Vol XII Speakeasy

This week The Heavenly Bliss Salon for Men features not a poet but a book The HARPERCOLLINS BOOK OF ENGLISH POETRY that perhaps is one of its kind featuring eighty-five Indian poets writing in English. Published By Harper Collins India and put together by Sudeep Sen, this is a landmark in Indian publishing showcasing poetic concerns that are as varied as staggeringly expansive. This is a volume where ‘Indian poets are in full flight’.

9 POETS FROM SUDEEP SEN’S “ THE HARPERCOLLINS BOOK OF ENGLISH POETRY” 

LEELA GANDHI

SWAYAMVAR: SITA

The way you bent that bow
made me love the place
your spine begins its declensions
(base/apex, high/low),
yet dread the symmetry
of man and weapon;
the deadly circle
of your combined inversions:
you rigid
with complex curvature of bone,
the other turning all that is liquid
into stone.

MAHENDRA SOLANKI

SLAUGHTER

We offer as sacrifice, a goat
Stunned into two by a sword.

A ritual made real by blood;
An act to make us whole.

MANI RAO

SHIVA’S DIGS

Fragrant floured
Nude blue bloat
Last seen by the boy who
Wanted to be a ghost

The scavenger hooks
Fingers in the rim
Bone pots conk
Dangling swing

Finger a ring ran away with
Knobs and bits
Found in ash spills

It’s his job but gravely notes
Soil bored with air
Fluids laying cesspits

MICHELLE CAHILL

THE PIANO LESSON

My hands are stricken. Do they not brush your sleeve?
Are they not stripped by this embrace? Such brevity:
light aslant on the maple, flooding us with its promise,
as if there were things outside our selves, or our words.

There are cities whose landscapes we chart. How dry
the river seems as dusk blanches. I twist in your arms,
where my aches and stings are electric. Your hammers
strike my strings, then rest, until the sound uncouples.

You have spent epistolary days rehearsing a solitary
composition; variations on the same étude, to balance
what you have abandoned for loveliness. No exception
to this, I fasten my bra, as you lie, perfectly naked.

There’s no indignity. I think we’re saved by the purple
darkness. I return to the street, unable to disguise a flush
in my cheeks. Absorbed by stilettos, subways, the slow
traffic, for a few hours, I feel immortal as any fugitive.

What bitter chords should I wait for? I forget to ask.
You have tried to get behind all the music this world
makes. My hands are stricken by the lustre of ebony
at my keyboard. Now I work. Play the silent harmonics.

R RAJ RAO

FEMALE EUNUCH

FEMALE EUNUCH 1
The female eunuch
Claps so hard the neighbours think
It’s firecrackers.

FEMALE EUNUCH 2
The female eunuch
Exports her castrated part
To America.

FEMALE EUNUCH 3
The female eunuch
Gets the barber to dye her
Pubic hair golden.

RANJIT HOSKOTE

BOTANY

Prickly garden where voices flower and run to seed:
this conversation could go up in a sheet of flame
any time, any leaf could be a bait, any tendril
a booby trap. Watch your words, and hers, theirs,
and all your stranded thoughts. Clove and mandrake
open the mouths of your mind, all dialogue here
is rolling transcript for a police state:
check the names for shadows, the verbs for stains,
turn connoisseur of signs, yogi, give nothing away
except your deep-shelved archive of silences.

RAVI SHANKER

AN UNVERIFIABLE THEOREM

The gun once introduced must be forgotten
because its snub-nose gives a pocket the weight
of syllogism: no posthumous event can affect us.

Or, say, after it occurs, death cannot affect us:
it’s impossible to imagine what we have forgotten
when who we were no longer has any real weight.

Stripped of consciousness a body has the weight
of water evaporating from a lake: breath leaving us.
Once introduced the gun cannot be forgotten.

The weight of the forgotten: not what leaves us.

RUKMINI BHAYA NAIR
LOVE’S LANGUAGE LOST

She thinks

She thinks that he knows

She thinks that he knows that you believe

She thinks that he knows that you believe that I feel

She thinks that he knows that you believe that I feel that they imagine

She thinks that he knows that you believe that I feel that they imagine that we sense

She senses that he imagines that you feel that I believe that they think

She imagines that he feels that you believe that they know

She feels that he imagines that I believe

She believes that he feels

She imagines

LOVE’S LANGUAGE LOST

VIKRAM SETH

THE HERMIT ON THE ICE

The hermit sits upon the ice.
The bluish light burns all around,
Immune to flame and sacrifice,
To breath and death and scent and sound.

The scent of pine, the river’s roar
Are muted in his breath and pace.
The blue earth with its iron core
Spins on through time, spins on through space.

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