Bucket Boy

in a single sweep history
rewritten by a spade, a whiter race
armed with gods and texts, made
demons of the browns –
percolate as mismatches, on
the outskirts the hutment absolved
mocked by pigs, dead cows
rows of faeces

parked amidst a river’s gush, vessels
stained by blood, a cloth line
blots hanging as linen – a crow
calls for a dead gecko, the woman appears
in her a child about to die
at birth, it will be named as its father
roaming with a bucket
its hands substituting
the water in latrines

Cafe, circa 2011

sorry
said the poet, lingering around
looking at a stained tea-cup where
his lips once touched, in steam,
his nose
immersed

…unpaid, half-done, finished
allow me to leave, said the poet
fishing around the outskirts with his glance

arrives the crook, crutches cancelled
as he retires into a chair – his shadows
waving a cigarette

the counter opens to commotion

the poet’s account heavier; he’ll be back
says the crook
what you offer is tea, which everyone does
but what you provide is drama, which no one else does

refill please

Blue

My dreams are dark blue
So are my wavering eyes
So are the fields of dew that moisten my home
Floating through paddy fields that release birds from time to time
Staining a blue sky with murmurations

When the grey rain arrives
I melt into paint that colours the forest for four months
The sun shoots through the clouds and calls me upwards
Every house is plastered by my dreams

Inside them mothers feed fresh kittens
Poets soothe themselves over bridges wearing blue breezes
Farmers sow the future in twittering valleys
Clothes lines evaporate into cerulean dust
That travels formlessly over a blue river, touching the water now and then

I lend my indigo nights to travellers
Looking for refugee in cold villages warming a roast
I enter their dreams silently and get translated
Into new languages that voyage across the plateau
Speaking of fables that entrance faraway children
Who run happily through fields teasing bluebirds

– translated from Marathi

Upbringing

the chalk that rivers across the blackboard
last smudged my fingers
when I was 11 and crew cut

they anglicised our language for us
uniforms, leather,
uptight references to the weather
the use of local words
within an essay
banned like one bans dangerous drugs

how stupidly I obeyed it all
and stood first, acing
every exam like a long distance runner
at the end of the race my mind splintered
my roots cut, my feet
insulated from my own earth
as I was now ready, to conquer
the air conditioned world
ironing my new shirt every evening

I Come From

I come from a silent night
Muted by the flapping of sage owls
Skewered by the warmth of shooting stars

We sailed over the moon’s image in round shikaras
I didn’t cry after my birth, instead
I looked onward for the blue glow of our coast

I come from such silent nights
The low indigo tide filled with dreaming flamingos
I sailed through them smiling as I reached a sea
The echo of black dolphins arrived at dawn
An orange sphere touching the distant ocean, under it
A few specks of large boats

I come from a humid night
Occasionally stroked by loving breezes
They played with her hair as I smiled
Behind the creek we shared ourselves slowly
Amidst the dense silence of a million sleeping gulls
Who, at morning, grafitti-ed the sky for us
And the tiger sent her cubs as an elderly gesture

Much later, my corpse floated in a round shikara
On a new moon, its halo, created by the milky way

I came from one of the islands of seven
Today joined forcefully, linked
By trains and flyovers that sail through garbage, instead
of floating over creeks lit by glowing plankton
And the low tide, filled with a billion plastic bags
pushed aside by ships and cranes and trawlers
bury under them the once breathing poems
whose ancient words knew no country

The milky way though, is now consumed by smoke
As for the animals, look for them on the internet
While a small flock of flamingoes still stands
In black, toxic waters
Waiting for the tide to sink

Butterfly

catching it is impossible
ignoring it, even more
the afternoon snores, the boy
lost in chores
-but flickering, its beats dot the air
carrying the universe in a glide
in the distance the shimmering tide lowers
the boats park and let their nets sleep, gulls
crowd and behave like flying papers, flapping
…but flapping here is the butterfly
resisting any one spot, resisting
any one audience – playing its mute song
ribboning the air with cerulean and pink
sometimes yellow sometimes stopping to think
on an anaemic plant branch, tanning
under the humid sun
around her the world debates and procrastinates
trees wither and house new caterpillars
music flows in with the evening’s breath
older men at the harbour await their death
as the sun sets a butterfly tinkers before them
sometimes in silhouette sometimes revealed
making old faces move to its pace
before leaving, leaving
a smile on each wrinkled face

Someplace Faraway

someplace faraway
there is a high school dance about to commence
rays of cyan, mauve, chrome touch young bodies
the music is from a different era but the shoes aren’t
and while some of your friends sip rum for the first time
you stand alone unaware that time is moving
a travelling yellow pierces my face, my drink falls
the music floats softly and friends start looking different
this is the dance we never attended
the floor we never scraped with polished shoes
and the ceiling whose hanging lanterns we never saw
even the slow scattering of couples evaded us
so did the long drive through a sleeping city
whose moody streetlights warmed ice-cream carts
we didn’t pass by them with half-shut eyes like we could’ve
we never met like we should’ve