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

Meenakshi Jauhari Chawla

 

Bones

 

Woman, you are woven in muscle and bones –

You’re not angel. Not goddess. Only life-giving bones.

 

You are Eve. Aminah. You are Hagar holding Ishmael –

Sometimes you end up holding a dead son’s bones.

 

The stoic mountains with steely spines, heads held high –

Is it possible they stumble in the dark over a bag of bones?

 

Seeds of the future live in souls of the young –

And then they die, in a crazed shuffle of bones.

 

Faith sits inside the temple, eyes folded shut –

Outside, the river of hate stalks innocent bones.

 

 

 

 

Summer Morning

 

Soggy with night, slowly simmering,

sweating…

and heating up every minute…

 

Summer mornings in Delhi don 

their garish brightness with glee – 

 

These days in May weigh a ton

landing on the back of night, silently

resentful of the harsh sun they heave

along the shimmering lid of the sky –

 

Occasionally raining storms and crackling winds,

bursting through treetops like firecrackers,

and like panic, rushing through translucent streets...

 

Summer mornings in Delhi are hot-blooded mystics

that foretell, loudly, fearlessly,

the color of the days ahead…

 

while creatures of the city cower in thirsting shadows,

searching for signs of the monsoon that is

sure to follow...

 

 

 

 

 

Baobab Love

 

It fuses with the bones and thrums to the heartbeat,

noiselessly –

sometimes unknown and unnamed, it grows,

from seed to plant, to lush fullness, all the way to heaven –

 

Unblemished like morning perfume of new jasmine, 

unnoticed like the brilliance of the sun,

it lives a great big baobab life –

atoning with storms that slam dust in the eyes –

pining into flowers every year,

hopeful and true –

 

 

Luminous –

painting big red blossoms on the sky – 

silent like a blind poet –

 

 

Of frugal appetite and

emptied of words –

stripped entirely clean of wants –

 

It gives up each day and gives in every night 

to the faithful twilight –

framing, then filling the heart...

 

This, my love –

 

this – rising in love…

is not quite the same as

falling in love.

 

 

 

 

 

This City

 

A corner of the sky glows with a warm golden light,

Like a playful shower of sparkle on the book of life –

 

All things that weigh down the day dissolve…

Realization dawns in the evening of life –

 

The city has dug up all roads to its temples and taverns,

As if Ghalib's irreverence outlived his life –

 

This journey on earth - a desert day mirage…

Come night, moon and stars, the sky a festival of life –

 

Walk with me, be my friend, let's see these sights –

Time is short, and who has seen the destination of life –

 

 

 

 

 

With Age

 

With age, life's fabric gets thinner, lighter, 

and softer...

 

It gains a translucency – the ability of the sun and stars to 

shine through and play with our hearts –

our ability to look beyond ourselves –

 

With age, life's fabric sheds its youthful gloss

and gains a silent glow, like a deep full river

whose waters seem to stand still…

 

Age gives form to the soul, wings to the mind, 

satin to the words and voice –

it slows down the feet, so that roadside flowers get their due –

it weakens the heart so that every heartbeat is remembered –

measured –

time is honored –

...so life dreams on...

 

 

 

 

Faith

 

When twilight breaks its heart and the heavens

sweat into a million hues,

I think of you – with all my heart and soul –

 

A befitting way to end the rosary of the day –

 

A bead of belief in life’s ringing bowl.

 

 

 

 

About the poet

Meenakshi Jauhari Chawla has been writing poetry and short fiction for more than thirty years. During the last decade, she has focused on writing and translating poetry, specifically Indian contemporary poets like Amrita Pritam. Her poetry anthology The Fish Who Flew was published in 2019 by Writers Workshop, Kolkata. 

Her short fiction has been featured in reputed literary journals such as Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), TLM (The Little Magazine), Out of Print and The Poetry Society (India) Journal. She was born in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, and spent her childhood in Jamshedpur, Bihar, where her father worked with the Tata Group. Having earned a degree in computer science from the Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi, she worked in the IT sector until the turn of the millennium, when she moved to publishing and writing for radio. She is currently working on translating early Urdu literary works into English.

She now lives in Gurgaon with her husband and son.

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Published by The Alternative.