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

Kaustabh Kashyap

Street Citizen


Haggard and raggedy, he is the child of sorrow

Persevering through rainstorms and tyrant sunshine

Taking languid steps he empties every hope of a smile

Picks a meal or two from garbage cans

Waiting in street corners he strums the guitar

Festivals impart the helping hands.


Street dogs look up to him

Not so much for rescue as for leading

They work together innocuously and sleep under derelict roofs.


He's your vermin you throw food at

Even the pavements aren't free and you needn't be anywhere on earth.











AT BTW, Dighalipukhuri (May '17)

"What was it we read the day before we parted?"


they came and they went, like brief envelopes drenched in neon light

parting with their night clubs and parties, for slam poetry and soft music

indistinct shadows in the lounge, their faces the colour of cigarette smoke

discussing in whispers when the itinerary would unfold

away from the din and bustle of waiting taxis and uncertain jobs

of the world where language behaves ordinarily

like linear railway tracks

(in the absence of metaphors speech is a cesspool of letters)

and without any pause, a lilting voice of the past 

donning a checkered shirt with full beard uttered in a sort of a yawn

"we were schoolmates, remember..."

i caught the sound waves and became stiff at his casual words

spoken without fondness or nostalgia

very briefly, we halted our minds on the past balcony of school life

and gracefully separated and settled down inside the cafeteria

filled with the aroma of coffee and perfume

plunging into rendezvous with strangers

well-accustomed to the nuances of city chats

 (which don't have to mean anything)

clutters of virtual correspondence drowned in information exchange

then, the recitations began



mostly by girls discussing heartbreaks, the music of inspiration, feminist agenda,

the angst of rape, hopes and disappointments, something about flowers i cannot recall 

against the mellow spring rain and cameras;

i recited too, sitting on the platform, 

trying to connect organically to the listeners

like an inert familiar dream

of disjointed images about loss and longing

apart from much else that was taut about life

which kept growing inside my head like a lonely tumour

reminding me of poetry not recited today

but in another world another time.





The Dry Wipe


On paper thirsty for fluid

I spell out to my students with impatient brushes

Watercolours often behaved as an old man staggering uphill.


Excitedly in a rush to please, 

They dip their sable brushes in water

As clear and transparent as glass wiped dry.


Seconds before the tips reach their sheets' grainy surface

I advice them as a wet-blanket with clear intention

They do not want too much water-

Unless they feel adept at controlling bloated paper.


And I think, as they look confused and disappointed

About years of trying my hand at perfecting

My painting, keeping you compressed and folded

In every fearful cloud or tree or mountain I drew;

Feeling, too little or too much control of those colours

Could mean your absence-

 As visible as amateur art.


I see my students won't learn a thing or two today

Their sketches are smudgy and puffy,

They are too new to be comfortable with strokes

That won't always work with a dry wipe

Gathered in hindsight.

Leaden Dreams                                                                                           


For several years              we buttoned our skies

                       But the horizon

             collapsed quietly, anyway.


I picked up the clouds

                                      You dispersed through the storm.



                   Inside the brickless house

I watched my solitude                pantomime me

While the river broke the dykes         gorged upon all your gifts.



Outside in our forgotten village        by the stream's ends

                              Storks have caught death easily

With skeletal fishermen                          I still row recklessly

                           Catch sullied fish carelessly

Return home, gamble with darkness        and tread not towards dangerous hope.



              You were the one who never believed in timetables

                            See how far you have gone.




Do you recall dreaming untiringly?

Across waterlogged bridges and infested marshes?


Do you cringe thinking about dying paddy fields and jaundiced eyes?


Perhaps dull sky-high apartments fare better than rich poverty

Gifted by your clients after hours of intercourse

I don't see how you've gone.



About the poet

Kaustabh Kashyap occasionally pens poems, short stories and articles for publication. His poems have appeared in VAYAVYA, a tri-annual online journal, short-stories in The Bengaluru bi-monthly Reading Hour and The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Assam. He also contributes articles on contemporary issues for The Assam Tribune. He is a NET-JRF awardee in English Literature and plans to pursue research in the field of disability studies. He currently resides in his hometown Guwahati, Assam.

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Published by The Alternative.