Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry
The beginning of the month,
Salary has been credited.
What's budgeted is budgeted —
The groceries, school fees, rents,
Electricity, house help, Netflix and cosmetics.
Governments are phlebotomists
Who gently puncture veins, draw taxes,
Give us a barbed wire country, roads and rigs,
Talk a little about nuclear war and army,
Tell us it's for our own safety.
Save some contingency for postcards and poets;
Write to a stranger, stick a love stamp, and post it.
Poets have no country, veins, or salaries, they wait
For your postcards in their daydreams as you
Buy their books and read their poems, in barter.
Read this poem loudly
As loudly as you can
Don't be ashamed
Don't think it will be lost in void
Don't bother about who is listening
Don't worry about who will understand
For long, we have read poems quietly
Selfishly to ourselves
We have been unwilling or scared
Or thought no one cares
And put them back on book shelves
Erased them from streets
Kept poetry from lighting revolutionary torches
For long, we have let dictators speak loudly
And thought poetry will stand
And say something back
Not unless we read poems loudly
Loud enough to reach beyond the radius of hate.
The Hindu Marriage Act has
no mention of the warm samosa
or the amount of ginger in tea.
This etiquette comes from our rich culture.
But all this is no use if she cannot deliver a boy.
A girl will be an added cost.
Every square centimetre will cost extra
Colour will cost extra
Place will cost extra
Space will cost extra
Every word will cost extra
Sorry! Evry ltr wl cst xtra.
Brid wntd fr BRAHMIN boy
Wrkg MNC, v.h'som
h'ly edu ab'd, stld ab'd
from afl. biz fmly
Seek veg, vrgn cultrd b'ful tal fair
slim girl fr houswife, non fb user
Kndly snd detals wth recnt phto
With Irrfan Gone
it feels like a day of national mourning
with thunderstorm overlooking all of us
who now struggle to express the grief
There’s an unfamiliar beauty in this collective grieving
for an autumn leaf swirling to the ground
for Ila's sadness when Fernandes doesn't turn up
for an empty heart on finding an empty lunch box
for Gogol who will have to remember an ocean forever
for Krishna who can only afford ten lines in a letter to home
for Rifka who will have to wear some other woman's hair
for rebels like Paan Singh who shake the system
for Miyan who dangles between loyalty and lust
for Rana who takes unplanned journeys of love
for a lump in the throat that buries impossible goodbyes
for a starry night sky that walks past carelessly
with a cigarette tucked behind its ear
for a lafani Roohdaar who believes
Darya bhi main, darakht bhi main
Jhelum bhi main, chinar bhi main
Dair bhi hoon, haram bhi hoon
Shai bhi hoon, Sunni bhi hoon
Main hoon pandit
Main tha, main hoon aur main hi rahoonga.
About the poet
Madhu Raghavendra is a poet, curator, and social development practitioner. He is the founder of Poetry Couture, a poetry initiative that has created free spaces for poetry in many cities of India, including the North East. His debut book of poems, Make Me Some Love To Eat has been well-received nationwide, and is in its fourth edition. The second, Stick No Bills, was awarded the Best Poetry Manuscript Award by Lit O Fest, Mumbai. Madhu has conducted performance poetry workshops and has read at many schools, institutes, and festivals across India. His works have featured in literary journals like Muse India and Joao Roque Literary Journal, and in anthologies like 100 Poems Are Not Enough, Map Called Home, and Quesadilla and Other Adventures: Food Poems. He was shortlisted for the Humphrey Hubert Fellowship Award and was a resident artist at Basar Confluence, one of Arunachal Pradesh’s first artist residency programme.