Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Diurnal City

Night is 
not the enemy
the dense diurnal city
yet at dusk
Stalks me
Fractured straw-cotton
clay puppet
Pulls a string
Before I leave
Chaste, safe
to remain
His face
dark sunset
over my thighs
Open the gate
Outside, they
with pitchfork awaits
Bolt the door
I am done for©

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stroke, by midnight

Your left
didn't speak
too your right
by midnight
You were
two halves
The morning
a splattered
sunny-side up
The day smeared 
thick rancid butter
on toast
Your smile
as in 
a hall of mirrors
In the sanitised
white room
silver mercury
like flowers
quivering in a vase
pronounces your fever
in degrees
The monitor
a melon-red cacophony
a long straight line©

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cacophony and Concrete

The city
lingers without
a sense of closure.
Each day relentless
and endless
Like a rehearsal
without a finale;
left me shrivelled
like strands of marigold;
aftermath of festivities.
A night of barsati monsoons;
I wept
With numerous eyes
of moist patches
from moss eaten walls

The city gnaws
and nibble away
the sprouting tender roots
of belonging
I belong somewhere,
That bring
news of death
of loved ones,
of tedious living and silent dying.©

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ode to fever

The fever
exude itself
from these numerous pores
The marauder's left
drawn blood on my flesh
I lick my wound
in my four legged retreat
Wishing to drown
in winter blankets
Love's ravaged me
My ruin is complete
I fan myself
with the hemlock's leaves © 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rave on

A digression from my usual preoccupation, was provided by a recent invite to talk about ‘being in the northeast’. I have been trying to talk about poetry for a long time, because, well, because I love poetry, I write poetry and I think it is because of poetry that I am still alive today.  I can recite poetry at the drop of a hat, well.. especially my own, though I can also recite Sylvia Plath’s lines
So we could rave on, darling, you and I,
until the stars tick out a lullaby

Yes, I like lines like that too, though blood and thoughts of killing and being killed tops my list of favourite poems. I also like Irom’s lines
For born with lips, For endowed with thoughts/
How can I leave without protesting?

 not the least because it was translated by me and of course the many poems which will be lost or not amenable to translation.

And all they ask me is to speak on how it feel. That too, will be lost in translation and yes, the feeling is lost in transition too, a transition I did more than a decade back. I tried to push my luck, “You, mean how does it feel to be a poet and coming from Manipur, you mean, how does that landscape inform my poetry?”. “Oh!, you write poetry? Had no idea.” No, no all we want to know is –How does it feeeel.  So there again I am put in that pointless box and asked to think – Northeast vs India. I don’t even know what the term Northeast means. I am asked to think of the comments I get when I walk down the street and what will they do with that. “Nothing”, we just want an insider to talk about it. “So, you want to hear how bad it was and thats it?” and all these will be given a patient solemn hearing. Could I just recite a poetry which expresses all these? Hmmm “We will get back to you shortly”. Quite a considerable length of time shortly is. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ode to the Ear

Two whorls
as a corolla
A funnel
and words
like rain on puddles
Monsoon mosquitoes 
comes abuzz
nagging for a earring
The lover 
dart a lizard-like tongue
collect grains of salt
or nibble 
on the cartilaginous mushroom

Sunday, August 26, 2012

For born with lips/ For endowed with thoughts/ How can I leave without protesting? : The Poet as a Witness

Let me stretch out my hands
Beloved friends
Welcome me in your midst
So unquenched that I am
Unable to voice in words
I desire to tear open my chest
and show the bland empty smile within
I desire a voice of that laughter
be struck by shrapnel of bombs
for the aftermath cheap tears
to reduce all filth to cinders
Let every face be radiant
with the hope of a new era!
This one weak step
Wants to leave a hundred footprints
And become chants of courage
Come, open your door
For born with lips
For endowed with thoughts
How can I leave
without protesting?

The Untitled Poem, (translated from Irom Sharmila’s Maming Thondaba Seireng, Translation mine)

The idea of poetry is not an unchanging one but a continuum or rather a contestation of meanings. I look at the ‘poetic’ as an element whether it be in a dramatic text, performance or poetry (i.e. I look at words - spoken, written or sung, chanted, performed according to a pattern). The above poem translated from Irom Sharmila’s Maming Thondaba Seireng reflects a certain resistance to the ‘times’. This suggest a certain condition of the triangular nature of the existence of poetry — a triad consisting of the poet, the audience and reality/truth/environment/context as the third point[1]. The lines which connect and form this triad is what I want to analyse. That poetry as witnessing a certain reality may either reveal a situation where both are almost coinciding at a point whereas the audience seems far removed from both. I am afraid that the poets and poetry that I wish to discuss here might all fall in the category of distorted triangles. The reality that the poets speak of seems far removed from the insulated politics of the metropolitan cities. However, this reality is growing in various parts of the country. There is, therefore, a disjuncture in our interaction with the state in its most visual and ironically camouflaged form. In the disjuncture itself, there are many islands of disjuncture in spite of the interconnectedness of the infliction, there is a disconnect in the perception of the state. Thus, women and poetry for peace or women as peace brokers might, as I see fall, in the narrow limits of looking at women as tools towards a political end, the vision of which she does not form a part. Arambam Ongbi Memchoubi had written in her “Goddess of Lightning[2]” –

Even if your soul listens or not
Even if you agree or not
I am
The answer to your age old questions

The poem construes women as the Goddess of Lightning about to strike the rotten arms of men who preserves the old world. The Goddess burns the old and creates anew.

I have not quoted Memchoubi to club women’s work together but to contradict and point at the wide and varied nature of the work of women. One can but discuss the work together for reason of interconnectedness in the landscape of their poetry and not the ways of expression. Firstly, the attempt to look at Irom Sharmila’s poetry is the elements that separate her struggle and the consequent expression of that in her poetry. In Irom’s writing, it is a woman writing but it is a woman who is no longer a woman but rather a deified or “iconified” woman. A woman who is not depicted now without the nose feeding tube; wherein her struggle has become an organic part of her being and thus the attempt to “give her life” through the force intrusion of tubes, creating them also as parts of her being. She and her work occupy a space that no other can occupy because of the nature of her struggle. There is no doubt the struggle to appropriate her as a freedom fighter, as a poet, a feminist, a champion, woman leader and so on thus embedding in her a symbolic sisterhood which is strategically evoked.

Secondly that she must have and she has written poems since the beginning but it is the nature of her struggle that elevates her poetry to being a witness of her times. There is no doubt that the above two are inextricably linked together. For the fact that she is living her poetry and her ideals it is difficult to look at her poetry apart from her struggle and vice versa. And it is important to view both together because there is an inherent vulgarity in knowing or reading a poem as separate from the landscape that informs the poems. For this reason one can also explore the works of other poets like Thangjam Ibopishak and Robin Ngangom to point out how certain landscape colours the poetry in spite of the range and variety in the work. There is an interconnectedness between poetry as witness and poetry as resistance but for both then is the necessity for poetry to come out from within the confines of the poets’ thought and be read, be seen and talked about.

‘what good is poetry is destitute times’ (Heidegger, 1975). Heidegger refers to this question of H√∂lderlin’s (in Bread and Wine) by talking first about time –That the time is the era that we still belong to and that era seems to be asking to us the need of poetry. The genre or rather the styles of the poetry that I choose to discuss might be said to fall in the category of the poems/writing choosing to express certain things. I refer to the act of writing (such) poetry as being the witness. It is then here that the necessity of the creative work getting read/ seen/ comes in. Stating the unsaid or unsayable is then the function of such poetry. When Thangjam Ibopishak wrote “I want to be killed by an Indian Bullet”, it was censored out of an India International Centre publication[3]. In the act of being a witness and testifying for the unsaid/ unsayable there are indeed many who wants the unsaid to remain unsaid who believes that the unsaid is left unsaid because of the presumed vulgarity of the unsaid. Thus, closing one’s eye on the vulgarity of the act played out in the landscape means that one is consenting to the continuity of the act of indifference.  The vulgarity here can be seen in two ways, one being what I have just mentioned above and second the vulgarity of discussing only the poetry as removed from the landscape. Of course the act of seeing poetry alone and not placing it in the context of the landscape is what leads to the poetry being termed as unsayable or rather unprintable (and therefore unreadable).

The introduction to Irom Sharmila’s collection of twelve poems, “Fragrance of Peace”[4] also refers to her as she who “speak out the unspeakable without losing the essence of humanity”. Of course the act of witnessing and testifying requires that the work comes out in the form of being said or read. The genres of poetry or poet celebrated now have gone through the process of being obliterated not only because of the language in which it is expressed but also through a deliberate attempt at obliteration. There is a certain curiosity in the works but it is only celebrated when it falls in the realm of the exotic whereas the mundane banality of political violence finds no space.

The landscape that evokes poetry of the ‘unsayable’ also evokes the mundane desire of belongingness. Robin Ngangom had explored this in his collection, “The Desire of Roots”[5]. The collection depicts a desire, a longing for the labyrinth terrain of the 'known' by the same roots. Irom’s collection “Fragrance of Peace” is also engrafted with a desire, the desire of letting the roots seek its home of soil, to foster and nurture not the idea of territorial belongingness but one that is rooted in the crises of the ‘canes of policemen’ and yet as a mother exhorting

What gain you by torching an effigy?
for a scrap of land you cannot take with you

Irom’s collection of twelve poems seems a conscious choice on the part of those who has put in the collection. The poems reflect a certain role – that of a mother, a sister. That the collection is a political act is beyond doubt however this begets the question — “Is the gendering of women’s writing inherently problematic? In the particular context of this collection is there an attempt to look at the poet vis-√†-vis her relation as a sister to a man / (or even in solidarity to the idea of sisterhood); Is there an attempt to embed in her the ideals of a universal mother in the choice of poems? It is indeed difficult to begin analysing Sharmila’s poems given the self imposed overarching political correctness of those who choose not only to read but also to publish which works are to be read.

[1] Stead, “The New Poetic” Continuum . New York: 2005
[2] Robin S. Ngangom; Kynpham S. Nongkynrih, “Dancing Earth” Penguin Books, India: 2009
[3] Tarun Bhartiya, “Liberal Nightmares: A Manual of Northeastern Dreams” (accessed on 15th January 2011)
[4]  Irom Sarmila, “Fragrance of Peace”, Zubaan, 2010
The cover of the book and also the contents refers to Irom Sharmila as Irom Sarmila. When the publisher was asked on the peculiar spelling I was told that the pronunciation of ‘Sh’ does not exist in Meiteilon. This was in spite of the poet signing her work as Irom Sharmila. Referring to Sharmila as Sarmila seemed to be more due to the problem of translating of her work from the Bengali script to Meitei Mayek and to English.
[5]  Robin Ngangom, “The Desire of Roots”, Chandrabhaga Publications, Cuttack, 2006

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unfurling You

I unfurl

you in my head
like a roll of film
exposed to light 
Picture fade
into smudgy outlines 
and you, lost 
to eternal darkness
With deaths
like these 
I am well-acquainted
I live
in fringes 
beyond frames
like an ink drop 
in crystal water
I’d once arranged
life like pebbles 
Stacked up nimbly 
the jagged edges
neatly filed 
Pictures such as these
left two serrated cliffs © 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


 They say
my sting
has lost 
its venom
my rancour 
its acid 
My wound
has become antique
Hot metal
a fouled alloy
The rage of peace
the lesion
I nurse
I have cast off
grief's golden harvest
luminous fingers,
my armour
my heart
from its exile
my malice
Corseted me 
in a sequinned cage

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The season
has changed its tide
A horizon of irretrievable anguish
has splintered the streets
with the sorrow of sunsets
A thrown-away ring
leaves a pale band
on a lonely finger 
The inescapability of death
hovers like an inevitable storm
Shielded in you
I find some solace                                              
the strength to conceive eternity
An occlusion of nothingness
And rejoin
Gaze by gaze
Skin by skin

Friday, July 20, 2012

Love's demise

How inevitably
Sorrow sneaked up
After the rains
Squandered the night
Like bitter families and logic
Extracting dreams
From our happy slumber
Serpent of knowledge
They’d offer
Enticing pleading
Familial fruits
will erode our love
And trample the remnant
smooth brittle pebbles
I’d prefer a poisoned dart
rather than the gradual death
as if natural
But love’s demise
Is less dramatic
He succumbed
I survived

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ode to my bookshelf

It was between amber and brown, 
between fire and earth. 
The rich dark chocolate
of dusk had set in 
A wave of dust
had colored the wood 
I took contemplative miniature steps 
–feeling every
wood, seasoned or un-aged,
on the planks, 
on open doors 
Finally, I found you. 
From your feet
to the brim, 
heavy and bright, 
my fingers had
brushed against you
You left an oval of dirt ,
on my fingertips.
I knew you were salty,
a fruit that the seas of
my emotion had chosen. 
to stand against the
wall of the house, 
open to me 
like a mouthful of kisses 
I had mourned and perished 
and grew with the books in your bosom.
Naked in your skin
I will dismantle you slowly.
Take down
books of poetry and prose,
books clothed in their glory jackets 
books naked and threadbare.
I wish I could depart with you,
to another life 
but for now I kill you, 
with pain that stabs me
when I stab you.
I will bleed my knuckles over you.
I will leave coffee mug stain on you
  – a circle like a ring, a circle
akin to handcuffs you’d think.
Sometimes a house lizard will run over
leaving padded footsteps 
marked in dust. 
Your death will reduce to
ashes and the wind will powder me
with your gray remains.
I will lose my companion, 
one autumnal summer of amaltas © 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I am
a veteran 
of goodbyes
a dream
a dimension
in the blackness of eternity
stuns me
with the immobilising fear
of a fleeting hope
I am 
more reconciled 
to sorrow
without the messy paraphernalia
of dreams
like a noose
like a beaded pearl ©

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A moment

The stretch of skies
Between dawn and dusk
Gold melting into bluish white
Blue and forlorn the hours
Till it deepens
Liquor tea
At dusk
There is
Not a moment in time
When the stars fade
One forgets to stare
And find them
Scorched from view
Wind and rivers
Had conceived
Pregnant clouds
Burst over windowpanes
Gray earth
Cling to feet
as if a reluctant lover
grudging goodbye
A lump of grief
Collects at my throat
The day slides
from my grasp ©

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Dusk hangs heavy
like swarms of mosquitoes
over juandiced street-lamps
Familial cicadas 
at meal times
had died down 
to leave the aftermath 
chores for me
Night gnaws 
at the door
They gather
their icy palms
over the blue charcoal flames
I peered 
run water and my numb fingers
over stainless steel plates
to see it shine
devoid of stubborn seeds
of sun dried chillies
or an obstinate grain of rice
Pins and needles
my frozen limbs
will be woken up
when he 
with his metal hooks
dangles promises ©

Thursday, May 17, 2012


by stars and planets
They said
our paths were chalked out
Misfortunes etched
on our forehead
Like veins
Like maps
and half a poem
Were destiny's
bountiful gifts
Like the Magi
travelling forth
to meet us
at the hour of our birth
We conspired
an escape
from one bondage
to another
Testified against time
Our grief grew deeper
Our choices
held against us
Yet stars and planet
they said
when plans desert us
We met
to dream
a heartbeat
of our own
Rebel against
the teacher
of wounds and sorrow
Life has melt boundaries
I became more of you
You became more of me
Death became more of life
And life, Death ©

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We shattered

In the dark
his coal eyes
coal hands
shone and scorched
dropped over me
shooting stars
And lost and entangled
our wayward limbs
This is how
I remember him
We had the luxury
neither of time
nor dreams
Like those vapours
Collecting in the thin air
We collect memories
Like anxious dark clouds
Crystal as hail
We would fall
Shatter roofs
Or ooze over weeds

We shattered
like rain
on windowpanes

8-4-12 ©

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Today, I gather quietly
the fabric of the night's shadows
after our umpteen goodbyes
is just yesterday's aftermath
Three days dead
but you'll rise again
I could never slay you,
I will always insurrect you,
reclaim you
from those hidden
three-leafed clovers
between pages of poetry
I try to read
the few blue scribbles of your pen
as if hidden beneath
was an epic of intimate incoherence
The scent of your skin
had once bled
onto my bedsheet
Memories still sit in the corner
invisible and vast
hurling back echoes of fading footsteps
Memories will still
sit in that corner
collecting woody annual rings
A ring for every year
A ring for shattered rings

31-03-12 ©

Monday, March 26, 2012


The conversation at dawn
seemed like a dream
words and love
whirling to an abrupt ending
when daylight devoured our insanity
Passion and hurt
slowly sink in
with the day
and erase
the scorching topography of desires
Love wept against
decisions definite
etched in stone
And how love evaporates
as if
in the sublime process of sublimation
Love that
lumped together
heart and soul
in a mess of throbbings
its language of fires
become tepid gray ashes
even a whimper of protest
One day
my wound will disappear
into a dry scab
and grief will have
a new skin
fresh and ready
for new grievings
You, a spiritless traveller
will embrace another rite
contended to walk
upon beaten paths
discarding love
on a whim
When you and her
share your mannequin kisses
with blessings et al
you'll be peripheral in my dreams ©

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


In my last
letter of love
I addressed you
by name
As if
in a loss of intimacy
As if
your name veiled
a hidden grief
I have discarded
the name I whisper
in quiet mornings
into the pores
of your skin
Our names
all these while
unused and suffixed
Given names and clans
Now, we would
conjure them up
Call each other
by those names
Without even
a bitter tinge
of nectar ©

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It was the familiar din of places that travels without moving, feet that rushes by to expectant arms, feet that dragged slowly to the new fragrance of lonely autumn. I, reluctant to disrupt the delicate momentum of your scent on my neck departed without other souvenirs. Just the scent I took clasped by memory, by intent. I felt the first green sprout of poetry in my bosom when everything else turned brown by autumn and sulphurous garbage. Those towns at the bank of the gray railway tracks looked at me, two fortnights later it would stare at me again, unchanging its cold hard blink-less gaze like a priest to a pagan. And yet, what good was travel when obstinate me carried myself and prejudices to colour new places with hue of death and doom.

I have seen marble inlaid corridors with shifting shadows; corridors where time stood still on the pulse of man. Love once lavished her rusted flames on those marbles and we obstinately believing in dreams travelled to find its trace, fitting our palms into each other. The sun slowly closed his eyes over the sandstone etched portico. My cheeks burned under your lips and I had let your fingers trail under the fabric of the night’s shadows. Nakentha’s dried leaves too had traversed the weary worn out tarmac and followed us hustling like a malicious gossip. I resisted and yielded the following morning against the ravages of oils and kisses. Me, yielded and yours, you left victorious and cruel with the afternoon. ©

Saturday, March 3, 2012


He knifed his way
Through my heart, thighs
Not one, none of it was true
of eclipse or planets colliding
He said
my body
shone and scorched
in his hands
I was
in a world of stampedes
feet by feet
until I was fluid and open
He stabbed the eyelid
of my skin
and wept in the morning
In the language of bedsheets
he spoke to my skin
left me
a thorny wreath of goodbyes ©

Saturday, February 25, 2012


They have arrived
after the bullet has been shot
after the bomb
has spewed its shrapnel
to take stock
of the situation
When the streets
bleeds with splinters
and undressed torso
and limbs
They'll arrive
-the patriots
in white
the cowardice
and assure
"The culprit will be booked
and tried under law"
Of course
the Government
is pained
and so will numb
Another blast
with another ex-gratia
And we plot
to kill
the shrapnel
with flowers
and a fleeing dove? ©

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Half a promise

There we were
hurt like lovers
when words sudden and swift
strike its blades
penetrating ribs
cutting open hearts
into equal shuddering palpitating halves
There we were
hurt like lovers
for we were

A sudden
morning of overtures
coloured the day
with cauldron of dreams
minefield of hopes
shimmering in the distance
were half of our hearts
pulled apart
by baggage of loyalties

I dreamt anguish
in your joy
I find my triumph
when I see
your wrist
a band of steel
once bought by me

I promised
you'll never die
You had
but killed me
I knew you would
I lay dead
under your family photograph
all smiles
with a dimpled child
Me-only a fleeting shadow
on the transparent glass
hinging frantically upon
the opaque frame
and Love I did love
without hopes
of roses and laces ©

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ode to the natal home!

My room
filled to the brim,
in expectation
of a grand farewell
They want me away,
I should be away,
never come
in sight, sound, sense

I am told
I am lucky
to receive
the carved furniture,
the carved pain,
the carved agony of un-belonging

Like chaff from grain,
throw away the husk of men
and give me the finest

they’ll grudge
my every visit.
the phases of the moon

On the ninth day
after the new moon;
I’ll weep familial demises
at the door
unable to cross
the threshold
of my natal lunar calendar.

Love they said it was
that sent me away.
Ah! love,
that castrated me
from my childhood
into unequal parts

He too said it was love
that took me to him,
seven circumambulations
and I bowed each time.
He kept count.

I sucked on
a lozenge of hate
and counted all their love.
I will leave
with the hate stuck in my molars.
I’ll blot from life
and become a worm
still nibbling
on the hate of so many loves.

15-01-2012 ©

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A lemon of hurt

He stammered
on a thought
In the lonely winter
of his head
Much had escaped
in a vaporous steam
one February night
A lemon of citric hurt
on the chapped lips
of continuous wounds
I applied a stinging salve
He, rested in my rancour and love
In my embrace of swords and skin
each night, I fed him
spoonful of spite and kisses ©