Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Into the black coal night seething with rage,
A man in a loin-cloth walks sleepily on the
Last remaining wall of a fallen building.
This strip of wall-top, one storey high, is his castle, his home.
He dusts his pillow onto the dangerous cheek of night -
A night which is possessive - accustomed to stretch its arms and legs
And sleep, comfortably, in this chunk of space.

This man is trespasser.
He could bring others to his wall –
His wife, his brothers and sisters, their children, his village.
The man stares at the night. Below his perch there is a storm of cars,
People have come to eat at Apoorva.
He smiles to himself, content with his bed;
The stars are heavy, dripping with drunken light.

In the corner of the subcontinent, south of Kerala’s toes,
An army of invaders is charging forward.
The stars hear it first, the anger building;
The night shivers with its allies’ advance.
As murdering knives descend into the flesh of night
It retreats fast into the spaces people build to keep nature out
And smirks as water weakens the foundations of its new home.

Only the man is stabbed in his sleep by the rain.

Published in Fulcrum, USA. See

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Helpless God

Black skies at noon
Slice through office blocks.
Up a forgotten passage
In a quiet doorway
A resting god
Opens its eyes
And follows the smog
To the edge of the last light
As the city is stoppered
With an ice black cork.

The god is tired of new lives –
It just wants this one
Plastic ruby eyes
Rimmed with gold leaf
Decide to halt
The descending wrath.

A man disturbs the god
As a tube light flickers on
A client has arrived
To buy space for Commerce One
The god shuts its eyes –
Arrested by the presence of a man
Rules oblige it to act
Only when it cannot be seen.

The wet cold plug expands
Sealing the city shut
Twenty million mouths turn blue
As a suffocated civilization ends.

Centuries later, steel drills at noon
Shatter through office blocks.
An expedition for oil strikes rich -
Thick fountains of chilled blood
Pirouette in the white, sun bleached sky.
Up a forgotten passage
In a quiet doorway
A resting god
Opens its eyes
And follows the whirling blades
To the edge of the red light.

A version of this poem (‘The Resting God’) appeared in Towers of Silence  (A limited edition chapbook , published by Aark Arts).

The Towers of Silence


High on the hill,
beneath a fern sky of speckled spores
there is a place I long to describe
in a language I do not know.

The passing of each
beloved one into the rocks and
ivory heart of the pit
in that solitary place is not a passage
we will accept for ourselves, mother, you and I.
Nor did your father, who chose that box of fire,
only fire.

But the thought that we could all
rest together in the sepia shadow of a pit
drilled into the centre of the core –
that is not an empty wish, for after all,
where will our children go to find us?
Will they have to slice through the shifting sky like vultures,
searching for me and you and your father:
ashes choking the sea?

How we thought your father’s
singed remains would be reduced
to one biscuit box, but saw instead
a suitcase of black static residue and
small pieces of bone and how you coughed -
wreaths of minute
grey dust rose through the chimney of Chandanvadi
into the soundless glare of that June day.

It is good, mother,
to have a resting place for family,
a spot to mourn the passing of the centuries and
that which we are;
to remember.

But there are places
that I long to describe
in a language I do not know.
And the Towers, by our not being in them,
that is our sacrifice.


Until the time my Spanish is not worthy of anything but mimicry, I will have to describe this place in words I can create especially for the Towers.

If you are an outsider, not one of us, you would be interested to know what happens when we die. Most of my people, if we have been blessed by our exclusive priests in our special temples, in a language, Avesta, which is dead, if we haven’t made the mistake of marrying a man who is one of you, will be prayed upon and carried up the hill on a cherished path, up two stairs or three, through a door and onto a cement bed at the edge of a precipice. The birds do their job (eating us), if there are enough of them, and our antibiotics do not make them immediately sick; and our bones are swept into the pit. The men who provide this service are poor, lower caste and dedicated, they are born to this profession – body carriers, body sweepers, maintenance engineers of the Towers of Silence.


Why Spanish? It is a knowledge that there are words that can describe this place better than the ones I already know. Silent spectacles of words that form like clouds and beat thunderous drums with brocade batons.


Shadows in a garden of ochre thread
Vitiligo branches which echo
The brown whispers of a festering pea-hen
Hay fields, grass grown yellow from the start.
The English description of this hill is so still, so deathly quiet.

Spanish would somehow make it eloquent,
the Hill that drips with human dead.
More distant than Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Marathi. These are too close and yet impassive to my touch.

This is no English green, where graveyards rise, like fresh,
dew kissed soldiers in the valley of life.
No Tintern Abbey, roof collapsed,
not even a river here, blue and sweet.

This is one landscape
too burnt for English words,
there is no poetry
in the English sounds
nor richness in their beats.
Why look at this that escapes onto the page –
there is a place high on a hill, surrounded by a malignancy of skyscrapers.
No rhythm there.
So there must be some other tongue to say-
this is a place I long to describe
in a language I do not know.

First Published in the UK, in Poetry London 

in India in Chandrabhaga