Imagine going back
to before the first panic attack
before the world revealed itself
as the flimsy neon-edged thing it is
and your teeth were intact, once
you had never woken to the dust
of your own enamel in your own mauve mouth
that place supposedly full of kisses
waiting to be given as reward
for winning your brittle, fickle heart.
Once you were not something to unknot
you were whole as Solan pickled plums
once you were unbred by politics
cusping on curiosity not spent
on the daily pounding of persistent anger
imagine if you knew no thieving of breath
no shame of tears in the sticky velour back of a taxi cab
as you wail I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know
and the one person you trust says it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay,
on that untrustworthy machine, your phone,
but it isn’t [okay], but hush, hush, imagine,
before all this somewhere
you were being born
you were a prawn-head, crinkle-butt, flush-face,
you were a speck you were atoms gathering,
weightless space then not
once, you were a moment of want.


It took me a long time
to come into my own,
but now that I’m here
I plan to inhabit me completely.

I plan to eat all the lotuses
turn myself into royalty
learn to cartwheel so that
I may conquer the world
and all its islands upside down.

I plan to watch seven hundred
and thirty sunrises and sets.

Dine on rosebuds and
in place of long legs grow a tail
swish sadness away
like a swallow or mermaid
or some wild winged thing,
and I will float as opposed to walk,
illegal as it may be.


I plan to feel the earth in my bones,
tend difficult Gondhoraj till it thrives
at the swinging altar of my knees,
comb my hair with shark fishbone,
and drink honey straight from
the mouths of bees.

It’s time. I’m ready.

The Great Indian Rope Trick

There is a woman in me rising
out of all the ones that aren’t.

She is being pulled forth
by the oiled plait of her dark hair
slithering skyward –
will it turn to noose
halfway, like a trick?
Is it even a sky or a blue glass
ceiling waiting sharp, a vicious
cloud festooned guillotine.

She is being born, lotus-foot-first,
running, baby bud feet on cracked earth,
she is surpassing six million years
of something erroneously called evolution,
a pataki, an umbilical cord shooting backwards t
hrough time, to chase down the first patriarch
and feed him the tough seeds of his daughter’s freedom.

She is rising and rising through the fault lines
of failed humanity, bursting,
like some manic radical stalk
through history
to seize and scoop through the soil
all the ones that aren’t
till they come gasping up for the air
that’s forever been theirs.

In the Days of Separate Lives

And so I learnt how to live without your laughter,
because it meant I could live without always being late.
I learnt to put on a nice dress and comb my hair
even if I was alone,
because if a tree falls in the forest
and there is no one there to hear it
a tree has still fallen in the forest.
I learnt to grow so large I could fill a bed
which earlier you and I and all our dogs
and every one of our sadnesses never could.
I learnt that one single person rising all alone
can grow to fill what two people falling out of love
together could never.
We used to lie on opposite ends
three feet of bedsheet
an impossible ice desert to cross.
We used to lie entwined like ghosts.
I have now learnt the solitude
of lying in my own arms.
I have learnt to be firm,
to repaint the edges of my body
that had disappeared like vapour in search of stars.
Today I am so vast I turn whole rooms into my own.
Sometimes at night I wake scared and small.
I take a sip of cold water and expand again.
I am a giant and I am filled with nothing but my own love.

Where Stories Gather: Poems

Excerpted with permission from Where Stories Gather: Poems, Karuna Ezara Parikh, HarperCollins India.