Kinshuk Gupta

For a long time, I wasn’t comfortable with labelling poetry – whether it was the black poetry of Philip Larkin, the spiritual poetry of John Donne, or the queer poetry of Ocean Vuong. Labelling poems ripped away from the multiplicity of meanings, fading the sheer excitement of being lost in the absurd wonderland of a poem.

But once during a sultry afternoon, I was discussing a set of poems with a friend. We came to Home Wrecker by Vuong, and I, as usual, kept focussing on the craft of it when my friend started sobbing. On asking the reason, she said that when her younger brother tried to come out to her, she got furious, and complained to her parents, who later locked him in a bathroom for almost a week.

She told me that her (then 20-year-old) brother didn’t shed a tear or ask for an apology. He just asked for a blue folder from his room. Later, she realised that the folder had print-outs of poems from poets who, she later found out, belonged to the LGBTQ+ community. It was then that the importance of calling a poem queer dawned upon me – the intricate relationship it creates between the poet and the reader, the commonality of shared experiences that gives somebody courage to survive, to be themselves.

Dibyajyoti Sarma

Do poems have a sexual identity? Of course not. I am drawn to poetry because it is fluid and ambivalent. It’s not the poet, but the readers who decide what a poem is. As a reader, I can read a poem as a queer poem, it’s my prerogative, but as a writer, I cannot label my poems as queer poems – it will stifle the very act of writing poetry.

On the other side of the argument, we desperately need a body of queer writing in India. We need our own Thom Gunn, Mark Doty, or Ocean Vuong. We need to move past discussing the Indian queer identity in terms of the law and the struggle for recognition. We need to tell stories beyond the same coming out/coming of age tragedies.

Making Love

Making love is like enjoying a magic trick.

You are awe-struck until you learn
how the magician conjured a rabbit
or a silver spoon up his sleeves,
and you know, it was not what
you expected when you first saw him
under the soft light in a green sweater.

You close your eyes
and imagine his body.
You did not envision
the mole on his chest,
the cut-mark on his back, and
how his thighs are so thin!

Making love is like enjoying a magic trick.

You know it’s just a trick
but you believe it.
You close your eyes
and imagine that perfect body,
that perfect kiss, that passion.
And when it’s done,
you applaud the magician.

Making love is like enjoying a magic trick.
You make love to yourself.

Love Story

Ten years without you. For so it happens. I’m beginning to forget you. And I don’t dream of you anymore. Just occasionally I miss you. Not you specifically (I’ve forgotten what you looked like, and I don’t have a photograph), but the idea of you. How I courted happiness when you were with me. Now alone, I court a phantom pain gnawing at me – the version of me ten years ago.

Already like a disciplined scholar, I piece fragments together to keep you alive in my memory. Your name is my email password, but I don’t remember how we met. I remember the date (I had written it on a paper napkin and tucked it away in my wallet), but nothing else. Was it raining that night? Was it raining the day you left? What did we do together? And where? I know we met every single day. I remember the quiet excitement of waiting for you – a skill I’ve become adept at since.

For so it is proper to find value in a bleak skill, a skill I’ve honed for a decade. So even when I’m beginning to forget you, I cannot let go of this act of the quiet excitement of waiting. And so, this is my memorial to you, this quiet excitement of waiting. Perhaps it’s artless but it’s pure — for this wait would never end and I’ll keep on trying not to forget you.

springtime –
watering the roots
of a dead tree

(The lines in italics are from The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz by Geoffrey Hill)


This is how I find you –
in synecdoche,
in fleeting, furtive meetings and partings,
in tentative fingers finding me in the crowd on the metro
for someone else’s pleasure,
in a whiff of your favourite shampoo on someone else’s hair,
in a pair of random, desirous knees closing in on me in the bus.

This is how I find you –
in disjointed body parts,
in neatly trimmed moustaches, in manicured fingers,
in grey hair protruding through the shirt button,
in toothy laughter, in brown leather shoes, in red ties.

This is how I find you –
in public places,
in the touch of the butcher’s old, blue hands as I pay him,
or in the handshake with a stranger in a party
because he’s drinking your favourite drink.
I find you when someone brushes me by on the pavement, or when
I close my eyes and let a stranger kiss me in the dark of the park.

I keep my eyes shut and let you kiss me
for the first time, for the last time.
This is how I find you –
among strangers in the public.

Sandip Baidya

I like the word. Queer. It means being different. It also means that I have become adept at the practice of hiding my parts since childhood. An ever-changing world that I inhabit every day in my head and heart, like a rainbow eddying on a bubble – always in conflict with the actual world that we inhabit.

Restless In Summer

I remember a summer when catching sunlight
on the ends of my legs wasn’t enough.

I looked for it everywhere, like a newborn duck
with no mother in sight. I went to the swimming pool,
running all the way there, covered with ovals of sweat,
showered & cleaned between the crotch, smelled
the chlorine waft before diving where the bottom
becomes a sore eye of cobalt colur,
touched the tiles, teased the lungs with death

But still, something was missing.

I took to sitting on dry grass and felt the scruffs
of park dogs, felt mud and grime collect between
my toes, and it still wasn’t enough.

I drew endlessly that summer, from when the sun
butt-touched the tiles of my room, to when it receded
back into dusk, oil pastels sweltering against paper,
my thumb peacock-blue, and I realised why nothing was enough –

All day, every day, I failed to notice that I was
drawing things that were spiral in shape with one end
more sharp than curved, and I knew –

I wanted you so much –
Your adam’s apple to coincide with my adam’s apple.

In Laogang 1984,

you & I could be sitting, feet dangling
inside river Muhoori, among pools of eels


you’re not in flesh anymore, but
in ensemble of photons, buzzing every summer near the shore.
All these years I’ve been
learning to touch your light. Somedays I run after it like
children after cut kites.

In Laogang,
mothers push out armies of fishermen
Some live to battle
the treacherous waters –
become champions,
become big and nicely umber under sun.
Others like you
are martyred.

Our feet once, were dangling like loose magnets,

toe finding toe.

ants then stopped work to look, crabs captivated
dropped their trunkful of babies to look,
worms turned up heads to look,
forest closed in on us to look. We were golden

& we’d discovered a new carnal artery in each of us,
rising like the risky waters underneath.

Laogang (lao + gang) (lao: gourd, gang: valley)
has quit fishing.

Every baby grows up now, to dig up soft earth that is baby-river-proof,
to plant rows and rows and rows of gourds.
They make ektaras out of
their dried-up chassis & play day
& night to earn alms. Unlike you, they survive.

Vanity of Some Adventures

I see naked children falling off the end of sidewalks,
that are swept clean by thin mothers. My cycle spokes speak
uneasy language on the road. Sometimes my arms open up
to embrace downhill air, stretch to catch crow feet while the
sun beats on the skin like Green Day drums. I am nicely-burnt again.

When, near South block, my eyes tear out, prancing through grass
to creep up stranger legs and rest there for some blissful o’clock of time
and I’m breathing again through nothing – no cloth, no surgical fabric, no fear.
Life, they say is a matter between you and yourself
so when I speed through roundabouts at the risk of losing this life,
I boldly whisper, “It’s my life”, my heart becomes horse legs –
racing racing and racing till it all comes to a stop. Like a period
at end of the most meaningful sentence. You wonder, “what next” –


– Home is a test, an ascension of mammoth staircases,
home is a cold comfort floor and a roof above our heads
home is the cradle where I come to mourn the death
of radioactive adventures.

Agam Balooni

Of queerness, one can say that it names a tendency that in fact – in praxis, that is – reveals the spectrality of Law when Law claims itself to be the absolute reality. It is contingent, can be recognised, and makes itself known in the everyday. It is as old as desire, it has a history, and it comes from and lives through language, from which it is therefore inalienable. A queer identity – a queer poet, for instance – consolidates, temporarily, portions of this tendency into a recognisable form but cannot thereby capture its entirety.

Which Sunset

Choose – of the sunset now
breaking with release

indigo with blue now
all over this massive lake
passing as the sea

at the overextended death
of first-world sun. The edge
of this dollar five-hundred dining table

burnished now except under my forearm –
leaf-blood standing exposed in the glow
of inadequate midwest windows

and those that bleed in reminder

and those other faraway, brief

spectres swallowed by the hungry mountains
fragrant daily just until the diesel
knocked around – in angry fumed exhales –

the iron gate that rang


Let us try and drown in drink
treasures that have been with me these past
thirty years. I am at last
lucky owner of my large inheritance
and little has all my raging come to change
about it. I’d like to think I am
acquainted with a living that is spent –
see the sun caught on a straight horizon:
stuck, pulling away to escape
their own daylight, colouring the dusk redder
and redder tearing themself in half
The moon is not their friend
Saturn not their friend
Neptune not their
Earth, not


Here – a provocation in a blanket
warm as ears
ringing from a shelling close to home:

I hear so many voices

The lake
the lake surpasses sight
one sees it holds the bodies of so many boats
in which young men, tired from all the rowing, lie

young desirable men
burden of fairness flickering
on their faces as they walk, away from home,
with us on our busy streets

In the dark a brat tears a sheet from his atlas
and wakes the whole house

Never been to the valley
although I hear that for miles
feet carry on with no need for turning
the face is dotted by a rain

whose impression lingers for years – I hear
the wind is spent with riding the fields
so the lake is never roiling. In the quiet
schoolchildren must sleep without stirring

There are no women in the valley I hear
awake now in your sorrow
a bird starts: aligns
a wing to a current

a work of art a shroud a cover
unmeaning except in passing to
spread itself over fine bits of metals

Yamini Krishnan

For me, writing is a place where I can understand things, as well as escape from them. Desire, emotions, my body, and the experiences it carries – they’re all ineffable and entangled in me, and it’s only through poems that I can make sense of them.

Macchar Maarna

In the summer, you turn into a warlord.
Your bedroom is large and pink
and doesn’t hold time the way the rest
of the world does, but it does hold mosquitoes.
You like it when they die at your hands, perverse little streaks
of dried blood on the walls as we lie tangled like
party streamers. We watch sitcoms with pretty girls
in them, but you hear buzzing and suddenly
the clock strikes murder. Your hand raps my leg,
smearing it with insect-blood, my favourite scarlet letter.
I kill time with you, and you kill mosquitoes.
You don’t want them to get me – in here,
only you get to bite me like that.

I Think We Should Start Saying Poems are From People, Not By Them

Lately, I’ve been coughing up words
like stray coins from old pant pockets.
My poems come from my heart sometimes,
but not cleanly, and never from the right place.
When I write people poems, they are often
flummoxed. I imagine my loved ones holding
a newborn poem in their hands,
it wobbling in their palms, waiting
to be made into something stronger by being seen.
My friend hates ribcage metaphors
but there’s fridge poetry lodged
in my chest, alphabet spaghetti draped
around my bones like Diwali lights
several days after. To write from the body
is to make paper from skin. A boy jokes
that I cannibalise myself on the regular,
making poems from everything that
makes me a person. I wish we said
that poems were from people,
not by them, like saying here
take this bloody, shiny thing – it came
from my body. It’s for you.


“The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the kind of time.”

— Richard Siken, from ‘Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out’

I want so much and so little –
to buy mugs and floral linens,
to drink on a rainy balcony.
Happiness within a city stormed-in
a monsoon without tears. I am
alright with drowning, as long
as I’m with my friends. My silly
pack of wolves, grinning and crying
in turn, and sometimes I’m alone
and something like longing hits me
in the space between my ribs. Wanting
feels like summer clouded by smoke,
and I’ve never enjoyed anything more
than dancing without worrying about
being watched. What I want is a room
without eyes, ones that brand me like men
or demons, even when I am asleep.
I want to be unmarred by my histories,
to trust easily and hurt without wanting
to die. My want pours itself into
an empty swimming pool, something dusty
and blue, like a woman waiting to be filled.

Curated by Kinshuk Gupta.