Vol I SpeakEasy

Menka ShivdasaniThis week’s poet is Menka Shivdasani. I first met Menka in 2001  when we shared a cottage at a writer’s workshop in New Delhi. Menka is one of India’s finest poets but what I loved as much about Menka as her poetry is how easy she makes it to be with her.

And there was Menka’s mini immersion heater thingie she carried around with her so she could brew a cup of tea no matter where she was ! [I have been searching for one of those  for god-knows-how-long now.]

Menka Shivdasani is Mumbai coordinator for the global movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Read more about Menka here.

From Nirvana at Ten Rupees (XAL-Praxis) and Stet

Today’s Fairy Tale

Hold me, octopus.

Your eight arms are not enough.

Once upon a time, they said,

there was this little girl

who let down her hair,

and Prince Charming

rescued her from the castle.

Then, girls stopped

letting down their hair,

started living in matchbox apartments,

and no longer needed rescuing,

or so they thought.

Octopi don’t fit in matchboxes,

but nothing fits anywhere.

Squares go round in circles,

the moderns lose their immorals.

Rapunzel feels guilt.

She would scream

if she had a voice, but hypocrisy

taught her to make endless cups of coffee

instead. See, Prince Charming,

how alive the caffeine makes me!

It is only a minor vice:

the rest are all concealed.

Prince Octopus, your eight arms


float down the sea.

Were they ever one?

Were you really there or did I

only imagine your tentacles

sprouting from my scalp?

Repair Job

Yesterday, I slit a jugular

that had strayed into a corner of my brain.

Nobody screamed, not the commuter,

nor the street vendor, the businessman, the slut.

The small talk rolled off like blood,

turning the insides scarlet as lust,

and they said: “See the roses in her cheeks!”

I picked the thorns off like worms,

split a finger or two as I did it.

The petals closed in, trapped an insect.

Listen to the buzzing in the stamen,

like a beehive being smoked out by someone,

the honey all viscous like glue.

I put the jugular together,

stuck the slits with gum.

Nobody noticed what happened;

the businessman – he smiled and proposed.


One year of marking paragraphs,

and time, deleting words,

adding commas, rewriting

the homeopathy and gardening columns.

One year of fungus

sprouting from ears, eyes,

tongue, one year

of feeling like mouldy bread,

full of holes.

Good to collect

monthly four-figure pay,

buy a new pair of jeans,

hide the fungus

growing on the thigh.

Till you feel like a bit of copy

yourself – cleaned, pruned,

computer-processed in black and white,

tucked away on the inside pages

of a world you never made.

Turn to the original.

Some sub-editor there marked it STET.

Note: Stet is a printer’s term meaning to ‘let it stand’, retain something that had earlier been deleted




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