Poems | Abul Kalam Azad

Abu Malik al-Shami
Source : http://www.bbc.com

An Elegy for Aleppo


Pollen with clots of chlorine
on streets scarred by footsteps
ending far from where they started

Puddles of rocks
that once were homes
pounded into sooty fragments

like dusty phlegm
fired from the septum of the sky
shaped like a Russian warhead

Blood covers the last words
in the pages of a starving diary
like the only metaphor left alive in this silence

An almost torn foot
holds on with its final nerves
to the wounded leg of a weeping child

A woman on the summit of death
scans the burnt neighborhood
for the inventory of a short-lived farewell

From the loose strings
in the green Qanun of Noori
to the wedding ring
on Nizar’s severed finger

Memories of a redacted past
slowly decay beneath
the eyelids of an exiled future

A thirsty old man
talks to the blurry skies,
shrieking in the empty lanes,

“I won't leave! I won't leave!” ,
throwing stones
at the shielded stars

Smoke from the crowded hospital
barrel-bombed by the ruler's thumb
swirls around his head like a wreath

Leaflets coughed up by armed clouds
land on the parted lips of prolonged hunger
like epitaphs for graves never to be built
“...you know that everyone has given up on you…”


a city too small for the world's memory

a blot on every breath
of this frozen globe

a blot as thick as the tears
of a wiped people

the lament of a besieged bird,
its wings stuffed with mortar feathers

whose poets sing
the fugues of death

“Where once was a city, 
 now remains a residue

 Where once was a story, 
 now buried an elegy”

Ashes​ ​of​ ​Rain  

Russian​ ​syllables​ ​still​ ​haunt
the​ ​solitude​ ​of​ ​Syrian​ ​skies

Persian​ ​bayonets​ ​still​ ​block
the​ ​passage​ ​of​ ​homeless​ ​sonnets

Smoke​ ​from​ ​bombed​ ​hospitals
dissolves​ ​softly,​ ​without​ ​a​ ​sigh,

through​ ​the​ ​frozen​ ​nights
of​ ​the​ ​naked​ ​globe

into​ ​that​ ​widening​ ​gyre
where​ ​silence​ ​submits​ ​to​ ​despair

Death​ ​swings​ ​from​ ​pupil​ ​to​ ​pupil
inside​ ​the​ ​squinting​ ​eyes​ ​of​ ​the​ ​executioner

Like​ ​the​ ​steps​ ​of​ ​a​ ​dystopic​ ​ladder
the​ ​departed​ ​lie​ ​on​ ​a​ ​betrayed​ ​soil

within​ ​reach​ ​of​ ​their​ ​dreams,
and​ ​epitaphs,

both​ ​redacted,
with​ ​bullets

Starving​ ​men​ ​tumble
through​ ​the​ ​evacuated​ ​streets

looking​ ​for​ ​letters
to​ ​fill​ ​the​ ​obscenities​ ​on​ ​hungry​ ​tongues

Lovers​ ​huddle​ ​in​ ​the​ ​corners
of​ ​their​ ​crumbling​ ​hearts

holding​ ​with​ ​all​ ​the​ ​strength
in​ ​their​ ​scalded​ ​eyelids

the​ ​receding​ ​whispers
on​ ​beloved’s​ ​lips

Fathers​ ​pray​ ​frantically
to​ ​faraway​ ​gods

as​ ​infants​ ​gasp
in​ ​the​ ​arms​ ​of​ ​a​ ​helpless​ ​nurse

An​ ​young​ ​man,
blood​ ​dripping​ ​from​ ​his​ ​strained​ ​muscles,
drags​ ​his​ ​grandmother's​ ​corpse
on​ ​a​ ​creaky​ ​wheelbarrow
to​ ​that​ ​sacred​ ​graveyard

‘​ ​​angels​ ​visit  
​ ​on​ ​moonless​ ​midnights 
​ ​to​ ​heal​ ​the​ ​horrors  
​ ​trapped​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hearts  
​ ​of​ ​haggard​ ​spirits​ ​’ 

passing​ ​by​ ​the​ ​wounded​ ​postman
deaf​ ​with​ ​the​ ​buzz​ ​of​ ​soaring​ ​planes,
that​ ​chant​ ​the​ ​Ruler's​ ​name,
reading​ ​aloud​ ​all​ ​the​ ​letters
he​ ​couldn't​ ​deliver

The​ ​night​ ​descends​ ​early,
the​ ​dying​ ​refuse​ ​to​ ​leave​ ​their​ ​land

Clouds​ ​crack
as​ ​if​ ​stung​ ​by​ ​the​ ​hammer
of​ ​an​ ​angry​ ​sun


The​ ​bombs​ ​pause​ ​in​ ​flight,
the​ ​raindrops​ ​stick​ ​to​ ​the​ ​shattered​ ​domes
of​ ​gutted​ ​mosques

People​ ​rush​ ​onto​ ​the​ ​moist​ ​lanes,
some​ ​kneel,​ ​others​ ​gaze,
in​ ​sorrow​ ​and​ ​rage

their​ ​eyes​ ​raised,
without​ ​a​ ​flicker,
to​ ​the​ ​spotless​ ​sky

their​ ​fists​ ​full,
of​ ​ashes,

from​ ​bonds​ ​burnt​ ​alive

all​ ​of​ ​them,
at​ ​once,
open​ ​their​ ​palms
to​ ​this​ ​witness​ ​of​ ​war 


Poems | Avner Pariat

Photo Credits : Avner Pariat


Drunk, old men watch silently as the chief minister's motorcade
rushes past everyone else, quite rudely.
I watch the drunk, old men.
I see into the future.
I swallow a dry, bitter fruit.                  

The Politics That Make a Hive

Put it out of your mind
Cause there are pills for it:
Hope it won't come to that

Put it out of your mind
Cause we say it is, and it is:
But there's no need yet

Put it out of your mind
Cause it's your own fault:
The trick is to keep busy

Put it out of your mind
Everyone feels that way:
So there's no need to act

Monkey Poems

Hanuman is a JCB carrying away mountain wealth.
What did the tribes have to say to that?
Another outsider, eying out benefits.
We did not know about the War or Empire-building.

They smile at you through TV screens
And you’re not supposed to hate them
Because they’re just mischievous monkey-men:
It is their way - licking lips,
Thrusting pelvises, hooting ape-dance.

In cultures, the world over,
The Monkey King is still up to his old tricks:
In the quiet by-lanes, abandoned industrial estates,
Ordinary houses, parks, inside moving cars and buses.

Photo Credits : Avner Pariat

Look East

Look East but not for the sake of nation or Delhi;
Look East but not if this highway takes away your health;
Look East but not for the sake of anything but your village;
Look East but not if this highway brings dust and drunk driving;
Look East but not if this highway brings middlemen and murder;
Look East but not for the sake of companies or tycoons;
Look East but not if this highway takes from you, your rice fields;
If these should happen: look west, look south, look north,
Look anywhere but east


Poem | Michael Creighton

Self Deception : Anonymous
Source: http://fineartamerica.com

Middle Class Demonetization Blues

We are willing to pay a high price
for a cause patriotic and good:
vegetables rot in the markets;
we’ve no cash for buying or selling.

For a cause patriotic and good,
we’ll happily stand in long queues;
we’ve no cash for buying and selling—
thank God for e-currency.

We’ll happily stand in long queues,
to fight corruption and greed—
thank God for e-currency;
our children will eat well tonight.

To fight corruption and greed,
we’ll entrust the banks with our wealth;
our children will eat well tonight,
though the hunger around us is growing.

We’ll entrust the banks with our wealth:
we are willing to pay a high price;
though the hunger around us is growing,
vegetables rot in the markets.

Poem | Sophia Naz

The United States of Amnesia

Artwork : Matthew Bialer

Welcome to the United States of Amnesia
Where the average attention span is
an albatross around the neck of history
drowning in largesse of half-caf mocha frappucino

At every other corner, nine tenths
of teeth submerge in this melting pot, super bowl
of guillotined Halloween, cropped and photoshopped
to the death and the bell trolls a Clockwork Orange
clones & minions man the phones
ringing off the hook like
an armless pirate with his peddling
finger on the twitter
out to abduct you
only, lonely immigrant child, America
this illegal erection election year
unlike any other in living

Welcome to the Dystopian States
 of Amnesia,  to the gloom of the homeless underpasses
to the panhandling flutes drowned out
in the tropics of the nocturnal subterranean

Washed up on your shores like a bottle with a pent up ocean in my bladder
memory is the only currency I hold
the infected blankets up to the light,  I know
the smell of genocide. I have watched
women shamed as witches, watched them fall
like dominos on a Salem noon. I have met Sally Hemings and the strange
fruit of your history, America. I have fallen in your uncivil war
of a thousand and one episodes. This beast you thought you tamed? He prowls
the profiled night wearing
a police uniform

Beneath your bipolar indifference
a glacial racial iced age is dying
unseen below decks
in red bullet points
in blue moans

While a white white sea
sails on

Poem | Kathryn Kopple

Source : ny.eater.com

Tompkins Square Park

Wooden benches do time inside cast iron
fences that hold the park squarely between
10th Street and Alphabet City; the one
hood  in Manhattan where avenues are
named by letters; they go from A to D.
Hard drugs, hard luck—
the pair of them flowing in and out of
the park like best friends bringing out the worst
in each other.   Those benches doubled
as twin beds twelve months out of the year.

Back then, I squeezed into a room rented
from a guy on Avenue C. His Pop
owned the whole building.  My walk to work
funneled me past the park—and its stark sights.
To the west, Washington Square promised
a different view, more eye friendly by far.
The Arch—tall as a Roman aqueduct—clearly
in charge.  The statues weren’t going anywhere.
Robert Moses’s civic ambitions turned
the old fountain into New York’s most
elegant wading pool. As for Tompkins,
it’s as if Moses never got that far.
No one to lead the people out of the squalidness.
Or spare them the ten plagues.

To see the park now—green mantels of grass,
green canopies of elms, green flowerbeds.
I come bearing envoys of decades past;
envoys that come as strangers, a bit lost,
invisible as memories are to everyone
but those who still remember.


Poems | Miyah Poetry Series (Curated by Shalim M Hussain) - Part 3

Miyah Poetry proper started on 29th April 2016 when Hafiz Ahmed posted the poem 'Write Down I am a Miyah' on his Facebook page. Shalim M Hussain wrote a response to the same first in English on the same day and then in one of the Char-Chapori dialects on 30th April. Shahjahan Ali's poem was written a couple of days later. As such, what started as one poem and a response turned into a series of poems by fifteen poets from all over Assam.

The Wall, Anil Karanjai

লিখি লোৱা, মই এজন মিঞা

লিখি লোৱা
মই এজন মিঞা
এন. আৰ. চিৰ ক্রমিক নং ২০০৫৪৩
দুজন সন্তানৰ বাপেক মই,
অহাবাৰ গ্ৰীষ্মত জন্ম ল’ব আৰু এজনে
তাকো তুমি ঘিণ কৰিবা নেকি
যিদৰে ঘিণ কৰা মোক?

লিখি লোৱা,
মই এজন মিঞা
পতিত ভূমি, পিতনিক
মই ৰূপান্তৰিত কৰিছোঁ
শস্য-শ্যামলা সেউজী পথাৰলৈ
তোমাক খুৱাবলৈ
মই ইটা কঢ়িয়াইছোঁ
তোমাৰ অট্টালিকা সাজিবলৈ,
তোমাৰ গাড়ী চলাইছোঁ
তোমাক আৰাম দিবলৈ,
তোমাৰ নৰ্দমা ছাফা কৰিছোঁ
তোমাক নিৰোগী কৰি ৰাখিবলৈ,
তোমাৰে সেৱাতে মগন মই অনবৰত
তাৰ পিছতো কিয় তুমি খৰ্গহস্ত?
লিখি লোৱা
মই এজন মিঞা
গণতান্ত্ৰিক, গণৰাজ্য এখনৰ নাগৰিক এজন
যাৰ কোনো অধিকাৰ নাইকিয়া
মাতৃক মোৰ সজোৱা হৈছে সন্দেহযুক্ত ভোটাৰ
যদিও পিতৃ-মাতৃ তাইৰ নিঃসন্দেহে ভাৰতীয়

ইচ্ছা কৰিলেই তুমি মোক হত্যা কৰিব পাৰা,
জ্বলাই দিব পৰা মোৰ খেৰৰ পঁজা,
খেদি দিব পাৰা মোক মোৰেই গাঁৱৰ পৰা,
কাঢ়ি নিব পাৰা মোৰ সেউজী পথাৰ
মোৰ বুকুৰ ওপৰেৰে চলাব পাৰা
তোমাৰ বুলড্‌জাৰ
তোমাৰ বুলেটে বুকুখন মোৰ
কৰিব পাৰে থকাসৰকা
(তোমাৰ এই কাৰ্যৰ বাবে তুমি কোনো
স্তিও নোপোৱা)
যুগ-যুগান্তৰ তোমাৰ অত্যাচাৰ সহ্য কৰি
ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰৰ চৰত বাস কৰা
মই এজন মিঞা
মোৰ দেহা হৈ পৰিছে নিগ্ৰো কলা
মোৰ চকুযুৰি অঙঠাৰ দৰে ৰঙা
মোৰ দুচকুত জমা হৈ আছে
যুগ যুগান্তৰৰ বঞ্চনাৰ বাৰুদ
আঁতৰি যোৱা,
অচিৰেই পৰিণত হ’বা মূল্যহীন ছাইত!

Write Down ‘I am a Miyah’
Hafiz Ahmed

Write Down
I am a Miya
My serial number in the NRC is 200543
I have two children
Another is coming
Next summer.
Will you hate him
As you hate me?

I am a Miya
I turn waste, marshy lands
To green paddy fields
To feed you.
I carry bricks
To build your buildings
Drive your car
For your comfort
Clean your drain
To keep you healthy.
I have always been
In your service
And yet
you are dissatisfied!
Write down
I am a Miya,
A citizen of a democratic, secular, Republic
Without any rights
My mother a D voter,
Though her parents are Indian.

If you wish kill me, drive me from my village,
Snatch my green fields
hire bulldozers
To roll over me.
Your bullets
Can shatter my breast
for no crime.

I am a Miya
Of the Brahamaputra
Your torture
Has burnt my body black
Reddened my eyes with fire.
I have nothing but anger in stock.
Keep away!
Turn to Ashes.

নানা আমি লেখছি গো...

নানা আমি লেখছি গো,
এটেস্টো কৰাইছি, কাউণ্টাৰছাইনো কৰাইছি
পাব্লিক নটাৰীয়ে ভেৰিফাই কৰছে
যে আমি আসলেই একজন মিয়া৷৷
এহন আমাৰে উঠতে দেহুইন
বানেৰ পানীৰ থিকা
ভূমিস্খলনেৰে উপৰে ভাশতে দেহুইন
কেদা ভাইঙ্গা, বালু ভাইঙ্গা, সাপ ভাইঙ্গা আটতে দেহুইন
জমিনেৰ চাপা জাইতা মাৰতে দেহুইন
কোদাল দিয়া আইল কাটতে দেহুইন
আৰ দেহুইন আমাৰে ধানেৰ মইধ্যে, ডায়েৰীয়াৰ মইধ্যে, কুইশালেৰ মইধ্যে
হাইফ্ৰা পাৰতে ১০ শতাংশ সাক্ষৰতা হাৰেৰ মইধ্যে
আমাৰে আমাৰ মাথা ঠিক কৰতে দেহুইন, চূল সিতি কৰতে দেহুইন
দুই শাইৰ পদ্য, একটা গণিতেৰ ফৰ্মূলা পঢ়তে দেহুইন
দেহুইন আমাৰ কপালে চিন্তা যেশুম শালাৰা কয় তুই বাংলাদেশী
আৰ আমাৰ বিপ্লৱী বুকটাৰে কইতে দেহুইন যে হায় ৰে,
তুই জানশ যে তুই মিয়া৷৷
দেহুইন আমাৰে সংবিধান কাছে নিয়া
দিল্লীৰ মুহি আংগুল কইৰা,
দুই কদম আইগাইতে
আমাৰি পাৰ্লাইমেণ্টে, ছুপ্ৰীম কোৰ্টে,
আমাৰি কানাট প্লেচে
আমাৰ এমপি ৰে, জজবাবুৰে আৰ জনপথে
যে টুকটাক আৰ মায়া বেচে, হেই গেদীৰেউ
কইতে দেহুইন
যে আমিতো মিয়া৷৷
কলকাতায় আমাৰে লগ ধৰবাৰ আহুইন, বাঙ্গালুৰে আহুইন,
সীমাপুৰীৰ ঝোপৰ পট্টিতে আহুইন
দেহুইন আমাৰে শুট-কোট পিন্ধ্যা ছিলিকন ভেলীতে, কোট-বুট পিন্ধ্যা মেকডনাল্ডছে
আমাৰ বাল্যকাল বন্দী শ্ৰীনগৰে,
আমাৰ নাৰীত্ব বেচা-কিনি হাৰিয়ানাৰ মেৱাতে
আমাৰ পুলাপানেৰ কাফন কাপড়ে ৰক্ত দেহুইন
আমাৰ পি এইছডি ছাৰ্টিফিকেট, সোনাৰ মেডেল দেহুইন
তাৰ পৰে আমাৰে ডাহুইন ছালমা বুইলা, আমান, আব্দুল, বাহাতন নেছা বুইলা
বা খালী গোলাম বুইলা৷৷
আমাৰে প্লেন ধৰতে দেহুইন
ভিসা পাইতে দেহুইন
বুলেট ট্ৰেন ধৰতে দেহুইন
ৰকেট ধৰতে দেহুইন
মহাকাশে আমাৰ লুংগী দেহুইন
আৰ যেনে আমাৰ ডাক কেউ হুনা না হাৰে
হেনে আমাৰে চিল্লাইতে দেহুইন
যে আমি মিয়া
আমি গৰ্বিত৷৷

Nana I Have Written
Shalim M Hussain

Nana I have written attested countersigned
And been verified by a public notary
That I am a Miyah
Now see me rise
From flood waters
Float over landslides
March through sand and marsh and snakes
Break the earth’s will draw trenches with spades
Crawl through fields of rice and diarrhea and sugarcane
And a 10% literacy rate
See me shrug my shoulders curl my hair
Read two lines of poetry one formula of math
Read confusion when the bullies call me Bangladeshi
And tell my revolutionary heart
But I am a Miyah
See me hold by my side the Constitution
Point a finger to Delhi
Walk to my Parliament my Supreme Court my Connaught Place
And tell the MPs the esteemed judges and the lady selling
Trinkets and her charm on Janpath
Well I am Miyah.
Visit me in Kolkatta in Nagpur in the Seemapuri slums
See me suited in Silicon Valley suited at McDonalds
Enslaved in Beerwa bride-trafficked in Mewat
See the stains on my childhood
The gold medals on my PhD certificate
Then call me Salma call me Aman call me Abdul call me Bahaton Nessa
Or call me Gulam.
See me catch a plane get a Visa catch a bullet train
Catch a bullet
Catch your drift
Catch a rocket
Wear a lungi to space
And there where no one can hear you scream,
I am Miyah
I am Proud.

মইও মিঞা

হাড় ভঙা ৰ’দৰ কোলাত
নাঙ্গুইলা-জায়ৈ’ দিয়া মোৰ
ঘৰ্মাক্ত ভাগৰুৱা কান্ধৰ
লুণীয়া কাইটৰ খোচেৰে ভৰা
পুৰুষত্বৰ গৌৰৱময় ইতিহাস৷
‘গ্ৰ’মোৰ ফুড’ আৰু বাঘৰ আতঙ্কৰে
বিভীষিকাময় কলেৰা-ডায়েৰিয়া,
কাইটীয়া জঙ্গললৈ ক্রান্তিৰ সুবাস ছটিয়াই
সংগ্ৰাম কৰা বীৰপুৰুষৰ ইতিহাস৷
ত্যাগৰ ৫১ৰ উপহাৰ
৮৩ আৰু ৯০-৯৪, ২০০৮, ১২, ১৪
ইতিহাসৰ ৰক্তাক্ত সোঁৱৰণেৰে কম্পমান মই
প্ৰাগজ্যোতিষপুৰৰ খিলঞ্জীয়া দ্ৰাবিড়ৰ
নিৰ্যাতন, লাঞ্ছনা, বঞ্চনাৰ দস্তাবেজ বুকুত লৈ
ৰাজপথত কাণত ধৰি আঠু লোৱা
নিলাজ ৰং মোৰ
লজ্জা ঢকাৰ মুখালৈ
নিলাজৰ দৰে ভকতৰ শাৰীত
অস্তিত্বৰ ছবি আঁকিও
ভকতৰ গোহালিত আশ্ৰয় মোৰ,
ৰঙীণ বটলত একে মদিৰা
আৰু জন্ম সূত্ৰে মইও এজন মিঞা৷৷

I am Yet a Miyah
Shahjahan Ali Ahmed

Mine is the story of
A burning bone-crunching sun
My manhood the cautionary tale
Of bent shoulders
And the pricking of salted thorns
Mine is the story of
‘Grow more food’, man-eaters
Cholera, diarrhea
And a fragrant revolution scattered by
My fathers
In a forest of thorns
Mine is a story of heroes.
Mine is the sacrificial offering of ‘61
Of blood screaming through
The binds of history
Mine is the story of 83, 90-94, 2008, 2012, 2014.
Mine is the oppression, the ignominy
The deprivation of Dravidians in Pragjyotishpur
I am the colour of a shame
Holding its ears, bending its knees
While kings and dynasties pass
I am the one under the fool’s cap
Standing in line with dumb cattle
I am a painting of heritage
Hung in a stable
Because though the bottles look different
The wine is yet the same
And judging by birth alone, I am yet a Miyah.


Photo Essay | Insiya Poonawala

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City Lights
The North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco has pretty much been the lifeline of Beat generation activity in the city since the 1950s and 1960s. At the centre of this important American countercultural movement on the West coast was an independent publishing house and bookstore, thriving to this day, called City Lights. 

Turn Left
If the fact that it takes its name from a famous Charlie Chaplin movie doesn’t give you a sense of its socio-political outlook, then perhaps the signs hanging in its first-floor windows will. Hand-drawn by the bookshop’s co-founder, the poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti himself, the signs implore the approaching visitor to enter with an “open mind” and “open heart”, and also, of course, to “disarm” and “turn left”.

Sell Phone
If the liberal aura exuded from the building hasn’t thrown you off (you are a book lover, after all), you get closer and stand at the shop-windows for your next set of instructions. Once again, in Ferlinghetti’s hand, you are asked, among other things, to “abandon all despair”, stash your “sell phone” away, and proceed educating yourself on three floors’ worth of books.

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Starving Hysterical Naked
In 1957, two years after Allen Ginsberg read his poem, Howl, at Gallery Six, and a year after City Lights published this work, the folks who ran the bookstore and press found themselves at the centre of a remarkable controversy. Howl and Other Poems was considered an obscene volume that had potential to corrupt America’s youth. As publisher, Ferlinghetti stood trial at the nearby Hall for Justice (housed in a building that is now part of the Hilton hotels), where he defended Ginsberg’s work, and its literary and social significance. In a landmark judgement, which ruled that the poem had a redeeming social value, the publication of Howl would set a legal precedent in the fight against censorship in literature. Today, City Lights still publishes Howl and Other Poems with the original 1956 cover. This iconic image can now also be found on some of the bookshop’s official merchandise. 

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Rebel People
But wait. We do not enter the bookshop yet. Instead, we peer into the narrow lane to its left. Once an inconspicuous, garbage-strewn alley, Adler Place was renamed Kerouac Alley in 2007, largely due to the efforts of Ferlinghetti. As pictured below, on either side of this 50-m-strip stand City Lights and Vesuvio Cafe, the notorious watering hole for the members of the Beat generation. The walls of both the pub and the bookstore are plastered, respectively, with snippets of poems and scenes from the 1990s uprising in a Mexican state. The City Lights mural, specifically, depicts the rural life in the Chiapas region of Mexico, juxtaposed against images of armed men in masks. It is inscribed with the powerful injunction, in both Spanish and English,Un pueblo con memoria es un pueblo rebelde” (“A people with a memory is a rebel people.”) 

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                                                                  All Characters in Bookstore are Real
It is easy upon entering the bookshop to get lost in the labyrinth of shelves. One room leads to another. There are doors within door, and at the end of those, the stairs. On the walls hang old photographs, framed announcements for long-expired events, and, of course, more hand-lettered signs by Ferlinghetti. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” reminds one.

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The Basement
The City Lights basement houses a large collection of non-fiction on subjects ranging from history, economics, women’s studies to music, cinema, print culture, and so on. For its more rabble-rousing customers, the staff has helpfully labelled the relevant shelves as “class war”, “anarchism”, or “muckraking”. This isn’t at all odd when you consider who the basement’s most famous haunters were, back in the day—Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady, among others. Ferlinghetti stumbled upon the basement quite by chance when he decided to poke around some loose floorboards in the store one day. Under them, he found the notorious creature that he later wrote about in his poem, “The Great Chinese Dragon”. The ancient dragon (the first of its kind to cross the Pacific and the same one that “ate all the shrimp in San Francisco Bay”) was said to, until then, lay low in the basement all year, except during Chinese New Year, when it was paraded around Chinatown. The basement was also once the meeting place of a Christian sect. That explains why its walls are plastered with snippets of Biblical verse (“I am the door”, proclaims one).

Have a Seat, Read a Book
That the merchandisers at City Lights have an eclectic taste would surprise no one. A section on the ground floor is stocked with a wide selection of writings from Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and so on. But what City Lights is known for the most is perhaps its poetry room. In addition to hosting the largest collection of poetry in a bookshop, this upstairs room is a nook for lovers of the form. Here, you will find poets and readers, in varying degrees of literary intoxication, reclining on chairs whilst perusing an anthology of their choosing, hovering over displays, and turning over shelved volumes. Reading is not only encouraged in this bookshop, it is enabled.

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Poems | Adam Zdrodowski

Photo Credits : Gb

The moon, the stars, and after

It well may be the universe hid behind your eyelashes
The moon got swallowed up, the blackstar
Was extinguished and, later, turned to ashes.

In disguise, the Death Star advances, raises dust, then crashes.
My heart missed a beat, the composer skipped a bar.
It well may be the universe hid behind your eyelashes

And now expands there, unfathomable. When the wind brushes
Your hair aside, and your shawl flutters, any tsar
Or duke stops petrified, then turns to ashes.

They scatter them into the ocean, the water splashes,
Accepting, flowing and flown. The ashes will travel far.
It well may be the universe hid behind your eyelashes

And left me empty-handed, dreaming. One dream clashes
With another; the clash leaves a trace, a scar
Like a tattoo, perhaps removable, or, later, turned to ashes.

Out of the ashes something must rise. Someone hushes
One up, they don’t know. I see your face in a passing car.
It well may be the universe hid behind your eyelashes
Caught fire, and, not much later, turned to ashes.

Song to a Girl I Don’t Know Well

To meet, wind-beaten, mint-scented, in the world, in the
Season of rains and peacocks’ restlessness,
With sublime snow-covered peaks looming in the distance.
Never mind the lark’s song, the nightingale’s sweet trill.

The season of rains and peacocks’ restlessness
Has other stuff in store: the monkeys’ conversations, the porcupine’s keen sting.
So sod the lark’s cheap song, the nightingale’s sweet trill;
Breathe in the tang of weed, the fragrance of the pines, 

Regard what’s yet in store: the monkeys’ conversations and the porcupine’s keen sting;
Dream broken dreams, and join disjointed parts;
Breathe in the tang of weed, the fragrance of the wine;
Fall into step with me while sleeping on the wing.

Dream broken dreams, and join disjointed parts.
Close stranger, radiating strangeness of a sweeter kind,
Fall into step with me while sleeping on the wing.
We’ll emerge from the brokenness, the disjointedness of dreams:

Close strangers, sharing the strangeness of a sweet kind
(no sublime snow-covered peaks looming in the distance),
We emerge from the brokenness, the disjointedness of dreams
To meet, wind-beaten, honey-scented, in the world, at dusk.

As One Drifting on a Raft 4.000 Miles Off Course

Or so they say. Like the gentle
sun she was he was
it was you were I was they were.
So now, goddesses, I implore you,
give us more sun & song & dance
& festive music & piercing light
in which we may examine 
each other like one 
does a creased crater. 

What light? What music?
I guess the stars are the negative
of lizards’ eyes, the dark sky hiding
the lizards’ negative bodies that keep
squawking and squealing way into
the small hours. The moon licks
its fleshy lips, like a mass murderer-poet,
the snake sheds its skin, and emerges,
flashy and nimble, ready for new rituals.

So, I guess soon all this will get sorted out,
your nearly-forgotten misery sliding into
the lowest, darkest recesses of your ego,
and a new season of summer festivals
will begin, our little grand tours
of Europe and India, wandering,
wondering, turning and turning,
circling and circling, and usually
returning, but always with a twist.

On the Manner of Addressing the Nrityagram Moon from a Warsaw Balcony
(Cheap Imitation)

You revolve and I revolve yet
the moon glow makes our silent revolutions
ominous, demodés. The light projects
you (that is, the mental image of you I have)
revolving in my mind which is itself
a projection, a probe cast out there

in the world. This is the world
of two minds revolving in unison,
but in reverse directions; one centrifugally,
the other – centripetally. This is the picture
of two minds; this is the image of true minds
coming together, or coming apart,
revolving and resolving impediments.

And this is the speaker come as lover
burning down the cities of the mind, bringing
the ashes of the cities of the mind to lay
them at your mindful feet. And thus we stand
maladroit though ambidextrous.

Regard, oh reader, the ashes of the minds
and tongues, the slickness of the circular
motion, the swiftness of the funicular
taking you up there, to the realms
of the unreal mind, over the dreamily-textured
hills and pistachio-colored clouds, ever so lightly
and far away.

A Very Short Introduction

Do I smell accounting?
Where shall we breed accounting?
How do you grow advertising?
Shall we eat African history?
Can you betray Alexander the Great?
Do you fancy getting stoned on American political parties and elections?

Do you fancy getting stoned on ancient Egypt?
Do I smell the animal kingdom?
Can you betray atheism?
Where shall we breed Buddha?
Shall we eat contemporary fiction?
How do you grow forensic science?

How do you grow the Marquis de Sade?
Do you fancy getting stoned on twentieth-century Britain?
Shall we eat writing and script?
Do I smell writing and script?
Where shall we breed the World Trade Organization?
Can you betray world music?

Can you betray Wittgenstein?
How do you grow the Vikings?
Where shall we breed twentieth-century Britain?
Do you fancy getting stoned on Thomas Aquinas?
Do I smell the Spanish civil war?
Shall we eat Russell?

Shall we eat postcolonialism?
Can you betray microeconomics?
Do I smell Gandhi?
How do you grow ancient Egypt?
Do you fancy getting stoned on innovation?
Where shall we breed innovation?

Where shall we breed information?
Shall we eat international migration?
Do you fancy getting stoned on the ice age?
Can you betray Italian literature?
How do you grow HIV/AIDS?
Do I smell languages?

Do I breed German philosophy?
How do you eat modern France?
Can you fancy diaspora?

Thirteen Ways of Yelling at a Blackbird

Once, you stayed at a place where darkness was really dark so you could easily lose yourself and find an ultimate release and, a human torch yourself, glow endlessly. Now, trapped in a space full of penumbras, in a world stuffed with countless ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts,’ gorging on meaningless mangoes, you can only open your French door and yell at a blackbird, in the following thirteen manners:

1.     Stay silent – the blackbird might yell back at you.

2.     In the crow position – it is common knowledge that blackbirds fear crows.

3.     Bring your guitar and amp to the balcony and yell against a thick wall of feedback.

4.     Combine 2 and 3 (and figure out how).

5.     Scream in guttural tones like a prophet imploring the stone to yield water.

6.     Yell to revamp your larynx.

7.     Shout at the floor, vomiting mangoes, papayas, litchis and jackfruits.

8.     Howl and cry out in the moonlit night while the blackbird is asleep.

9.     Yell into the nine holes of your mortal friend.

10.   Bull’s eye, you nailed it, friend.

11.   Suppose it’s on the balcony, suppose it’s on. Little birds, ladies, little birds, ladies, little                       blackbirds of feathers.

12.   In fear, because you mistook your raspy cadences for the shadow of the blackbird’s cry.

13.   Like no one would, in an equipage exquisite.