Seagulls, Parrots, Mynahs and I

I am half asleep
Listening to prophecies of my memories.
Seagulls kiss my lips
Choke my throat with sinners’ languages
We mate – sometimes fast, sometimes slow
With supple perfection of street magicians.
There is no hint of guilt or grief
Our bodies punctuate Kabir’s bhajans in between.
Pale-eyed stone-gods strangle themselves
With wrappers of sanitary pads.
Silent and terrified
We break into inconsequences of tears
Trying to hide from smudge-proof layers of mascara.
Speaking with strange voices
Parrots and mynahs count our transgressions in starving sunsets.
She writes her name on my hip-bones –
I am touched, she is touched.
There is a sound of carnivorous satisfaction
Sinking deep into the forgotten parts of our bodies.

Rusting in the taboos of history
She is now hungry like a late-night animal.
I follow her in the pigmented-ink light.
She is not done yet with me –
I wash my naked flesh in the rains of mud and mica.
It is me, I said to her.
She wonders what I would look like afterlife.
She lights the funeral pyre –
I smell the odour of my past
And rot in her ashes on the ghat!

Saeed Mirza Listening Rag Marwa

Sitting in the front row of Bombay talkies
He rewinds in slow motion reels of fading illusions
While his childhood friend Nilofer practices
Her favourite rag Marwa –
A language, light and liquid
Curling and uncurling in the voluptuous curves of blue whales
And I hear percussion of rainbows
Instigating dusky desires in the coppery skin of ageing sky.
Everyone loves rag Marwa;
It is the only rag that falls and flares like
Porcelain tears of lovers in separation.
It often mingles, melts into other rags
Stroking silently every thread of our soft, stolen bodies
Pulsating with a strange shyness.
Nothing is now burning inside her
A boat is waiting – shivering in the faint voice of crescent moon.
Saeed Mirza –
Are you listening?
You’re not alone
Someone is with you singing –
“Sakhi mori ankhiyan mein saawan aayo hay”!

Saeed Akhtar Mirza is the maker of iconic Bollywood films like ‘Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai’.

Fasting in the Holy Month

for Ranjit Hoskote’s ‘Icelight’

I am alone in the holy month of fasting.
I smell her flesh in the fermented soft Icelight.
My lips touch her breasts –
Branches of bamboo trees stretching into my famished mouth.
I bare myself –
A tiger is waiting for his kill on the edge of a cliff.
Dreaming of her hunger, I sob in my arms.
Once again, nothing is left of my body.
I wake up to the sound of gunshots in the streets.
Where is she? Where is she?
Groaning in her mother tongue
She is busy breaking fast with thorns of bougainvillaea.

Village of Thousand Metaphors

There is something so beautiful about my
Mother’s village of thousand metaphors.
Here, memory grows old like
Rice paddies ripening in the food bowls of our forgotten ancestors.
Here, turtles and alligators play hide and seek like
Children in the sprawling spring, and unlike us
They often shelter each other from snow storms.

Here, griefs and sunflowers shed their skin like
Nomads retuning home after offering prayers in the desert.
Here, stones and woods mate languorously like the
Reveries of lovers in the bedroom mirrors, and unlike us
They smell and taste of grey and green sunshine in the open.

Here, everything is unreal here except for strange
Alchemy of languages
Slickering out of treacherous rain – clouds.
I wonder what my mother means when she says –
“Your father is having fun in the cage of lions”!


I wander into a vast expanse of ruins –
Dyed violet and violent.
There are no rivers here, only bridges for monks
Walking with bowls of potatoes and peanuts for blessings.
I meander aimlessly through imaginary hallways like a beggar
Selling spiders for profit.
Fossils of nuns in crimson skirts slowly turn into stone stupas
Popping, locking, breaking in post-abortion dance.
There are no forests here, only fossil – trees carrying
Secrets maps of our birthplace.
Astrology runs in my family –
Sunburnt horoscopes of dead horses infest the air.
It smells like apricots decaying under the tongue
Stitched with barbed-wire.
The old pock-marked lantern is flickering at midnight –
I lick the dust over the red brick walls of the museum
I think of her, her saliva
I am home again…

Ashwani Kumar is a poet, writer and professor in Mumbai. Widely published, anthologised and translated into several Indian languages, his most recent book is Rivers Going Home: 71 Poets in Solidarity.