Poems | Gayatri Majumdar

February 2017 

Photos by  Gayatri Majumdar


There’s a strange light throbbing
flashing –
beyond the neon light
of the hotel room
silhouetted by trees
the red light strobes
to the beat of my heart.

Bodhisattvas wait 
their begging bowls 
gathering dust and rain water.

On the train ride
the costly Baggit peeps out
of the cheaper mirror-worked 
Kutchi sling bag.
I possess both; disown both.
The thing within will always pinch your soul.

Everything white
inside the hotel room
– the walls, sheets, split A/C,
coffee cups and cigarette.

How did you do it?
Guide me home –
from shore to shore
across subways filled with stench
up to the caves of Tiruvanamalai
down Churchgate B-Road right opposite Sydhenam?

Blowing smoke and censuring,
right on time every time
like when you waited to die
on a perfect basanta morning
lest I stumble or miss the bus?

Now following footsteps of Bodhisattvas
I arrive
in an accidental space.
To think I’ve looked for love
and some loose change
in a boundary-less universe.

As you lay wasted somewhere
on the debri
of an outer star and restless night,
a single sweat swelling  
your holy temple 
in an erotic kind of way.

Past endless lands 
of onions and cotton fields
Bodhisattvas walk
to bring color and succor 
to some forgotten hills
and moon-lit hoardings.

We come the longest way
to tomorrow;
carry the torch in our eyes
and a few cheap metaphors
in our pockets.


Then we babble,
say they know nothin’
‘bout consciousness and other realms,
you know with their
constant chatter and suspect demeanour.

And the wavelets rise and fall
thoughts, desires and lives
dissolving then into an oceanspread.


Am in love with a man
several centuries old;
and as I walk down these stony paths
those centuries flash past my eye
erasing my very existence.
It’ll take me a few centuries to get there,
but am willing to wait.

You took several of my breadths away
when you held my face
and gasping I looked up
at the divine ochres and blues of your face –

Bodhisattvas and apsaras in white
hidden in ancient caves
protectors of truth and light
from some very dark forces
in some very darker spaces.

Earlier our bus driver in khaki & Ray Ban
briefed us in his
unstitched English.
All through the ride
he turned reckless corners
at breakneck speed
to loud 90s Bollywood music,
to help us reach our destination sooner
and to make the ride, well, enjoyable naturally.

In Cave 16, or was it 10,
a Thai monk with elaborate tattoos,
flashed his laser light 
to study the floor 
for any telltale signs of miracles and satoris
where Bodhisattvas meditative sat
eating their meager meals
at the Lord’s feet –
So much beauty in 
so little, it hurts;
in next to nothingness
conquering the unlit
defying fear
brave soldiers of the believers.

Many more Bodhisattvas 
in long silver beards
sit on plastic chairs
waiting for their chai
outside shops piled with tyres
on long Sunday evenings
discussing flat tyres
and the price of onions.

I photograph large goddesses 
guarding themselves and the rear chamber
with weapons 
and their bejeweled nakedness.

Consciousness then comes easy
away from ravages of distorted beliefs
and loud traffic noise
as I count birds and flowers
and the change
I hand over to the man selling plastic souvenirs.

At the entrance to the same cave,
the goddesses’ breasts defaced.

The world fell with a thud,
but noiselessly
as I stumbled falling
in the dark
at the feet of the man
I love.

And the bored and tired
couple said, “how many
more steps? The caves
are all the bloody same.”
Just when I thought I finally arrived
I lost my head
when the guide snatched at my cell phone
accusing Me of wrongdoing!!

This life was never mine,
never will be again.
I should have left my self
eons ago
before the light caused heartburns.


Time used to be
a random man
I waited for 
day after day
blood draining my face.

Time ran away with her,
I got the consolation prize
and several unborn babies.

I whirled with time
showed him a step or two.

Americans filmed the acoustics of 
one of the caves
to the chants of
“Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ. . .
Buddham Sharanam Gachchami . . .” 
reverberating across the cosmos.

And the yellow Buddha on the cushion cover
in utter silence gazed
at time drunk sprawled on the floor.

Shivaji, our guide and auto driver,
says he’s a Buddhist; 
he wears a large yellow tilak 
and insists we visit Aurangazeb’s grave.


Meanwhile, elsewhere consciousness 
comes with a price
in a heartbroken city;
it’s never easy to remain balanced
on the debri of lost glories
on Park Street.

But balance we must;
dodging stars, mini buses and stranger planets,
cross flyovers across timezones
and try to not get killed
by a massive Supernova called Sophiya,
her fuchsia headlights and purple fairy-lights
playing a game of hopscotch 
in another dolphin’s dream. 


Poems | John D Robinson

 Artwork : Nandalal Bose
Source : Juliet Reynolds

Friday & Saturday

Margot is 79 years old and she’s
uninhibited and is having sex
with the local low-life and
perverts and they’re robbing
her blind;
Helen is 61 and she’s
drinking too much and next
week she’s going to be
street-homeless and she will
die soon;
Kate is 53 and off the streets
for tonight and in a safe

we visited the city, we were
relaxed together and smoked
beneath a canvas shelter as
the rain raced down;
Denise lives in a
derelict building, no water,
no electric, she is 80;
James is 3 and he will never
see his parents again and he
will never know why and
no one else has an answer;
a tsunami hit New Zealand,
I read some more of
‘Farrago Soup’ by
Doug Draime;
we watched a film together;
I drank some wine and
wrote some poems
appreciating the fact that I’m
a lucky son of a bitch
and then I went to bed.

On a Daily Basis

She put her 14 month old baby
girl into the bathtub and then
returned to the kitchen to
carry on drinking cider and
smoking joints;
2 or 3 hours later,
she found her baby drowned,
she was sentenced to 7 years,
she expressed great remorse,
revealed herself openly,
it had been an awful day and
she’d drank cider and smoked
some joints of hash
which was, she said,
‘Something she did on a daily
basis with never a problem’

Rock 'n Roll Breakfast

Today at Ed’s diner
we breakfasted on
courtesy of a table-
top silver-coin-
swallowing juke-box;
I sang along and you
smiled, we smiled at
one another and then
you sang along,
later somebody
selected Berrys’
‘Johhny Be Goode,’
Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’;
 we filled our mouths
with eggs and hash-
and mushrooms and
sausages and
fried tomatoes and
sipped at our coffee
as Little Richard
Bill Hailey
Ed Cochran
Jerry Lee-Lewis
filled our ears
at 8a.m.

The Onlookers

Roy had boasted that he was
meeting the very popular
Jessica and that she was
going to give him a blow-job;
‘Bollocks’ we said ‘That’s
‘Okay’ he said ‘Come and
see it for yourselves’
and 6 or 7 of us 15 and 16
year old non-believing
friends of his accepted
his invite;
‘Just don’t fuck about,
keep quiet and out of
sight, okay?’ he said
seriously; we all nodded
our heads;
Jessica was an unfortunate
skinny looking soul with a
big nose and clumsily
over applied make-up;
her best feature
was her lovely brown
hair which fell beyond
her ass;
and the gang of us were
looking down from atop a
grassy bank and we looked
as she went to work
and Roy looked up
grinning and giving us the
thumbs up
and we began laughing and
and applauding
and she moved away,
coughing and spluttering
and looked up at us and
she began to cry and
ran away sobbing loudly;
Roy zipped up and
shouted that we were a
‘Bunch of lousy fucks’
our laughter and
applause increased,
smothering any pity
we may have had for
the poor girl.

The Bully

The bastard thrust his face
an inch from mine
and literally spat
‘The best part of you
Robinson dripped down
the legs of your
there was only one
come-back I had;
‘Yes Corporal’
he stepped back
trying to suppress a
grin but failed and
then moved in real
close and whispered
‘You keep the fuck
outa my way Robinson’
I nodded my head,
he turned and walked
I was just 16 years old,
several weeks into a
military career
and this asshole was 10
years senior and a 5 year
veteran infantryman;
he was a cunt and his
name was Ferguson.


Poems | Syamantakshobhan Basu

Photo : LeeLa

Three days into the sixth month of the year,
The heat gives us no respite.
Sometimes the days are longer,
Stretching interminably, melting into one another,
Like our faces melt in the dazzling slow

The mornings, however, are different, Junebug.
Quietly tingling in our blood,
The mornings turn everything into exactly that shade
Of yellow that we pick out when writing
Love letters to childhood sweethearts.
The nights, too, are peaceful, though
Always promising to bring down a storm,
And never delivering.
The breeze plays about our cheeks and
Whispers laughing secrets into our ears;
Secrets that we remember to ourselves and smile
When the scorching Sun God Tyrant of Heaven
Threatens to unravel our being in
His rage.

The year flows away
And the calender strips slowly, unable to bear the heat,
Each page restlessly torn away from the whole.
The green grass smells of a slightly sweet burning,
Soothed by the early morning dew.
This summer is worse than the others, Junebug.
Send me endless love and laughter,
Letters on icy strips,
Sign me burning kisses on hail.
Write me cold winters, and read me never-ending

Michel Foucault Dances in Discos

Michel Foucault dances like a squat skeleton
Through the streets of the city at night.
He pretends that no one sees him do it, but
He doesn't know my binoculars are trained on him,
Through a circular hole in my window.
A hole in my lens, a hole in his meaning
A hole in the very Order of Things.

When the world goes to sleep,
Michel Foucault abandons discourse,
And dances in gaudy discos
Till both his feet fall off.


When the world is burning
And you're talking about Ikea,
Don't be surprised if the flames
Get in through the glass shutters
And consume every last piece
of your furniture.

Poems | Salil Chaturvedi

Photo : LeeLa

Udaipur, October 2016

The moist edge of the city
black scum
from the five-star hotel
brings in nutrients
into tall reeds   thorny acacia bushes     date palms    
spot-billed ducks   crakes     snipes     and stilts
the hills in the distance
        dry scrub
egrets flash whitely amongst the red algal bloom
 a family of whistling ducks winds its way through
    the water hyacinth
a purple heron loiters in the shadows
of a dying tree


On Divar island
rain water
in the plastic
pouch over the lock
that seals the premises

blades of grass
lean their heads
through the metallic gate

two bumblebees
curve into the courtyard

a platoon of ants
explores the cracks
in the driveway’s moss mosaic

a red spider
pulls gossamer
from the gate 
to a monsoon shrub

a grey-blue butterfly
closes and opens its wings
on the edge of the board

that promises 
dire consequences
to those who enter
without permission


ISIS has begun killing
disabled children
with lethal injections

The barbets
have been screaming
all morning

There are new leaves
on the Shaalmali

Hey, She’s Awake

Friday night, the naked lady sits in my apartment
Thick grasses around her pudendum
Dark weeds in her armpits
Lizards in her hair

I’m hungry, she says
Slapping her stomach
Caked with what looks like dried blood

I can hear the hungry rumble
For no reason I think of sinkholes
I notice the blood-dripping lions tattooed on her breasts

I’m hungry, she says
Haven’t eaten in a while
The last snack I had was when, in nineteen forty seven?

But now I really want to eat
I mean a full meal
And I don’t care what you give me

Cooked, uncooked, stir-fried or roasted
Sons or daughters
Husbands or wives
Brothers or sisters
I’ll have them all

Oh, I could easily eat an entire generation
Munch through the bones of your friends
Eat the muscles of your enemies
It’s all the same
It’s blood I like
Can’t wait to put my tongue through your eye 

Give up your body, give it to me

I run out of the apartment
Half-crazed into the night, shouting
Bharat Mata ki Jai
Bharat Mata ki Jai

Ascent of the Asclepias

          less than an hour's drive to the east
          and there it is:     milkweed!

        perennial hardy erect evergreen
          weedy plant of wastelands
            ruderals and roadsides

flower stem bark root!

           “mix the latex with camel's pellets
            to reduce swelling and joint pain;
         take one or two flowers with water to cure fever
         (but not during Chaitra or Vaisakh);
 mix the latex with sand
    and ingest to cure a snakebite;
     smoke the powder of dried leaves
in a chillum to cure asthma”

            and if you're lucky you'll find out
                 that silence doesn't mean quiet
           silence means being filled with the noise
of your own lavender self

hey listen,

the crickets have started singing the songs of our death
the spoonbills have arrived
do you ever get that nature-heart-stick-lollipop feeling?
they are using bulldozers to have a conversation with the rice fields
you don't really know a place till you've seen it in moonlight
inside the stunned oceans are echoing the sounds of terrifying liquid screams
if i could choose between fresh thoughts and fresh leaves i'd choose fresh leaves
take off your clothes and tell me about angels, goddesses
and other cosmic beings living inside you
the tv is on too loud