The Daughter Of Fire

She loathes to be shared by them
laid by each one of them: fakes orgasms,
turns the face away – one for sure has halitosis,
he chews basil leaves from the palace garden,
                            cardamom pod under his tongue when he kisses.

Her body desires the archer:  lover with long fingers
that ease the tense string of passion . She craves for more
pleads that he doesn’t go to his other women.
He is no good lover, they hiss; how is he with you?
                                                                      they ask her.

Her eyes cloud in fury, the rich silk
cuts her body like the knife he uses in the kitchen:
he touches her tenderly drawing maps of sweat on her skin.
                                  She is done with love making. 
He fumes and screams in sleep like an animal.
She refuses to cover her breast
he sees these pawed and maligned
not an object of desire anymore
                                  lascivious eyes had feasted on them.

He kills again and again for her.
Her hair matted with blood, breasts
caked with gore. She will not let them touch her
anymore: they have whored her.
                                                      The cursed woman.

(The cursed woman is a powerful character from an Indian epic. Read here.  I have been fascinated by  Mahasveta Devi’s reading of this character. Read this. It is from here I borrow the trait of the wronged woman refusing to cover her breasts. The breast is no more an erotic object but an object of revenge, a reminder of male impotency.)  


Hold My Hand, Just Once

Open the door
the walls are washed shades of magnolia.
Papers with names of people
like dry leaves shored on the bank.
I pick one after another:
names that his fading memory scribbled

behind a bill, at the back of a calendar, bus ticket.
Like a sieve they drained through his porous brain,
letters ran away from his fingers.
Sad eyes smoked dark like the mist over the river: I held
his hands, the moons on his nails I remember
from my child days.

Open the windows, let the crows sit near me
feed them rice balls with black sesame seeds.
Call out to them – hear them croon in response,
cackle to scold you. When you cross
the threshold of life something changes.
You don’t need bits of paper to write names. 

Muscles on his face spread like lake without ripples.
On that last day. I remember him that way.
And when other memories choke me
I feed rice to crows.

(It’s four years since he went away. Imagine…)

Writer’s Island

Will Some Poet Out There Write About Bhopal?

I do not know how to write about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
I do not know if I even want to write about what happened
oceans away. Who writes about the mangled people of my country.

Do borders exist for pain and suffering.

(BP pays compensation: the President knew whose ass to kick.
Will he kick Anderson’s ass too,
take up the pending criminal  case against Union Carbide.
25 years is long time no?)

Are certain lives dispensable.

A genre of poetry on oil spill is out there on the net. 

thousands of people fell like flies,
we are still searching for a voice to tell their story:
they are going away. A generation of them.

A chemical meant to break the nervous system of pests
rendered crawling insects of human lives:
                                                  death seems more merciful. 

Birds won’t have wetlands to nest.
Fish get coated with crude oil.
Oil gets ingested every time the water fowl preens its sticky feathers.

Can somebody close the eyes of the dead child
who stares at me from her grave?

A decade after, I refused to take a train past Bhopal:
I was pregnant then.


Photo courtesy:
Pablo Bartholomew/

(Please read here to know of the world’s worst industrial disaster at Bhopal, a city in India. This happened 25 years ago, suffering has not ended for the survivors and the family members of the deceased.

View these:

On June 7, 2010, twenty-five years after the incident a verdict was given on the 7 accused under Indian Penal Code sections including section 304 A (causing death by negligence), 336 (acts endangering life or personal safety of others) and 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).  They were each sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and a fine of INR100,000 (approx. USD 2097).  Union Carbide India Limited has been awarded a fine of INR500,000 (approx. USD 10,483).

However, there was no mention in the verdict of Warren Anderson who was the Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation in 1984. He has been declared an absconder after he refused to return to India from the US and stand trial.

The investigation of the judicial proceedings in India of the case gets murky everyday. It brings back pain and anger all over again.)

Photograph of the wilted flower: Stephen Johnson

Big Tent Poetry

New Lease Of Life: A Terza Rima Sonnet

I sit at the window after my seventh cup of tea,
breeze flits like carefree butterflies,  I drowse.
Edge of my sleeping brain trembles with hum of bee:

Trapped,  rocketing blindness breaks hell my house;
in a curious moment, it pokes nose into imitation flower.
I don’t move, undisturbed  half moon sweat in my blouse,

I don’t lift my finger, sits on me the weight of the hour:
dreams like angels with flowing gowns rest on my eyes.
From the hills cascades of clouds bring merciful shower,

heat like monster in flight etherizes in crimson skies,
purple hibiscus with amber hearts disrobe in the breeze,
to dark nest of secret in the tree a wild parrot flies.

If I step out, feel the grass prickly under the trees,
shed the pall of stupor I’ll give my life a new lease.

Listen to this Tamil film song on ‘kodai kala katre’ (summer breeze) as you read the poem:


A Slice Of Deceit

He watches the rats ferret the rail tracks for orange peels
as he waits for the Mumbai Local from VT;
column of people surge as the train enters the station,
he vanishes in the mixed smell of perfume and sweat.

He has a lover
a girl many years older than him: a woman actually.
She cooks for him, washes his pants,
makes space in her shack under the flyover.

He know she schemes to take him to a place
where they’ll give him home and food,
send him to school.
He means to run away from the suburb and her. Till then

he gives her gifts: a cheap bottle of nail paint,
bangles the colour of rainbows
that make so much noise when they make love.
She asks him as she lies naked beside him

where did you get money for this.
He has to leave, time for Borvilli Local,
the last train for the day: it’s past midnight –
the station will fall silent soon, just a beggar here a dog there.

Sleepy passengers negligent about their bags
do not notice the slits the skilled hand makes on leather,
cheap rexin. Only once the knife catches the glint of light:
a diamond drop that a passenger squints away.

Magpie Tales

Savour This

                                                   under the stars
clouds like milk spill the sky,
part racing part dangerously close
to the palm fronds near the sea.
The dark sand under the feet
crumble with the vapours of the night,
hungry waves hissing with resentment of foam
swallow the land.
Smudge of grease pales the face of moon,
bats like  prayers in praise rise to the sky : draw comfort
here under the stars.

a dull grain of pain grates your feet,
cough of time rasps your throat.

Big Tent Poetry

Colours Explode

There’s a fine dust of talcum on her neck.
                         She looks at the mirror:
kaleidoscope of shapes,
colours with bubbles translucent –
                   not out there in the mirror,
in her eyes – explode into a volcano
of perturbations in her mind. A

             pupil missing in the eye :
eaten grey, a fancy piece of glass
catching a ray of light. A pigeon
                     on the grass lies,
its beaded eyes holding prayers,
glassy like hers catching gleams 
        from the heavens. Collect

the bird in a newspaper, throw it away 
            before ants enter those eyes;
is pigeon the only bird that can’t sing,
how do they call their mates: gawky lovers.
                        She squeezes her nipples,
her blouse loosely knotted
carries secret pouches of desire.

You don’t throw a pigeon out
because it can’t make love.
                Wear that rainbow eye
                touch that nipple
shriveled like raisins,
hold her gently in your arms
inhale the smell of lavender on her neck.

(Poetry is my secret door, I can keep it oblique, veiling slices from my life through words and images. This poem is personal, I am glad I wrote it . I attempt to get under the skin of someone I am jostled to live with. In India some of us live as part of large family units – parents, parents-in law, cousins, uncles and aunts move in and out of home space. I am part of such a family, it becomes an effort to fiercely guard personal space. There are tensions, people who keep me at edge. I make peace with such people in this poem.) 

We Write Poems