Geography

Aditi Angiras

I always got
good grades
in geography
lessons, drawing
topographic maps
I would read
contour lines
study them well
but wonder
why do we need
to read them
when will I ever
need this
in real life
Years later,
lying here
next to you,
reading
contour lines,
neck to navel
I realise

Artwork by Anusha Raichur
Artwork by Anusha Raichur

Speech

Ruth Vanita

The first word you said was not “love”.
The first word, when you lay, eyes shut,
In a darkened afternoon room,
When you stood, looking down at me,
Meteor in midnight leather,
When you knelt, on a green flying carpet,
Your mouth an unstereotyped rose,
When your hair caught in my lips
And had to be gently unwound.
When you came, at the start, and before
You spoke, your first word,
Your first dream, whisper it, cry it aloud,
Shine on me, rain on me,
Rise slowly on the horizon, and say,
When I ask, the same syllable, bless
Me with simple things, ring me
Round, will me to be found – yes –
yours – yes, and again, again yes.

(First published in Boxcar Poetry Review Winter 2010)

Artwork by Balbir Krishnan
Artwork by Balbir Krishnan

i want to 377 you so bad

Akhil Katyal

till even the sheets hurt i want to
ache your knees singe your skin
line you brown breathe you in i want to
mouth you in words neck you in red
i want to beg your body insane into sepals
i want to 377 you like a star falling off the brown
i want to feel you till my nails turn water
i want to suck you seven different skies
i want to be a squatter in your head when
it sleeps when its dark i want to break laws
with you in bed and in streets and in parks

Artwork by Balbir Krishnan
Artwork by Balbir Krishnan

Criminal Intentions

Divya Dureja

My hands wrap around your waist, your neck,
the delicate base of your warm neck
I’ve been swept,
off my feet,
into a meadow
of flowers and sunsets.

Your scent
reminds me
of rosewood and limerence.
I feel blessed.
Your gentle kisses,
Leave me armour less.
***
You notice a movement far away
and you break out of our secret nest.
The conversation between our lips
The troubled wrinkles on your forehead
is disrupted
by this unrest.
Your lips curl.
don’t unfurl.

You say we are being watched.
We must be.
It’s evident.
We are not.
I protest.
Another kiss. Another armour shed.
nestles its way to your face,
Not convinced, still.
Your arms, they retreat.
Concern
your neck,
your soft neck.
The distance you’ve put between our breaths
shows you’re a little afraid
a little too aware.

“We are Criminals”
these words
escape you
in a single breath.
I can’t fathom what you’ve said.
The question leaves my lips
faster than I could process.
“We’re what?”
***
Then I Process.
***
So, I laugh a little laugh.
And tell her, this is daft.
These kisses aren’t ammunition.
Her words are absurd.
Whom could they hurt?
“But we are criminals in your country. This country.”
She blurts.
Unperturbed and upset.
A paradox, her face presents.
***
A maybe-spotted-kiss could unearth so much fear!
silence was all that we could hear.
Our heavy hearts began to feel light
Startled, I was.
Startled, I am.
An undercurrent of THEIR win,
I could hear in my ears.
In the moment though,
The car remained stationary,
but our hearts changed gear.
This silence veered onwards
with the touch of our hands.
by fingers tracing
the arch of each other’s smile.
We whispered sweet nothings.
And forgot where we were.
Gentle kisses
consumed our time
Making us forget, that this World is unkind.

Play

Poem 1

Rahul Sen

Tonight
queerness lies
in my failure
to translate letters to scores
high ones, higher ones, still better.
to translate scores to institutions;
but also failure, to turn
non-concepts to concepts,
to stop thinking about halberstam & edelman
in a post-SCOTUS ruling!
but the letter (always) arrives at its destination
and the letter (never) arrives at its destination
and there you are,
in that non-arrival, in that failure
lies your queerness
engulfed by an even queerer muteness
where you fail again,
fail better,
turn the pillow a grave,
choke, swallow, queer, and queerer.

Artwork by Balbir Krishnan
Artwork by Balbir Krishnan

‘Kuri Aruthean’ (Phallus, I cut)

Kalki Subramaniam

“Cut the phallus
of your chauvinism,
Then
you will know
who you are.
And then,
only then,
you tell me
that
I am not a woman.”

Artwork by Anusha Raichur
Artwork by Anusha Raichur

Sind

Hoshang Merchant

“I have sinned” – Napier

It was with a Sindhi boy I first found love
He felt love but being a boy he took me from behind
Like the Holy Spirit took St John one night on the steep stairway to god

It was a cold night
The train was tearing through the heart of Hindustan
And when it halted at a station
It was dawn and our love was known...

When the Indus meets the sea
It forgets it was the cold daughter of the snow
It becomes warm and shallow, lost in the sand
This land of sand
They call Sind

And the Arabs came
And finding Hindus there
They called this land of quicksands, Hindustan

The boys turned Turk soon enough
Eyes became mirrors for reflected lights of other gods
Warm love was pressed like wine between students and Master

People forgot their own names
They remembered the Name
Which too they soon forgot: Why do you ask the Name? They asked
And remembered only love

A cowherd played the pipe
A king followed him into the forest
A son of the Mughal on his way to conquer Kabul
Remembered to note the Hindu gods in Persian

And when times turned savage opium helped the heirs to die painlessly
And Death turned a friend when a brother turned fiend
But to face death – without opium?
Or to face life – without poetry!

The river ran red that day
The women carried their breasts on a plate for the rapists
Men carried their heads in their hands for the conqueror

And poems that mention these ravages
Now gather dust at railway stations
But the milk of Sajal, the wine of Rumi
The breath of the breeze blown through a “ney”
Say : He!

As I remember him in whose hands I died:
Thought stopped then like that night-train
And my heartbeat became a public event.

Artwork by Balbir Krishnan
Artwork by Balbir Krishnan

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.