The loch (Scottish for lake) at the heart of the University of Stirling campus sort of anchors me even when I am not physically around it. I didn’t even realise when it became the centre of my little universe here – every movement away from it is a soft centrifugal force towards the circumference of the rest of the UK Skyline. Here are two poems, written two months apart – (as perhaps evident from the depth of attachment in the later one [Spirit of the loch] and the surprised sense of discovery in the earlier one [Night on the Loch-Bridge]).

— Nikita Parik

Poems by Nikita Parik

Spirit of the Loch

On days such as these, when the sun is an
looking at us from above, from behind the
curtain, and the cold, cold rain keeps me

the loch comes to me. It comes to me as the
of water splattering my window, for what if some
little droplet
had once belonged to the loch, what if it still

the memory of being the loch, what if it
this soft ache in my soul, showed up because
what you
ache for sometimes aches back for you.

The loch
comes to me like the dandelions a child blows
not knowing all the lovely places its petals end up
travelling to.
Here, now, in my warm little room, the spirit of
the loch

engulfs me: its pristine glass surface
broken up
into further beauty by the rain, its resident
gliding gracefully across a rain-crusted

Night on the Loch Bridge

One step outside the warm concrete, and our eyes
stars strewn across university grounds like flash-
lights, as if

the lake had extended an arm, pulling this stretch
of sky closer
into an embrace. A chill descends, but look what rises
like Frisbees:

warm smoke-rings of laughter in different
tongues –
adrift heart-pitched tonality, unmoored,

until they fall into a flattening curve, disperse around
your blonde braids,
become a frozen moment in a poet’s mind, startling

The two poems capture my journey, mostly inner and inward, through the structures and landscapes of London and Scotland during my term as a Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow at SOAS, University of London. Partly, the desire to melt into a patch of land, converse with it, enter into its creases and crevices, to touch its core led to self discovery and epiphanies of varied sorts. What does a place do to one’s psychological contours, one’s mind? Does a place make us, find us or is it the other way round? How and why we carry places in our head? Would the place remember us too –  our bearings, footsteps, voice, language, face…? Perhaps the poems touch upon these vital questions.

— Namrata Pathak

Poems by Namrata Pathak

Barbet-Tales of Central London

I who have been substituting red for brown,
claws for fingers, feathers for words
should stop, take back the city with me
before it lets go of light.
At night the city is a barbet
flying out of nowhere, as it
nibbled at the leftover shadows
of a skyscraper-lined sky, I wonder
how long would I keep feeding
it absences?

I seldom dwell on the knotty
intersections between a city and a bird,

not when the two are synonyms, interchangeable;
instead I should pay
more attention to the details, my surroundings
now that I am both inside and outside, here and there,
a reflection, inverted, non-real, would the city
call me by a different name? –

The windows of my office are miniature mirrors,
frames within frames – I am many, fragmentary;
then, one, two, three patter of hopelessness
on the glass house of this fragile love;
then, one, two, three barbets pecking at
the loose windy garb of the magnolia tree.

At Warren Street, the Picadilly Line
takes me through creaking sand dunes, glittery minarets,
broken elements that the heart is made of:
gems, amethysts, gold, pain –
only that the city seems to exist in my head.

Sometimes like a sorceress I can find the city
in a crystal ball of loneliness,
in the coral-flower the Benetton girl sports on her hair.
All white. It is my landmark, not to get lost on my way to work.
Once I walked past shops and shops to reach
a field of sieved light. Unmowed water blades,
just to realise that only in dreams I can fell
cherries from this city’s glowing branches,
catch the watery sky on my red, Kali-tongue,
ink it on my brown, mud-tinted skin –

my hands that fail to scoop up the fading neon lights
of a February morning, do not trust skin, touch.

The city is a sound of mourning.
I move inside its conch shell-belly
to find another city; now it is time
to give up on my desire to swallow it down,
make it a part of myself. I have to return.

Drawing a Parakeet on a Rainy Day in Edinburgh

On days like this when the rain takes down the sky with it,
empties it out, you are left with nothing above your head –
only a miscalculation that the sky is 91 million miles away
from the sun or was it 93 million miles?
Would it make a whole lot of difference?

The sky was a wrong decision anyway. An expartite thought,
unwanted, it had to be brought down brutally.
The rain shape-shifting, turning inward, needs to be classified,
dare say, is it
nitrogen, argon, grief?

The rain is a failed mission. It could not proselytize the groves
outside my window,the eucalyptus trees turn into
twenty armed men, rifles in hand, ready to open fire at me.

But how would I draw a parakeet
when there is nothing above my head,
just a bile-bitter awareness of being the sole living entity
in a conclave, convex space, a non-space, an infinite space –
with the angry sky mouthing slangs
and melting into countless shards of
names, non-names? –

Is it the inevitability of calling him by my name?

Made more stoic by the rain,
more difficult, I broke
the pact of peace with the parakeet.
Sometimes parakeets and rain
make funny disruptions.
Now there are
too many colours to know
the difference between blue and green,
day and night.
The parakeet is ugly.
Perhaps Ishould seek a fortune elsewhere
or learn the alchemy of becoming one.

Nikita Parik is the 2022-2023 Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow at the University of Stirling. Her third and latest book, My City is a Murder of Crows (2022), was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize. Her works have appeared in Rattle, U City Review, The Alipore Post, Vayavya, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Stanford University’s poetry gallery, the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, and several other venues.

Namrata Pathak teaches in the department of English, North-Eastern Hill University, Meghalaya. She has six books to her credit, and her latest are Indira Goswami: Margins and Beyond (2022) and a reader on Arun Sarma (forthcoming from Sahitya Akademi). Her debut collection of poems, That’s How Mirai Eats a Pomegranate was published by Red River in 2018. Her poems are part of anthologies to be published by Aleph, Zubaan, and other publishers. She is currently the Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow (2022-2023) at SOAS, University of London.