Poems | Ranjit Hoskote

Photo : Lee La

Francesco Griffo, inventor of italics

Follow his shaking, roasted hand: he sets chisel against wooden edge,
points burin at plate, strikes lead against wedge, lays kern against grain,
and so through the night rams out the ringing cavalcade of words.
The ink rains down in neat lines, an orchard’s planted on the sheet:
psalms, verses, prayers grow; he prunes them all with wayward grace.
As the page burns bright, the typesetter’s eyes grow rimmed with red
from staring at tight, infinitely small and mocking margins.
His reined lust explodes in hot metal, then fine brocade:
most mornings, he ends up drunk in a canal,
bruised from a brawl. One day he will swing
from a hangman’s rope, singing to the last:

Yes, in three languages Yes, I announce, I declare, I proclaim it:
I was manic enough last night to smash through all the typefaces,
to drug every font, and now in my own sharply cut sans-serif,
I’ve slugged this by dimming candlelight for today’s edition,
this crazed compositor’s invocation
to a dawn that will break over Venice without his help:
Where I’m going, there’s blazing horror and no gentle restoration,
pitch the only ink, flame the only imprint
and icy darkness my Lord High Censor.
Find harbours, all you galleys that sail out

of my mind’s bedevilled press!

The Atlas of Lost Beliefs

Without waking up, turn to page thirty-seven
in the Atlas of Lost Beliefs
and surround yourself

with apsaras, kinnaras, gandharvas, maenads,
satyrs, sorcerers, bonobos, organ grinders,
stargazers, gunsmiths, long-distance runners,
gravediggers, calligraphers, solitary reapers,
beenkars, troubadours, rababias, ronin,
nagas, pearl divers, Vandals, Goths,
mummers, snipers, collectors of moths,
hobos, dharma bums, bauls, drifters,
djinns, mahjubs, marabouts, qalandars,
griots, mad hatters, speakers in tongues,
trippers, star angels, batmen, punks,
eggheads, buffoons, lay preachers, agitators,
friends of the court, friars minorite, agents provocateurs,
bird-spangled shamans, fainting oracles, screeching owls,
wise men of Gotham, and women who run with wolves

all blessed by the blue hand of a reckless dancer
who spares a thought or two for the world but no more
as she poses, heels in the air, Cossack-kicking on a crumbling reef.

Rain Dance

The dancer wilts,
her early lessons in balance

The first rains lift her spirits.
Only much later, as she hears
the reassuring peal of thunder

and the sky empties out
cloud by cloud,
will it come to her:

lightning travels faster.
The news comes late,
the damage already done.

Bactrian Drachma
for Shailendra Bhandare

On one side, a face that’s been kissed, spat on, spun in bright air:
                    tyrant mining dry valleys
                              far from Homer’s wine-dark sea.
                              On the other,
                    rimmed by a halo of worn ass-lip script:
a cave-born echo, never heard the same twice, never fully deciphered.

A Constantly Unfinished Instrument
for Brian Eno

Begin with the creeper.
Follow its rustle
as it uncurls across brick, bark and thorn.

Go out in all weathers, craft a score
from the grunts and growls
that escape the world-beast in its sleep.

Stay the course until you’ve caught
the quick, true surge of the ocean
that’s felt the fire harpoon pierce its hide:

until you’ve heard the ocean flail, lash and roar
through the creeper,
heard it again, and heard it right.


Poem | Nabanita Kanungo

Photo : LeeLa


When you left saying,
“If only you were forty…”

It’s 2017;
another five years
for this body
to reach there,
that fortieth league
of an ageless
chasm of words
between us.

If only you were forty,
you said.

But then,
distance would still be
an interminable lie;
numbers defining
the same grief;
ravenous mouths
returning to swallow
a tenderness
in long slithers
of hunger.

It’s 2017.
I’m 35,
vapid with words,
that do not erase me;
still unquiet with
what I remember
of your faces
peeling off each day,
their brilliant lies,
their carved moods,
their wooden smiles
and hollow eyes;
perfectly fitting
reality’s empty,

I’m 35, still;
for the tart wisdom
of that confession
you made:
It was a mistake.
Two and a half years.
Poetry too is a slight
of silence.
You were fifty three/four,
You still squirmed
at the word
You were pure,
born the day
given to
Who knows?
Maybe you
woke up one day
and didn’t like
my teeth

If only you were forty,
or a bit above,
you said,
measuring me
with a steel-tape
in your voice.

Perhaps at 40,
one stops picking
lice from truth’s
dangerous tail
and love and stupidity
stand balanced
neatly in an

40 right-clicks
the body’s
dictionary to
‘love’ to ‘desire’;
‘desire’ to ‘sex’
‘sex’ to ‘fuck’,
'fuck ' to 'masturbate';
40 prefers things

At 40 one doesn’t
expect more
than one’s
share of sadness;
doesn’t expect
those nothings,
another earth,
a silly wish
on silly Valentine's day,

At 40,
poems are stripped
to their prosaic bone,
it’s bitter marrow,
sucked clean.

40 must mean
a stone’s math
settled in the
stomach’s pit;
a finesse words
cannot have
a knowledge
of practiced
their lip-biting
exit by the
a craft
of death
one hones
with grace,
without fuss.

It’s 2017.
I’m 35.
I still wonder
if you write those
awesome love poems
for the young
and old;
It’s absurd how
you have the words
words that buoy
your time on
a fancy new boat,
a body you don’t wish
was forty years old,
because it is
forty years old,
perhaps a bit
perhaps a bit
Who cares?
It’s not a mistake.
You must be
fifty eight/nine,
long past
this mistake
of my then

I'm still 35,
a forger of dreams
and poems;
still in envy of your
felicity of words,
those dark,
quick wings
on which you
flew away,
never turning
to see
how I’ve aged
to infinity.

Stars hence,
I would like
to meet you
at the edge
of dream,
strip myself
of years,
the thousand
of dead skin,

I would like
to see
if you recognise
this mistake,
this body,
and sent

I would like
to feel
you drink
of it again
for, it would have
turned into the
flawless grief
you wished it was
back then;
it would
have turned
a bit above,

If only you were forty,
you said,
when you could have
done so much
you could have merely
The game
is up.
It’s over.

Poems| Paulami Sengupta

Photo: LeeLa


ভুল হয়ে গেছে
ভুল হয়ে গেছে
ভুল হয়ে গেছে
তাই চক্রাকারে ঘুরলাম স্টেডিয়াম।

ধু ধু খাতা পেন
লোকজন, ছাতা
এরপর লেবু চামচের রেসে যেতেই হবে
তার পরেরটাতেও
তার পরেরটাতেও।


ঘুষঘুষে জ্বরের  মতো নামছে সিঁড়িগুলো
ভাবছি এটাই সত্যি
আমি ও আসফ আলি রোড
উভয়ই কাবু
তপ্ত অশরীরী ব্যস্ততায়।

কিন্তু শরীর আছে
দেয়ালে দেয়ালে পোস্টার
মৃত তরুণীর
নিমীলিত চোখ আর সবুজাভ তক
কি করে চিনব তাকে।


ঝমঝমে সবুজে ভিজে গেলাম
ইট কাঠ ভাঙ্গতে পারি
তাই পথে পথে বৃক্ষদয়
এমনকি মেঘও সতরকভাবে নীচে।

আরেকটু দৌড়লেই
শান্ত হব পুরপুরি
বালি ভেঙ্গে অনেকক্ষণ দৌড়লাম
নারকেলের ডালে আছড়ে পড়লাম
ঢেউএর মত।

এখন সমুদ্র ও রাগ
দুই স্রোত মুখমুখি।

নাইট আউট

নিজেকে ধোপার বালতিতে সেদ্ধ না করে
কেরোসিনে না চুবিয়ে
বডি অয়েল ঢেলে
বাইরে এলাম।
প্রহরী দেখতে পেয়েছে
শা্মপু করা চুলে খুশকির মতো পরাজয়
আর আঙ্গুলে ফুলে ওঠা রোয়া রোয়া ভালো লাগার বিষ।


Poems | Khaliq Parkar

Photo : Khaliq Parkar 

Multani Mitti

Long before
my aunt from London
came visiting with chocolates
Body Shop Body Butter

My father
would treat himself
on Sundays
to a Multani Mitti

My brother and I
would watch amazed
as muddy patches on his forehead
into flaky skin
a bit like
The Thing
from our Fantastic Four comics.

While furiously rubbing
walnut Scrub Face Wash today
I was reminded of the Sunday morning
when I felt the sticky mud
on my cheek
turn back into dust

And wondered how far away
Was Multan from

Track Record

They told me
to go running everyday.

"It triggers endorphins" they said
with benign smiles
that came from an indulgent experience.

So I went down
to the university grounds,
with its eight hundred meter track
made of bumpy clay.

I ran with heaving lungs
by the undergraduate trio
in their pink shorts
and the scowling emeritus.

I looked down
at my new shoes,
and saw big black ants scatter
from under my lightly thumping
pliant soles.

It has been a month now,
and the trio have disappeared,
their schedule probably disrupted
by exams.

I am yet to feel
the promised endorphins,
but have calmer lungs,
a lighter stride,
and my latest track record
is thirty-seven ants
in fifty-three seconds.

Photo : Khaliq Parkar 


The little pauses,
like pips
between your teeth.

Every segment of the orange,
a pocket of translucense
we pull away
from the skin.

Little strings of white
remain attached
to the other ends
of our conversation