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 | ‘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 | ‘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. 

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.

Poetry | ‘The Broom’ by Daniel Barbare | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Where
Oh
Where
Is
The
Quiet
Muse

When
In
Time

It
Will
Whisper
In
The
Ear

Like
On
The
Shiny
Pine.


Danny P. Barbare has recently appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Plainsongs, DASH, lullwater review, and Columbia College Literary Review. He attended Greenville Technical College where his poetry won The Jim Gitting’s Award. And his poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net by Assisi Online Journal. He resides in the Upstate of the Carolinas with his wife and family and small dog Miley.

Poetry | ‘August 15th’ & ‘Venerable’ by Anvesh Jain

August 15th

Independence. Azaadi. Meaning
Yours to you, and mine to me.

Azaadi. To sit in Whitehorn
Beneath photos of Golden Temple.
To imagine Lahore and Amritsar
In fragmented sunset. Grandpa tells

Of a sister cut open on the midnight train.
Curved talwars, the dreamlike screams.

Azaadi. To wilt like flowers
In red October. Petals severed
From the stem. Inevitable violence,
Suicide and martyrdom.

Question time in Canadian creole,
Tongue tied by garlands of syllables.

Azaadi. To ask about letters
From Delhi. Letters from Punjabi Bagh.
Lacerations from fighter kites, on
Patang flyers and freedom fighters.

Seventy year hangover. Whir of
Ceiling fan. Partition backwash.

The DNA of Azaadi.
Maratha armies on the march.
A sickly emperor trapped at Red Fort.
The Rani Jhansi, Rock of Gwalior.

Principles of Revolution Indica.
Self-rule, exalted, on Independence Day.


Venerable

Cheap bowls tend towards recursion
When sagged with the fat bodies
Of mango and blackberry.
In lieu of regular delights,
Fruit-flesh of occident and orient
Are gored in multicultural tandem.

Progressives could paint a mosaic
Between gnashed teeth,
In medium pulp-and-fresco—red river rivulets
Bathe this looking skull on the prairie.
Grass-itch and crabapples by the back porch
Make ample company for onanist instinct.

At a time, the dripping bulbs are disinterred
By a heart that mocked, and a
Hand that fed. Purple-tart fields an
All-terrain of its own, flushed in
Nuclear orange and yellow thrush.
The natural gravities of southern Alberta
Lie further south still.

Good boys are taught alright
To suck the skin clean; to worship
Individual hairs on the scalp’s sweet altar.
Perceived waste was a sin
For the less grateful only.
Sadhus waltz in Bowness,
Fractals spiral towards Lethbridge
On the tongue felt barrier between mangos
And blackberries.

Years hence, the inspired 21st-century
Bodhisattva might restock the sublime perfection of grocers
Atop the fetid bloom of blood clot and spitseed.
Meanwhile, the aphid children of insects
Make love amongst the retch.


Anvesh Jain is an undergraduate student of International Relations at the University of Toronto. His work has previously been published in the Literary Review of Canada, the London Reader, Adelaide magazine, and Vayavya. He is an Associate Editor at the Hart House Review. Visit his website for more information: https://anveshjain.com/.

Poetry | ‘Paranoid Love’ & ‘Divorce’ by Vivek V. Narayan | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Paranoid Love

“Put the fruit on the table,” she whispered.

I laid out
grapes
oranges
peaches
green apples
pears
and a very ripe
pomegranate.

Minutes before she left,
I offered, “Fruit?,”
trying not to sound too worried.

She shook her head,
the pomegranate nuzzled against the soft peaches:
a comfortable position to explode in.

“Don’t worry, I have everything I need.”

The clock was a patient time bomb.

“Lipstick?”
“Yes.”
“Nail polish?”
“Yes.”
“The tracking bracelet?”
[…]
“Gloss?
“Yes!”
“Mascara? Your armored purse?”
[… ! …]
“Spare bullets?”
“Hmmm.”
“Escape money?”
“Always.”
“My phone number?”
She glared. Her inbreath hissed.

“The ear rings in their mother-of-pearl box?”
She checked, smiling softly as the sun
sprayed blood on the horizon,
and soothed, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Good. I felt safe.
So she had carried her armoured handbag,
reinforced with chainmail,
slung like a rifle from her shoulder,
loaded with lipstick and bullets.

Good. She was safe.
I felt in the mood.

The pomegranate exploded in my mouth,
spraying claret juices everywhere.


Divorce

The only thing left between us
is a washing machine bought
on your card.

On credit, too. Credit, 
Still left then.

Once,
long ago,
I remember,
I was 23 and the girl 32.
We left two ways from Mumbai:
she eastwards to Calcutta
and I to Ahmedabad.
In more ways than one,
I turned left,
and she, right,

We shipped birds and cats
memories and refrigerators;
no washing machine,
we’d always done our dirty laundry in public
(my friends still have nightmares about
her tirades to them
of how they’d ruined her
pre-ruined life).
Her TV had gone to my parents
and my DVD player to hers.

But you, now that we must
divide the loot of our discord,
tell me –

What must we do with the washing machine?
Shall one of us take the washer and the other, the dryer?
Or shall we run a chainsaw through the middle,
severing all that was common?

But how will you wash out
from the washer
the smells of my loneliness;
from its walls: the muck of my despair?
Will you spin out
from your dryer
(to tell at parties)
stories of my ineptitude?
My looniness?
My circular illogic?

Perhaps
you will laugh,
in a violent rattle like
the dryer sometimes had,
a malicious laugh like the death rattle
of an old washing machine
whose credit has run out.


Vivek V. Narayan is a writer, performance-maker, and scholar, who recently graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Theater and Performance Studies, and a PhD Minor in Anthropology. He is an alumnus of Royal Holloway, University of London, where he completed MA Theatre (Directing) on a Charles Wallace India Trust Award, and of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, from which he graduated with a BA in English Literature.

He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the Departments of English and Performing Arts, at Ashoka University. His writing has appeared in The CaravanJ-CASTEThe HinduFountain InkAZURE (3:44:3), and The High Window, while his theatre work has been staged in India, the UK, and the US. His work has been recognized by the Bluestone Rising Scholar Prize, the Charles Wallace India Trust Award, Thespo awards for young theatre practitioners in India, and was shortlisted for the Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award.  

Poetry | ‘Ghost’ by Fatima Ijaz | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Ghost

I watch & watch & watch
& watch,
There is no outer to this silken longing.
It is an inward spider, threading out
Routes to the dark interior.

Still, at times, a stubborn petal
Makes its way here – light & aerial.
A witch’s spell is inscribed
On its wayward accent.
I read in desperate lamplight,
The incantations of a rose.

Nothing is as lost as the dying ember.
Perhaps it shifts its ashen feet
Unable to decide, still.
Nothing, more found than a ghost
As it recurs on abandoned streets.


Fatima Ijaz is based in Karachi, Pakistan and teaches English Composition and Speech Communication at IBA. She is a contributing editor at a literary publication – Pandemonium Journal. She graduated in English from Hartwick College, NY and York University, TO. She holds an MA in English Linguistics from Eastern Michigan University, MI. She won first prize at the Mclaughlin Poetry Contest in Toronto (2007). She has participated in poetry and art collaborations which were featured at Music Mela 2019, Art Baithak 2019 and Taseer Art Gallery 2020. Her poetry and prose have been published in or are forthcoming in isacoustic, New Asian Writing, Kitaab, Rigorous, Zau, Praxis, The Write Launch, Red Fez, Whirlwind, Naya Daur, Poetica Review and Aleph Review amongst others.

Poetry | ‘Flight, in terza rima’ by Nandini Bhattacharya | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Girl gets on plane. This is unusual 

because her tribe doesn’t fly. Why should they? 

The world is simple, faith is colluvial. 

This is the girl’s first time. People said

one day she will fly, but there’s no rush. 

The girl isn’t nervous — just looking ahead. 

Her tribe — very old, old, middle-aged, plus

young, and ridiculously young — blink and 

wipe away tears and snot, discuss, suss 

unfamiliar grief. Some of the band 

— maddened by rashes and mosquitoes — 

Shriek in torment. Given to understand

they’re there since they have no right to veto

eternal values. Family matters. 

Some do feel a peculiar heartache though. 

Unspeakable. They aren’t used to chatter

about feelings — Hallmark nonsense. Crying 

in public is frowned on, no matter

why. A stiff upper lip is just a thing 

and not a sign of character. Best treat 

breakdowns with silent extra servings 

of food. Cucumber raita (in this heat) 

is better than a feeling. The airport 

— it’s the third world, hot, loud, dirty, surfeit 

with stench grabbing sad humans as its sport —

stinks of mingled feelings, food, anxiety, 

and shit. Amidst these sensory aborts, 

one woman’s crying can’t be heard. However, 

the soon-to-be flying girl sees her break. 

Ah yes, the prelude to leaving forever. 

Everyone knows. Powerless mother’s heartache.

The girl wishes the crying woman would 

stop. Now she can’t change where life will next take

her. Plane’s going to America. Good.

America, they say, is a real place. 

Also a fairytale; that’s understood.

The girl further knows that it is home base 

to bars, rock music, McDonald’s, Koolaid, 

the Mafia, and the real rat race.

The crying woman has heard about AIDS

And packed dinnerware in the girl’s luggage. 

She’s heard you can get AIDS from plates

and silverware. A steel plate in stowage,

the girl takes the plane to America. 

And from now on five times every decade

the once-girl changes to dollars takas, 

but lingers less because of security. 

The world’s become bigger, full of attackers. 

Safety sandwiches familiarity,   

if feelings don’t. Security matters. 

The world turns, continents crave polarity. 

Also, air-conditioning matters. 

Before, it didn’t matter this much. 

It’s been too long, the girl-woman discovers. 

The tribe has dwindled, the sobs are a touch  

abstract expressionist. Years turn to decades. 

America’s still the greatest, pretty much, 

inspiring worldwide love and hatred. 

Only the greatest countries can be both   

at the same time. The woman’s most sacred

struggles have been with loves and taking oaths

— this country and that, this family and 

that, these friends and those — and such scroogey troths 

always leaving her torn between feelings 

for the crying woman who years ago

went missing, but also air-conditioning. 

Then one year she’s at the airport to go

back to America which has lately been

made great again. The shrunk tribe can now no

longer come past the security screens. 

She looks back and tastes her salty tears,

But traitor cells involuntarily scream

praise for cold air. The once pioneer 

girl-now-woman waves at imagined tribe. 

Then the lift up to where dark clouds swirl.

Back to that country where no one takes bribes, 

where she once arrived trusting in her lot 

and a few dollars — as she never tires 

of telling her children who’d rather not 

hear it — thinking of that mother now and

then (that woman who used to cry a lot),

whom she’d someday bring to this promised land 

to live and die well, thanks so much to that 

great American healthcare, love’s last stand.


During an active academic career and while single-parenting, Nandini Bhattacharya has been writing fiction — mainly short stories and novels — for several years. She has received residencies and fellowships at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, the Sarah Lawrence Summer Writers’ Workshop, the Southampton Summer Writers’ Conference, The Voices of Our Nation Arts Writing Workshop, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop in Paris, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Centrum Artists and Craigardan Writers Residencies (forthcoming). She has published seven short stories and her novel titled Love’s Garden is forthcoming in October 2020; a second novel manuscript titled Homeland Blues is under consideration. She was chosen as the first runner-up for the Los Angeles Review Flash Fiction contest (2017-2018), as a finalist for the Fourth River Folio Contest for Prose Prize (2018), long-listed for the Disquiet International Literary Prize (2019), and a finalist for the Reynolds Price Women’s International Literary Award (2019). Born and brought up in an India remembered in the prose poem, she now lives in the USA outside of Houston, TX.