The Queen Who Would Be King

At the doorways to the temple
a bearded woman guards the gods.
Many bearded women,
extravagant mysteries in stone,
endure elegant and imposing
with disdain for the puzzled.

O Hatshepsut,
the queen who would be king,
she of styluses and swords
who styled herself thus,
obeying the rules of the ruled
in which only kings figured.
Hatshepsut, you still could not
bend the adamant reality
with your mythopoeic mettle.

Your name on the obelisks
stays erased by the treacherous
orders of the one
who came after you,
the one who could not
bear without bristling
with impotent anger and greed
your queer attitude of command:
your unmaker, your husband’s son.

(From the series, “Travels in the Hereafter”)

Fragment III: Kites on 15 August

Kites flying overhead, father,
like only kites can do, controlled
yet soaring beyond boundary walls,
yet entangled with each other, terminal.
And we must still sing the freedom songs
the voice hoarse, the lines crooked, tuneless.
In her white handspun and broken spectacles,
I remember grandmother.

(From the series “Letters to Father”)

The Killers’ Song

We come to wait
For all of you to forget
The river is in spate
The river of blood-hate

A fanged moon is on the rise
The fields are just ploughed
We come to wait
For the rush of black clouds

The spades are laid low
From turning the soil red
The trees cast shadows
On the fresh graves of the dead

We come to wait
For the names of the fallen
Arising from the shadows
They are fast multiplying

We come to kill
In a caressing shower
Of shrapnel and bombs
You have nowhere
To turn, nowhere to go.

(From the series “Songs of Insurrections”)

Perpetual Stockings

The first to go numb
was the grip of the hip
a persistent loosening
fall, as the cold slithered
down her unsteady legs
and encircled her feet
in a pair of stockings
made of unfeeling ice

Startled, her feet took one
step after another, out
of step in the unfamiliar beat,
one, three, four, seven, ten

The stockings, frozen
in place, spun her feet
in a tornado of forgetting
as her nomadic feet bled
a relentless red dance
in perpetual stockings.

(From the series, “Sclerotic: Two Poems on MS”)

Living, Dying

Living is not an art –
dying is,
when muscles start
to slacken
and the skin
begins to sag
and all you
want is a couch
to curl up and
sleep in and a quilt
to keep you warm
and snug in your
lonely forlorn
flat and a mug
of hot cocoa
and your Calvino
to wake up to
and placid waters
from the balcony
randomly gazed at below
with their surface
now glinting
now mellow
now glinting
like a clock
or your heart ticking
its way into
a – you hope – serene
sunset without kicking
your way out
of words and routines
of the coffee cup
and lusty nicotine
and the Proust
you always
meant to catch up
on so that, you thought,
you could remember
all the things past
in their dying embers
and things yet to come
such as the wind
scattering your last
discrete atoms.

Excerpted with permission from Hereafter, Sabitha Sachi, Poetrywala.