Meena Alexander

Quite early as a child
I understood
flesh was not stone.

Stone sank into flooded paddy beds
children were rescued.
Rubbed dry against jacaranda bark
stone did not graze,
lashed by the first monsoon
it did not crawl into houses
huddle at attic windows
moonfaced in lightning.

Not did it need
to hold its breath
while passing white washed tombs.

There row on row
children are laid
perfectly cold, like stone

While stone
warm as well rinsed flesh
is lit with dimpling milkweed
wreathed in green
rhapsodies of fern.

First published in *Stone Roots* (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1980)

When I Think of Father

Don Kitbor Koshy Mihsill

I think of world-map cows,
honey-dew jackfruit,
cut-grass and fresh milk;
I can hear the echoes of
jokhan ami aghor ghume,
jokhon moddyo raat
with his fading
footsteps marking
the recession of darkness

and the dance in his voice

keeping me still.
I think of the famine of ’73-’74
when the world-map shrank and
the jackfruit tree didn’t bear fruits,
when the land was hungry for rains
and father’s tears couldn’t parch
the thirst of saplings or the zamindar,
when the Nehru-suit men offered a salary
in exchange for dreams of husk and
land to build an anonymous t-shirt
manufacturing unit.

I think of neatly laid pen
stacks, crisp cotton shirts,
blocks of times and a weather-forecast
outcome proof activity for each block.
I think of fifty years, 18260
days; crow-feet at the periphery,
scratched on the skin wound
tight over his occipitals and
lines like gullies,
eroded by daily rigours
of worship at the local
industrial temple.

And like the machines
wear with the sunsets,
what’s human depreciates
through sewn lips and resignation.

This poem first appeared in The Bombay Review.

Wet Radio

Goirick Brahmachari

Breath in the radio through its sound box.
Everything’s burning. Wet it with tears. Listen
to mushy pop love songs
sweaty, summer, power cut nights
insects and table lamps,
the wind blows through my window
brings misty fields.
tastes salty. Like nails.
A radio is a silent listener, without any whine.
It gets tender
as the station is
a distant hill.
Saturday winds are peculiarly painful –
There’s a party in the room. It’s quite
in here. Weird sounds
trespass in – Obscure dins
Some crap.

But I keep listening.

Ecumenical City (For Meera Narula)

Leela Gandhi

Wove our way, giggling, through cartloads of aphrodisiacs,
tooth, bone, essence of reptile, big cat unmentionables.
Those hundred paper-stalls, then satchels, backpacks,
lowbrow anglophony (James Hadley Chase and Casper the boring ghost),
air thick with rain-dust, vegetal-metal, sewage-Delhi:
years ago, warmer-colder, unfashionable-underbelly,
capital of dal fry, small riots, improbable gardeners, truck-drivers,
and us. Do you remember bunking school those forlorn winters
under pretence of sociallyusefulandproductivework (SUPW)
for our circular descent-ascent in the forward minarets
of the Jama Masjid, not a Virgil in view?
We swore fealty to Shah Jahan instead, medieval-jock, emperor-architect,
and watched, extramural, a smog-sick sun anoint the evening skies,
its vermillion stain bruising the sallow forehead of our city.


Robin S Ngangom

Childhood took place
free from manly fears
when I had only my mother’s love
to protect me from knives,
from fire, and death by water.
I wore it like an amulet.
Childhood took place
among fairies and were tigers
when hills were yours to tumble
before they became soldiers. Barracks
and dreaded chambers of torture.
Childhood took place
before your friend worshipped a gun
to become a widowmaker.

This selection is curated by Rohini Kejriwal. She also curates The Alipore Post, a daily newsletter stemming from a love of​ art, poetry, music, and all things beautiful.