There Is No Country For Writers

Lies emerging from deception
Or the hidden beast in things –
What strange, terrible experience is the Truth?
Low-priced religious pamphlets scream
The excessive glories of civilisations –
A superficial order of ranks and chasms of our languages.

Sometimes I crawl on four legs
Studying glossy reports of workers killed in factories.
Erroneous conclusions, and false morality have filled
My adulthood with inexplicable sexual fears.
Anonymous, ascetic libraries of memories are spiritual prisons
And I am not allowed to sin before god.

Lacking semantic rigour
Unique numeric identifiers of books self-destruct themselves.
Pessimistic moles on my face have inhibitory effects
On the muscular growth of hermit’s writings.
This is not something I was hoping for –
The advancement of art and literature.

Polytheists, monotheists, and infidels tell me
There is no country for writers.
Writing has become
Fake, fragile, questionable –
The impossible crime of attractive metaphysicians.

Why Are The Gods Jealous Of My Love?

In the old days
When we were falling apart and
Failing to create poetry and pottery
We made a great experiment.
Put aside all taboos and inhibitions, and
Made love in different styles of ancient temple architecture
In the naked absence of darkness
Her nails, filled with liquid pain
Ferociously scratched my flesh- convulsing with lies of fetish.

Not knowing anything of the future
We now strike each other’s breasts with artisanal furies
Thrust rapidly, over and over again
Punishing brutally our hidden fears –
Spilled on the street like the blood from butcheries.
Gasping for breath in the molten music of oxygen-making,
When we realise it is not enough to rust and rot
We slay each other’s bodies with the shaving blade of worshippers
Seeking pleasures of belonging to a wild country.

Adding and subtracting losses in poker games
Greedy-eyed bloodhounds wait
Amidst piles of our dead ancestors
For a taste of herbal tea.
No shame or guilt over vanishing light or air,
We have now come home
With the remnants of our bodies –
Charcoal coloured tales of silk and silver.
I can’t imagine why the gods are jealous of my love!

A Busy Street of Life

Gathering dust at my window
Subway sunlight slowly wakes me up.
The dark brown taste of sequence of the years
Lingers on my tongue.
Something in my memory never fades
Until very recently I didn’t know
Waking moments lasted long –
Almost limitless breadth of time.

Counting as if time is composed of a series of our
Second hand embarrassments
I look up from my phone.
The books in my library are glowing with
Shadows of tall mustard flowers
Forming a tableau of harmony within me
A budding, blank pre-language silence
Emptying my voice into the other end of time.

I recall it was spring, slipping into a coma
I was floating in the water pool in my
Apartment, to the sounds of
Rare species of birds –
Whispering rumours of my disappearing soul.
I am nowhere now, the space
I belonged to has cancelled me, but
Suddenly I feel a little more busy at home!

My New Identity

The moon was taking a nap in the noon.
Soldiers were frisking pedestrian shoes and socks.
Down the road
Sparrows and squirrels were chasing away suspect flies.
There were temporary tents where
Monkeys, laughing and crying,
Winnowed grains to feed prisoners.
Crouched in the boot of the truck
I hid my face in her breasts
Thinking of seagulls making love in sand-dunes.
I am not in a hurry. I
Want to eat, drink and dance before
They change my mask, and release my new identity.

It Was like Any Other Day!

It was like any other day, bright and sunny
So much grief was everywhere
The streets were full of dead bodies
And rusted ambulances
It was not like this before in the capital city
All the love we knew was in vain
There was no hope between our eyebrows;
We were starving
And gasping for air. So when they came
To serve us food and fun
We donated them our lungs and bid adieu!

Ashwani Kumar is a poet, writer and professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). Widely published, anthologised and translated into several Indian languages, his major poetry volumes include My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter and Banaras and the Other. Recently, a collection of his select poems titled Architecture of Alphabets has been published in Hungarian. His most recent book is Migrants, Mobility and Citizenship in India (Routledge 2021).