Poetry | ”Of Lipstick and Labels’ & 1 more poem by Anureet Watta | LGBTQ+ (Vol 1) – Issue 35

Of Lipstick and Labels

What they do not tell you,
when you finally kiss a girl is,
that it may not feel right the first time,
it may not feel right ever.
sometimes walking out of the closet
is like walking into a new one.
The labels you choose
after years of rummaging,
through leftovers
from past revolutions,
and all the sneers thrown at school,
the labels
might still not fit as perfectly,
as you thought they would,
but you’re allowed to get them wrong again
and again.
When this confusion becomes the most familiar part of my day,
I think
I’ve spent too long in the closet,
for all these ill-fitting sizes,
and too awkward shoulders,
by now,
I should’ve figured what to do with a black eye,
how to stitch torsos to fit like armour,
what do you mean all this lace and satin wasn’t meant for me?
When you kiss a girl,
you will still not know
what to do with your hands,
they’re too wobbly for this business,
the parts of her,
you thought you knew your way around
would still feel alien,
and unfamiliar,
like going back to where you once lived,
where everything is the same, but nothing really is;

but you’ve practised
for this unfamiliarity,
your hands on her stomach,
might make you hate yourself a little less,
for her soft belly, is just soft belly,
not disappointments measured out in tacos,
after all,
you might not crave the sharp edges,
you thought you always needed,
you wouldn’t have to fold yourself so small
to fit in little pockets of love
love is Marine Drive, huge, and salty,
but waiting,
and it doesn’t care what shape you are.

when you kiss a girl,
maybe all the flowers in all the poems will make sense,
maybe you’ll want to melt all the words,
that shuffle through your mind
as her face fits perfectly
between your chin and your shoulder
and melt them with the sweetest of lies,
and pour into the cracked edges of the world,
just so it heals.

what they do not tell you,
about kissing a girl is
even when you like it
is that your eyes will always stay open
on the lookout for fire,
but there might be lipstick
and hers might wear on yours
like a swatch
Make a colour you can’t name,
and when you get home
your mother might say
this shade
this shade makes you glow.


We Swallow the Sun to Keep from Stuttering

coming out

as a person, a gender, an orientation, a heartbeat,

was never a one-time thing,

but we keep longing for it to be,

maybe soon,

it will be our last time around.

You tell me,

what it’s like to dream,

a body for yourself,

heights and hair and hands and parts,

that match your heart,

you want to pick a name,

so much softer than all the things you’ve been through,

maybe one day,

these longings will just be the memoirs and reminder,

which come after new dawns.

You have never longed to be understood,

just acknowledged,

under kinder skies and with undoubtful eyes,

but until then,

I’m here,

and I’m not really a hug person,

but I think we can both use one,

it is hard to carry so much hurt,

in chests that have never quite felt like your own,

in hearts that have learnt to love,

in ways, they weren’t taught,

in hands that still have to prove

their actuality.

friend,

longings are soft,

but it’s the soft things that destroy us in the end,

that turn fights into revolutions,

it always hurts to become,

what you’ve intended to,

no one is looking,

blossoming is still blossoming;

we are, after all,

the truest reporters of ourselves,

no matter how many times we got it wrong before.

the moon does not have to ask,

before it changes,

the moon has never learnt to apologise,

when it shines greater than the sun.


Anureet Watta is a 19 year old poet from Delhi. She writes of queerness, girlhood and the overwhelming anguish of being alive. Performing across open mics in Delhi, she believes spoken word poetry is the perfect amalgamation of poetry and theatre.



Submissions open for

LGBTQ + Vol 2 (January, 2021)

Solicited entries paid.

The Bombay Review

Poetry | ‘1959’ & ‘Limerence’ | By Carl Scharwath

Carl Scharwath’s thesis on duality is piqued in well-crafted miniscule phrases that bear testimony to imagery. 

1959

Two children plaster forms

A decorum of the 1950’s

Embellishment, quietly grace

The family road trip.

Baseball cards on the floor

Gum under the seat

A façade of happiness 

As billboards swoop by.

Telephone wires, a dizzying array of surrealistic lines crossing the clouds and pointing the way. Last-chance gas stations, diners with dead-end jobs, the radio static filled with a revival preacher, admonishing the listeners to repent. Everything turns to Utopia.

 

Mom in the front seat

Dreams of a new washing machine

Perhaps a new house coat

And a husband who would love her again.

Father, eyes straightforward

Thinks of the next two martini-lunch and

An evening rendezvous with his young secretary

In a secret hotel close to home.

Like a thick novel with empty pages-four lives down the highway in a metal casket with tail fins. Route 66 attractions beckon for attention and a sparked conversation. This nuclear family just one of the forgotten many in the proto-industrialization of a historical timeline-a contaminated generation.


Limerence

You are alone

I am ashamed

We walk among the lavender, wilting in the heat of our passion. Wisteria releases tears of dew drops on a lover’s pillow encased in short-lived memories. Tattered vulnerabilities, crushed velvet revelations filter through the flower field. This is the territory of asbestos laced pollen. The martyred pathway sinful and filled with misty lies under the shadows while the world is changing. 

The end of the beginning

Is the beginning of the end

Carl Scharwath’s poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays and art photography have appeared in 150+ journals. His photography was featured on the cover of six journals. His poetry books are – ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv). His first photography book was recently published by Praxis. He is the art editor for Minute Magazine, Poetry Editor for TL Publishing Group, and a competitive runner and 2nd degree blackbelt in Taekwondo.

Poetry | ‘Chennai in Frames’ & ‘Sestina’ | By Saranya Subramanian

Saranya Subramanian’s poems have gasps-and-wonder-in-punctuations taken from places like Bombay and Chennai or grown from the life of Perumal Murugan and his interiority. Such variety!

Chennai in Frames

Thatha’s Ambassador croaking at us
Heavy air carrying sweat and grime
Sandalwood’s scent peeling off walls
Winter trips to Madurai by bus
Heat washed away by Marina’s sweet lime
Beach memories packed in volleyballs 

A backyard of our sleeping cricket bats
Red earth keeping warm Tulsi’s feet
Dinner on the terrace dipped in starlight
The grumbling generator housing rats
Tamil Soaps forming our home’s heartbeat
Downstairs toilet burping through the night

Comic books replaced with medicines
Laughter: once family, now visitor
Walking sticks: the new pillars of the house
Cancer taking his body, not his grin
Solemn-looking, weepy mourners
Patti’s tears filling wells, saving droughts

Dirt standing where home once was, once divine,
me standing in Chennai, but seemingly stuck in the wrong paradigm.


Sestina
For Peumal Murugan

He licked his thoughts along
the envelope seal, shut it tightly
and posted it to no one. Inside it
were ideas we’d never see—sharp
pebbles that cause multiple ripples
over still waters. 

It is sinful, they said, water
must reflect a frozen image along
its banks; it must be calm, devoid of ripples,
to show calmness in return. His tightly-
clutched pen was snatched. Their sharp
swords granted him a life without it

and left him with a blank page. But it
was deceptive, like how the surface of water
bodies hide fields of algae below. The page’s sharp
border fell into a coastal shelf. Peppered along
its bottom were baby wordlings, tightly
packed and jostling against one another. Ripples

were birthed from this chaos; every ripple
sprung from a crowning word as it
locked arms with other words tightly,
peeking up from underwater.
There was no stopping them. Crawling along
the coast, they appeared as sharply

dressed sonnets and sestinas, sharp
enough to slice through sand. Ripples
met with a lyric here, marching along
to the beat of rebellion, a ghazal there, in all its
glory, glorifying the gods of fire and water
written out of law. Tightly

bound, they were the Songs Of A Coward, tightly
tied together in cowardice. Their sharp
melodies caused creases on still waters,
as they united to form one fearless ripple
that grew into a tidal wave. It
ran towards the shore, tiptoed along

its path and crawled along the prison walls that tightly
shut the writer within it. Each song’s sharp teeth
gnawed off his chains. A ripple trembled into roaring waters.

Perumal Murugan was to be read again.

Saranya Subramanian is a 22-year-old literature aficionado, based in Bombay. She spends her time singing to herself and watching Madhubala videos (sigh!). And she writes because, well, it’s all that she can really do. 

Poetry | ‘Honestly,’ & ‘Since I Wrote’ | By Rajosik Mitra

Rajosik Mitra’s is refreshing new voice written in almost a stream-of-conscious tone, capturing the qualia that would otherwise have sieved away.

Honestly,

I have no pain, nothing to speak of anyway,

all I’ve had I’ve had in vain – shadows and rain,

and that bolt from heaven,

scattering us into the night,

as I walked down Error Avenue, 

the Delusion Bridge,

down to my favourite street 

one weeknight in the universe

to see you; 

it was nine thirty, three hours late – 

now everybody’s good friend

(Time rest his soul)

Preetam’s dead, 

so nobody gets wasted 

anymore, 

Neil is cleaning his lungs far out in lonely Trivandrum,

and the world spun so fast we couldn’t make sense 

of the simple summer rain;

you should know,  

I don’t go looking for fixes anymore,

like on some grand quest for Truth, like one of these days 

I’m going to pull down these cheap jalousies and blinds

of Maya like they were hanging from a hawker’s hanger 

in Park Street; then break into the control-room of existence

and catch truth with a toothbrush, in its underwear,

naked, not ready and maybe afraid.

You see, 

I’ve imagined the truth arching over the south-city black tower

wind-flat mercurial suspension-steamed emptiness and sweet,

rich, sweat-bead sigh of the plexiglass and frigid ATMs,

inaccessible to the cabbie parked inside a patch of street cancer

boiling in oil and noon but accessible to me,

and my enlightened air-conditioned academies.

I’ve imagined it in the alley inhabiting the beehive sting of the queen, 

I’ve imagined it watching over me from the balcony 

two chillums away, in the railyard evening, 

where flowers give out smoke and smell of hashish,

while Bittoo sits between scented money

and the wind smells of vodka rushing  

in the winter dry-drizzle cold-alone gutter of the dead, 

’cause he’s figured he ain’t no movie star

dredging every day that black drain for bread;

then the police took him away 

I could hear a faint siren fading, 

the probable cloud of truth shifting,

disappearing completely. 

Do you see? 

A dark night has fallen upon me, upon you, upon those pupils that are cellphone-blue, 

upon those that are happy, upon those boys you knew

making spiced potato-mash in the forest under the moon, 

it is night now, on the moon, it is night now in the stars, that sleep deprived

of oxygen in the red flesh-eating smoke, it is night now upon the surface of the sun,

it is night now, in the heart of the universe and we’re not programmed 

to further understand.

There are more complex things to write about, you’d say,

it was always this way, there’s nothing new in the cycle of ages, 

and you’re right, you know, 

I wish I could write about living more;

the intricate sugar cube, the old man balloon, a moment with dad, 

the daily afternoon melancholy of my mother, my sister, and how her little daughter says 

they went on a visit to washing-machine-ton and how last year, all of a sudden 

winter changed colour.

I’m sitting here, my vague grasp weakening on metaphors and similes

while in 2017 the world went mad with creativity, 

I’m sitting down with the old man junkie,

melting wax, undead, undying, mixing with the underpass – 

looking for nothing, here the long hairy hand of advertisement can’t reach us. 

I hope you’re doing fine, and don’t beat yourself up about the flowers you’ve trampled

trying to catch a butterfly, they’re all petals of the same lie, 

and don’t ask me why I bother to write;

all these bad lines, insult subtlety and rhyme, 

honestly,

I don’t feel like writing long-ass poems, 

I don’t feel like being a severed head about town, useless in a wartime globe.

Honestly, you know, I’m writing bad more and more,

I’ve been mostly dishonest lately, but believe me,

honesty is poetry in this world.


Since I wrote

I have now a heap of sand,

the great hiding spirit that guides 

all stringers of words 

weave me warnings and tell me

I’ve burnt 

my only matchstick-hand. 

In the desert on a moonless night

in my tatter-old jeans

I’ve searched for some airborne light

a breath long and inescapable to the mind, 

you could say I was searching 

for signs of life. 

If you’d know me you’d learn  

I hate petty rhymes

and in the sand there lay 

the ruins of the king of kings 

reading Coleridge now 

I fear he’s not been so kind.

I walk two paces, no more than that 

everyday, and before me the great 

endless arch

and somewhere between them 

I’ve killed much time. 

Darkness grows bottom shallow 

so you’d think it’d dawn

but you’ve not seen nothingness 

not like this 

neither gray, black nor white. 

Lung full of gunk and a life

of two squares 

hyenas on a freight train in the quantum

realm snigger plot and smile.

Pixels bookshelves clat-key uber-green alphabets,

what words could come out of the dead 

what poems could do to the absolute 

endless zero? 

So I raised myself onto the keyboard

and walked on lego-earth flat

my father says I’m old, 

mother strand of hair-grey sadness never spoke, 

only listened 

 listened for some promised morning bird.

Poems don’t pay neither do paintings 

 when you’re bad you’re bad at everything.

Shouldn’t be so personal, these are trying times- 

 in my dreams I go to Varanasi 

not knowing what I’ll find, 

 great gray moustache collapsibles 

soda lemonade ice-cream I’m sorry I said, 

 I’m only looking for an N-95. 

Somewhere I met dead Niladri barely 

 twelve when he died, searched him up on internet, 

and found nothing but death.

 Found my schoolyard changed 

and I think sometimes 

what a blessing to know Ideal_grave 

 great composer caught by dragons on the page 

we should never be rusty- he said. 

 Drag my face across the keys, out-dreams 

and visions and Denver and quiet seaside Edinburgh 

 and souls of swords and their names through 

the redbook of Jung 

and archetypes of the void, of everything gone quiet,

 my usual tropes of windows and sinister flyovers, 

everything gone quiet.

 And I know of Trappist, Andromeda, Susskind 

and America of Morrison and Moore I know Mitras 

 and Mukherjees and Chaudhuri and Chakrabortys some of them so kind to me, 

some outright cold. 

I’ve learned to speak to run and hide and climb black-brick

 mountains and prose and there are words I stole – Kerouac Kafka

Milton everyone on this poem and on and on it goes,

 In this I am in this I’m all, if there is something 

in me that is me it is mute,

 there is nothing I long for more

than to stare at nameless long-gone stars through a telescope.

Rajosik Mitra was born and raised in Kolkata, who likes to read poems, classics and comic books, and prefers to stick to the straightforward and uncomfortable when reading and writing, and sometimes has a lot to say.