Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry

Hema Nayak

Dressing Native Normalcy in Modern Absurdity



These women talk about miscarriages 

sitting in the backyard 

cleaning and dressing my favourite prawns


“I had to rip my yoni off

to take out the remains of my first child,”

she says rather casually


I see the remains of the prawns lying in front of me

heads, eyes, tails, flesh, and pieces

I will not eat them again


Is this how I have food allergies?



I ask this woman whose name 

translates into the Mother of tiger,

“Why is this neighbour building a mansion 

on our compound walls”?


She says, 

“He wants to be buried 

under our patience; Remind me to get 

generous amount of salt, soot and ice cubes

to dress him on the day he dies”.


And, we wonder 

why fresh ghosts haunt us.



Here is my childhood toy hen

Dress it, press it;

it lays painted plastic eggs


I feel like this proud hen 

with my several daughters - Elis

gliding out of my entertaining nest


I can neither chew nor swallow

but can only hatch my motherly boredom

here in this game of eggs



Clear water, skinny dip, precious stone

Then I step on the sharp edges 

of a rock oyster 

Blood red water, salty skin, prickling stone


Woman with an exotic Kannada accent 

appears and dresses the open wound 

on my foot stuffing fried red hot chillies


“What are you doing”?


“Relieving your pain with pain

like removing a thorn with a thorn”


“No, you are layering my pain with pain”


And, we continue to mumble as the warp 

of our realities keeps on wrapping itself





Of Illness and Itch


A pea-sized life clutches

on to the kangaroo pouch


The polluted river meanders 

through the toes


The pigmentation rashes 

are not like the shapes on the moon


A knife slits the throat

as delicately as a paper cut


If the past represents the present,

I am never mine



Milk Teeth


Childhood was challenging

with Pappa and Kaaka

having all the time in summer

to see whether any of my milk teeth

was loose enough to pull out


They caught hold of me

just like an amateur fisherman

grabbing the innocent baby crab


In their tight grip,

I was a broken cockroach

pinned down in the zoology lab

for dissection and some

extra infotinement


When I saw their Frankenstein hands

approaching my then circular

cartilaginous fish mouth

to pull out my endearing milk teeth

some yellow

some rustic

some pyramidal upside down

with the universe of bacterial colonies,

I again saw fisherman


He was struggling to separate

the weak legs of the baby crab

from its body


He won, I ran away to throw

my small body part

on the roof of a hundred years

old mud house;

It was challenging







The curly hair in my dark triangle

upside down, and

the scattered smoke particles in your beard

boy, our photos

are not even black and white,

but monochromatic


A curved line drawn by a toothless kid

and you put a dot

that completes my asymmetric breast


I don't subscribe to the lipstick politics,

pink puppy on your shirt,

God no!


Mine is the path of withering sunflowers

leading to the yellowing world,

we have fever


Even if I don't spread my legs

the blood sprinkles out


I am scared, I take a bath in my dream

sitting at the edge of

Great bath, Mohenjo daro


Next day you arrive

flaunting your tattoo

of Harappan pictographic script



On Sister's Side


Life begins at 20, I wrote ironically 

on her birthday

screaming in my mind, life ends at 30


What was that mental callous growing out 

and throwing up all over the territory


neither teenage angst nor midlife crisis?


Red eyeliner, black bindi


was the statement she wanted to make


Feminism is freakishly funny!

You exclaimed

when she ran away from the home




When she sat wearing her mini frock

spreading her legs carelessly

watching TV after the school,

you threw the paper balls at the openings


“Sit properly, close your shop doors,

nobody wants your saamaan,” you said


Please don't touch that subject

Don’t touch that spot


Funnily enough, she hadn't lost it 

to you after all


About the poet

Hema Nayak is from Karnataka, India. She writes poems and short stories majorly in her mother tongue Kannada. She started writing in English recently, and this is the very first time she is submitting her poems to a journal.

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Published by The Alternative.