemed irrelevant by and to us; old-fashioned and out-of-date, their days of glory behind them. No doubt that today’s youth, in the era of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, feel as disdainful about 90’s idols the same way I had once felt about Queen. 

I was in secondary school in the latter half of the nineties. It was a religious school with all male students. There was, therefore, a lot of unguided testosterone that teachers tried to restrain through strict discipline and enforcement of rules that in retrospect, many former students now consider comparable to a prison camp. Rebellion, or just plain misunderstanding, was met by corporal punishment. Every other morning, our principal would conduct the school’s student assembly, which comprised a devotional message, prayers and the singing of both the national and school’s anthems. And that’s when Fionn Maharaj took to the stage, much to the chuckling, mocking and chiding of the students. A Chemistry and Math teacher otherwise, Fionn would strut to the podium, remove the microphone from its stand and twist his body this way and that as he moved to the rhythm and the melody of singing, which in a school comprising proud, macho – or more accurately, pretending to be macho – boys, wasn’t too much melody to go with. Mr. Maharaj sashayed his legs and hips, timed his musical rhythm by snapping the fingers of one hand as he held the microphone in the other.

You might imagine the kind of fun young boys lucky to have been born into heterosexual humanity would have had at Fionn Maharaj’s expense. As our Chemistry or Math teacher, my school- and classmates did not make Mr. Maharaj’s experience pleasant, or leave him with the conviction that he got through to his students. To be a teacher in secondary school is difficult enough; to be a “pansy”-male teacher in an all-male secondary school would have been extremely difficult. In his classes, students taunted Mr. Maharaj as he tried to teach, mocking his sissy-ish (as it was regarded) voice, his unmale gestures and movements and attempts at disciplining students, which often resulted in shoving back by the student. Such was the level of contempt and disrespect the students showed for Mr. Maharaj, but this did not seem to faze him; he never toned down his body language or style of speaking to seem more “manly”. And so, the fodder for ridicule never diminished. Throughout my years at that school Mr. Maharaj remained the target of mockery and contempt. It was a process that I’m certain repeated itself with each influx of new students. Yet I have to say Mr. Maharaj took it all in stride – or strut – and never toned down the tendencies he possessed. In retrospect, I realize now, it was very tough of him. Tougher than my schoolmates postured to be, and more resilient – very deserving of the respect and admiration that was flagrantly denied him in my secondary school days. Paradoxically, Mr. Maharaj was more of a man than we could have hoped for as students at that time. If we regarded him with contempt and disrespect then as unrefined boys, it now seems the opposite as mature young men – Mr. Maharaj was not beneath us by masculine standards, but above us; a real man among boys, a teacher not only of Math and Chemistry but also of courage and truthfulness to oneself no matter what the world. A man among boys indeed, a royal among knaves, not a king but more aptly, a queen.

The biofilm of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, recently came out (pun intentional). Admittedly, I’d watched it in the cinema one night after work; I was restless, bored and did not want to return to my house just yet. Indeed, if I’d had another endeavor I deemed better to do than look at a biopic of a singer I considered – as you recall – irrelevant to my current tastes I’d have no doubt pursued that other thing. The theatre at the time was empty; I think there were about eight or fewer people who were probably there for the same restless reason as me. Bohemian Rhapsody was the title of the film. Its accolades include: Winner, Best Motion Picture (Drama) at the 2019 Golden Globes; Winner, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture at that same event (won by Rami Malek for playing Freddie Mercury); Best Picture nomination at the 2019 Academy Awards; Best Actor award at that same event to Rami Malek, as well as Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing – all at that event. 

Rami Malek was tasked for and by the role of Freddie Mercury, but Freddie Mercury made all those awards easy to win. I was ignorant of him until the movie, and after the movie I was in awe of him. He was a musician, a singer, an artist and human being before his time; even before current time today, when the movie provided for himself and Queen a renaissance of sorts. Their music both merged and transcended genres, eras and sensibilities. Freddie had a beautiful spirit, unfazed by the ridicule and contempt he was subjected to not only as a Parsee immigrant to the United Kingdom of the 60’s, but also because of his homosexuality which was implicit in his on-stage antics, costumes and gestures, not to mention, of course, his off-stage lovers. Yet, he pressed on: creating, moving queenly on stage, his voice not just soaring but climbing, climbing up to heaven where his fans are convinced he is carrying on as he did to this day. He was indeed a fearless man, resilient and convinced of his talent, yet by the same token those who knew him spoke of his humility, his unassuming bent, his kindness, introversion and loyalty to his artistic drive to create, play and perform. I – you could say – unabashedly fell in love with him the more I delved into his music and the kind of person he was amidst the challenges he faced; that unbroken, unfazed spirit that persevered. It confirmed a notion I had: that a heterosexual man could fall in love with another man; more in the direction of true love because it is love that is artless and comprised of respect and admiration. As a student I’d thought I’d only fall in love with women, yet perhaps it is not too unfathomable to understand I could with a man describing himself as a queen. After all, what he did name his band?

There was no difference, in essence, between Fionn Maharaj and Freddie Mercury. They had the exact same initials, even. Perhaps that was – as Freddie and Fionn might have believed respectively – a symbol. Freddie Mercury received the world’s love, but Fionn did not receive love from his own world, that world that consisted of contemptuous, ridiculing, mocking students. And yet, Fionn strutted, sashayed and hip-swayed despite it all, despite us all. That’s what made true royalty: not necessarily brute presentation, but self-composure in the face of tribulation. It was known that Fionn did have a wife and children with her, yet we eagerly chose to assume he was gay and living a lie instead of denying he was homosexual at all. If he was indeed gay, such suppression even has nobility to it: it must have taken a gargantuan internal and external effort for Fionn to “do the right thing” by his parents, religion and society at the time and his own conditioning by them all. It must ultimately be the right thing, however, for individuals to healthily and openly actualize themselves as who they are – that’s when nobility ends and royalty resides. Freddie Mercury, British citizen and frontman for a band named Queen would have no doubt – figuratively – told you that nobles are below royals, and no one is above royalty. That’s what Fionn was: despite the ridicule and mockery, he remained upbeat, positive and concerned about our well-being, just as Mr. Mercury had been amidst his own mockery from others; even from biology itself, as AIDS decayed his body and took his life – his physical form at least. Yet, even that is not true, for decades later Freddie Mercury’s astounding voice still remains, climbing and climbing, higher than heaven, “punching a hole” through it on the way, as he would have remarked. And what of Fionn? Even if he was gay and eventually came out, it would be naive to conclude that he also eventually lived his life as expressively, experimentally and experientially as Freddie Mercury: fully, openly queer; having long-term relationships with chosen lovers. In that way, Fionn’s story does not have that kind of happy conclusion. But for it to have a satisfactory conclusion, it is imperative to understand that the true admirability in Fionn’s story was that in his time as a teacher, in the midst of the torments of testosterone-titillated young men, he carried on regardless – just as Freddie did until his death, just as millions of other unsung individuals do in the midst of their own respective internal and external torments. They both had resilient, persistent, mighty spirits, unswayed by their respective worlds – Freddie Mercury in 1950’s-1980’s society and Fionn Maharaj in one more recent, one that might as well have been in Freddie’s time in its attitude to queenly and queer-ly expression in men. Resilience, unswayed determination, fearlessness: the very traits that boys ridiculed in my secondary school were keenly sought out by us as we grew into young men.

And what indeed is a man, I would often ask myself since those school years, as I’m certain most of my schoolmates did. We have bumbled and suffered in our journey to know exactly what a man is and many of us still do today. Back in secondary school, we dismissed the likes of Fionn Maharaj and Freddie Mercury, making conspiratorial fun of our teacher’s initials – F.M. – to validate our assessment: the Fag Man, the Fairy Man, Fruity Man, Foolish Man, Female Man, even Femme Man (by those of us “cultured” enough to know the term yet rarely using it, lest we incur the accusation that we were of the type of people we were mocking). We did not know – far less even think of – the truest, most resonant expression of the shared initialism of both Freddie Mercury and Fionn Maharaj: F.M., of course, standing for the Free Man.


Tristan Marajh is a Winner in the William Faulkner Literary Competition of 2020 and his work can be read in a number of literary journals; most recently in down river road, based in Kenya and Ayaskala, based in India. With a childhood spent in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago, he resides in Toronto, Canada.

Poetry | ‘Home’ & ‘That Face’ by Ameya Bondre | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

‘Home’

I was running bare feet,
as we did in those little days,
on an empty street,
next to a railway track,
in black shorts,
and a creased white T-shirt,
with my friend,
always ahead of me.
It was the time of the day,
when the sun was at its peak,
the birds had slept,
the leaves didn’t move,
on the few coconut trees
that watched over us,
and only the blaring engine
of a passing train,
could stop our sprint.
I saw a red Maruti 800,
racing towards me, and…
I fell on my face.
He stopped a few meters ahead.
My nose bled.
He rushed towards me,
pinched it hard,
and asked me to look up.
My hands and legs got stiff.
I got pale.
I said I cannot.
He let off his fingers and,
saw a dark red track of liquid
trickle down the side of his thumb.
He said, we will go home,
to my home,
that I needed to,
that he’ll take me home.
And, I, could only want more,
of that fall,
of that pinching,
that holding,
that presence,
even, that beading of sweat on his temple
and the rushed breathing,
letting me know that,
he was there,
trying,
staying,
I didn’t want to hear the word,
Home.


 

That Face’

I looked through the blinds, fixing my eyes,
and saw them on the bed.
He on top, kissing her neck, she breathing through her mouth.
His huge bulky frame, pressing her against the bed,
the tickle of his thick moustache on her slender neck,
making her smile.
Unaware of the smell of fish, that may come from his hands, holding her shoulders
or the sweat of his armpits, from a long day working in the kitchen.
The armpits inching closer to her mouth.
My child, held like that, by a man, a servant.
My daughter, wanting him more,
even with his shabby shirt on,
her fingers from either side sliding on his broad back,
spreading wide, trying to meet.
Why am I seeing this?
Why do I get to see, this?
Why did I not see this coming?
Why did they assume we would sleep and be fooled after a heavy seafood Sunday lunch?
Where did I fall short?
Why would she do this?
Didn’t she think of her mom?
Didn’t she think of me?
I picked up a cricket bat lying by the edge of the wall,
and banged it on the locked door.
The bang woke them up.
I heard muffled cries from inside,
loud whispers I could not follow.
Two people, thieves as if,
figuring out an escape.
My bat didn’t stop hitting the door,
cracking its centre,
chipping off the wood.
I didn’t say a word,
I kept hitting,
I didn’t stop.
I thought I would kill him
I thought if I could
I wished this was unreal
I wished he would vanish,
after the door broke.
I didn’t deserve it.
I didn’t want to see
that Face,
that body,
and those clothes
over my daughter.


Ameya is a physician, public health researcher, and a writer, based in Mumbai, India. He penned short stories on relationships, conflict, hope and acceptance in the winter of 2017, to put them into ‘Afsaane’, his first book. ‘Afsaane’ has been featured in the Delhi WireMumbai LiveCafé Dissensus (New York City), Inkspire (Issue-5)the Bookish ElfPune Mirror, and the Oxford Bookstore (Delhi), and it has received a narration via BookMyShow.

Fiction | ‘The Ballad of the Almost Cancer’ by Craig Loomis | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

My harbour days are full of a sameness that, secretly, I enjoy. Old women holding their grandchildren on their laps while the mothers and fathers swim, snorting, blowing bubbles like river horses. I listen as Grandma talks to a grandson of two, maybe three years old, as if he’s an adult. “And what are your plans for today? Shouldn’t be fearful of the water, you know. Learn to swim. Important, don’t you think?” And he, nodding a little too fast—more a bobbing than a nodding—says, “Yes, Gama,” as hand in hand, they move back into the shade, under an umbrella the size of a small car.

Meanwhile, a parade of eager tourists ambles by. The Germans and the English own the same body type, fleshy and red with a splash of tattoo here and there, the men shouldering strangely small backpacks, as if they are on a trek, a journey, and will most certainly need supplies.

Two Russians stop in front of my table to argue: red-faced, more tattoos, pointing to the sky, as if this particular argument is up. Mysteriously, it isn’t long before they both seem to run out of argument at the same time, their red draining away, moustaches quivering; they continue on their way, one that way, the other this way, while the one with the biggest tattoo tries one last time to make a point. I hear the word Crimea, a finger pointing straight up, but the other will have none of it, and shrugs, walking faster.

When he begins his screaming, his older sister takes his toy from him and walks off to stand in the shade under the palms. The punishment is simple enough and he crumbles to the ground, wailing. But this elder sister is a good one, and patiently she waits for him to right himself. Meanwhile he continues to squirm on the pavement, rolling in and out of the grass, red-faced, the noonday sun relentless. She waits in the shade with his toy. In the end, slowly, painfully, he loses the struggle, this clash of wills, and like some old man, rights himself piece by piece, one leg at a time, before making his way towards her, tear-lines streaking his cheeks, along with assorted snot. When he finally arrives at her place in the shade, she does three things: wipes his nose, gives him a drink of water, and picks him up. Immediately, as if this play acting is not as easy as it looks, he lays his head on her shoulder. And she smiles a smile that has nothing to do with victory.

Like always at the old harbour fort there are tourists who think nothing of spending five euros to walk around a square mud building that, in places, might have once been painted red, maybe orange. Men step out of the shade to offer their services as guides, to show them the hidden secrets of the fort. ‘Aphrodite slept here, her brother there. A roman general was assassinated there, and look,’ pointing at a hole in the wall, ‘a pirate’s cannon ball struck here. See that? See that?’

As I get ready to leave, the dark-haired woman, with cigarette and beer two tables over, turns to give me a look that says you aren’t as important as you think you are, which hurts my feelings, but never mind because I smile anyway, even though by now she is looking somewhere else, blowing cigarette smoke into the air.

In the beginning, when I didn’t know any better, I walked to the harbour and back every day. It took most of the morning and was exhausting, leaving me weak, sore-legged and unhealthy for days. However, they say that’s a good sign, sleeping muscles waking up, being used. Now, I walk to the harbour three times a week, and the vendors know me and no longer urge me to buy, to come closer to take a good look at their seashells and sponges, special all-day fishing trips. ‘How about a seat on a glass bottom boat?’ Now when they see me coming, they look the other way, at the newlyweds behind me. Although in the middle of the day, the outdoor cafes are too hot and windy and squirmy with cats, when the sun sets they are almost perfect, except for the cats. The cats have no problem clawing one another over scraps that the children throw down, thinking it is all good catty fun. At sunset the lanterns are turned on, big yellow globes necklacing the harbour rim. It is quite a sight, and families will come from miles around to see the twinkle of electricity. 

It all started in the hills above Paphos, in the village of Tala. The telephone I had inherited from Mrs. Agnes Collar, who, at 85, died of a stroke, doesn’t ring like other telephones; it sounds something like a tinny clatter, as if something isn’t quite right, or getting ready to be wrong. And when it does ring, the neighbor’s dog howls, and nearby crows swoop down to see what’s what. Its metallic chattering sets off an aching in my chest, a throbbing in my wrist.

The call is from Dr Khan’s assistant, who, I remember, as being strangely long and tall, who has perfectly square white teeth and clawy fingernails, whose purple lipstick leans off her lips. I secretly wondered why any doctor would have someone like that all dressed in blue working the front desk, saying things like ‘Good morning’ or ‘May I help you?’ or ‘Do you have an appointment?’ 

 “Hello, is this Mr. Courier? James Courier?”

“Yes, of course, but it’s John. Who is this. . . ? But wait, I know this voice.”

“Of course, John. Yes, you are in Cyprus now, is that right?”

“Yes, yes, but I know this voice. Who is this?”

When she tells me, I say, “Yes, that’s right,” and she thinks that’s funny and I can see her laughing in her long blue uniform. “Anyway, Dr Khan would like a word with you.”

That’s what she said ‘a word’. And I am almost certain I answered with a ‘Fine,’ or ‘Good’ or ‘Yes”, maybe even an “OK.’ However Dr Khan’s word turned out to be many, and it was not pleasant news. He had just gotten around to taking a look at my test results of three weeks ago and there appears to be something like a cancer with a small c. That’s what he said, “with a small c.” I could tell he’d practiced that with others, this, ‘with a small c,’ as he waited to see if I thought it might be funny, reassuring, comforting. When I answered, “Tell me more,” I could also tell that that wasn’t what others had said. And so he told me what it meant, and in the end I grew weary of hearing about my own body and wanted him to stop, but what I really said was, “I see.” Of course I didn’t but there is only so much a man can take at one sitting, with one long distance phone call, as I watched the big yellow cat walk across the patio, a cat that nobody seems to own, take credit for, but everybody feeds. After I say my good-byes, I immediately stretch out on the cool marble Cyprus floor and go to sleep—if not real sleep then something like it. When I wake, the room is still a warm yellow afternoon, and I have to remember why I am on the floor, and when I do I don’t believe it, thinking I must have dreamed Dr Khan’s words; some dreams are like that: more real than the stuff of dreams. I look at the telephone: harmless, the clock on the wall, the window and beyond, the summery saffron of Cyprus in June, and by now a cat-less patio. All I can think is: That was a close one. Even saying it out loud, “A close one, like, dodging bullets or a near car accident.”

Later, the sun now in the trees, a shadowy porch, I call Doctor Khan just to be sure, to double-check, but by now the time is all wrong, and I hear her dull citation, “Dr Khan’s office is closed right now, but if you care to…” 

That night there is a fire in the hills. I can see the blush from the porch. That, and there is a light mist of ash, not even ash but a grainy falling, and that brings my neighbours out of their houses to point, to look into the far off treetops to see which way the wind is blowing, to call their children to come outside and see this. The Russian family with the poodle think nothing of the fire that has grown from blush to glow. They are in their pool with the poodle splashing, laughing at what can only be some kind of Russian joke.

My neighbours have bigger, greener yards than I do, and whenever I walk by they are busily grooming, watering, raking, weeding, snipping here and there. We say Good Morning, mentioning how hot it has been, will be, could be. To talk sports and politics means I would have to slow, even stop walking, and we are not those sorts of neighbours. And so I stride on, as they, wiping the sweat from their brow, go back to watering, trimming; all the while their dog watches me suspiciously, as if I have all the makings of a potential enemy. 

With night and fire in the hills, I have more time to think about my ‘cancer with a small c’, and the more I think about it the more I recall what Dr Khan said: ‘Not serious now, but could become serious and dangerous. It’s a small c now and you want to keep it that way, know what I mean? Keep it that way. Of course there are medicines to take, exercises to do.

Exercise is important, you know. If nothing else, walking. Everybody knows this. In fact, some studies indicate walking is the key—always has been. That, and fasting. Fasting and walking. Hello? Are you still there? Exercise is everything at your age. Exercise, walk, swim. Can you swim? Never mind, something like a dog paddle is good enough. Three, four times a week. Over the long run it can make a difference, you’ll see. Make a difference. So, is there anything else?”

I answered, “No, that about covers it.”

“Right, Ok. Until next time, or not.”

I try rereading the newspaper, but my heart is not in it, so I turn off the light, and with Dr. Khan, the fire in the hills and the big yellow cat crowding my thoughts, toss and turn until the whiskey-light of dawn.

When I awake, the cat is on the patio statute-like, waiting. As a reward, I toss it a piece of yesterday’s ham, and we are friends for another day. 

This is the day I decide to ignore the harbour and go the other direction, to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill is a small shop that sells candy, newspapers, cigarettes, bottles of water. Not even a shop really, more like an outpost on the edge of the wilderness. The man who sits there all day, every day, has some of the yellowest fingers I have ever seen, and when he smiles it has nothing to do with being happy. There is a small plastic table with three plastic chairs under a nearby olive tree and as I sit, his radio playing, I watch the lizards that are minding their own lizardly business and lazing in the sunshine. I watch an ant dragging the carcass of a bumble bee, three maybe four times its size. How does it do that? It has latched on to the bee’s body, pulling it over pebbles, dirt and sand, stopping every now and again to catch its anty breath.

Like always, once at the harbour, I take a left at the scuba diving club and do my short walk to Andre’s café at the end of the street. Andrei is the waiter who works there, who never seems to have a day off, who sits in a chair in the shade, under a red umbrella, reading a magazine, who will only come to your table if you motion to him. I am the only one who seems to appreciate Andrei, and by now once he sees me, he brings me black coffee with bread and cheese, and we don’t have to say a word.

 The town of Paphos is thataway, a dusty sprawl of wheat-colored houses and sometimes buildings, fields and olive trees, next to the bluegreen Mediterreanean that stretches hazily to the edge of the world. Over there, beyond the goaty hills and olive trees, in the shallows, is Aphrodite’s birthplace, and someone official has placed a sign at the foot of the gigantic rock that asks you please not to climb the rock, the goddess’s sacred birthplace, the goddess of love. Of course people swarm over the rock, a dusty path zigzagging to the top.

And so, to keep this cancer with a small c small, even smaller, I walk. When I return, the yellow porch-cat is usually waiting, watching me huff up the drive, watchful, as if wondering what took me so long and oh by the way, what’s to eat?

It has been weeks since Dr Khan’s phone call, and of course right in the middle of thinking this, that afternoon, the telephone rings and two crows almost immediately swoop down to the porch. Dr Khan says hello, asking how I am, how’s the weather, what’s the exchange rate, “I need a vacation myself,” until finally, he asks, “You know, we all make mistakes, James, right? Human nature.”

“John, my name is John.”

“Yes, yes, of course, John.”

“You said something about a mistake?”

“Yes, a mistake. It happens. It happens to us all, you, me, everybody.”

“A mistake?”

When the neighbour’s dog starts barking, the crows step off the porch, flapping loudly.

“About this cancer stuff. The lab people tell me it’s never happened before, you know. This is the first time. That’s what they said: ‘first time. First time for everything, right?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“Well, long story short, they tell me your tests were wrong. About you and cancer, they got it wrong. Said it was a computer glitch. A misreading. That’s the word they used ‘misreading,’” Happens to the best of us, you know. So sorry about this, James, and that’s why I am calling to give you the good news. A good mistake, right?”

There is a harsh crackle of long distance static that eats up his voice, and so I ask, “Sorry what? One more time.”

Laughing, as if there is something funny with having to repeat himself, ‘I said they got it wrong, you don’t have anything like cancer, never did. Imagine that, never did.”

The yellow cat is at the screen door, peering in, its tail flicking like a second pulse.

“Can you hear me? Hello, James, you there?”

“Yes, I hear you. Yes. A glitch you say, misreading?”

Suddenly, Dr Khan is no more and his long, blue assistant is on the line, saying, “Hello, who is this? James in Cyprus, is it? James, is that you?”

I have not stopped walking. In fact, if anything I do it more often. Even when I feel terrible and have headaches, sore legs, back spasms, never mind his cancer with a small c I trudge down to the harbour. And so the next day when I am at Andre’s and he brings me my coffee with toast and jam and I say, “Nice day. Clear sky, beautiful sun,” he stops to look at me and then up at the blue sky and then back to me, shrugging, before returning to his chair under the umbrella with a magazine.


For the last sixteen years Craig Loomis has been teaching English at the American University of Kuwait in Kuwait City. Over the years, he has had his short fiction published in such literary journals as The Iowa Review, The Colorado Review, The Prague Revue, Sukoon Magazine, The Maryland Review, The Bombay Review, The Absurdist, The Louisville Review, Bazaar, The Rambler, The Los Angeles Review, Five on the Fifth, The Prairie Schooner, and others.