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

Saima Afreen

A Terrarium Which Slowly Turned into a Sea

 

Salt is what her father earned

before disappearing in red flood--

a jungle-fire on the tip of a matchstick

I’d erased it on the silent page

With a white brush stroke

Waiting for charcoals to settle down in my blood

I peeped and the ashes told me:

the stars remember we are glass

throw your soul in the garden

like cut grass

where the sparrows will pick their nests from

 

noon is a sugar cube melting between our wings

bringing forth a taste only skies know

the dead smash against the waves

beneath your bones.

 

There was no white rose in your eyes;

Pray for autumn. Cold fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Junkyard Full of Lilies

 

…of all lights

the flicker of a mellow sun is the sweetest

unpacked, raw like warm honey flowing on your lips

golden. Flickering as the lost faith

in fairy tales. A smile your mother played with

before burying it in the deserts of Arab.

The sand glistens in your voice

travelling to a wrinkled face fixed on Blue Jays.

 

The soft ice and maple leaves bring to him

the craft of losing. Unlocking grief

from the smooth neck of a woman

bearing purple roses. He carves

a stamp on her face –

of a felony: of age, of years that matured her like wine.

 

He drinks it, denying the intoxication

nodding at the pink lilies that grow in his junkyard

abundantly, blooming even at his doorstep, on his writing table

his spectacles.

Years grow around the house

taking back the honey, the sunshine

that once belonged to the woman

who like mulled wine mellows under the tropical sun

waiting to turn into a lily

full-blown, fresh for a weather-beaten face

old, waiting to converse

in the language of petals.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Summer Solstice in the Town of Gaya      

 

History is a little girl here

who documents people’s hearts in her flower songs

that glow alongside old cots

their chests open

to the moonless, dark, starlit sky

silent, broken into boxes of chipped poems;

 

Lord Buddha still grows there in several Bo Trees

whose eyes peep from cement cracks, ancient balconies

and rusted cauldrons in King Asoka’s Maurya Ghat

with timber guarding the fragile bricks, the red confined in the walls

its blaze safe in the shelter of Milky Way.

 

The silver belt drops a few stars

on madhumalti flowers, the tender vine

creeps on silhouettes whom the moon has forsaken

 

they sit with dogs                      near the empty mosques

cooling their heels on stairs of green marble.

They rip open the shrunken maps

where Phalgu river silently takes Sita’s curse

and Hind in its ocean-sleep tosses this town

of peepul trees, sesame sweets and Ahilya’s temples

in a corner like a paper-ball

s-wept from monks’ caves

 

Yellow windows from dark houses

flicker with last Diwali’s clay-lamps

blow prayers on baby’s faces

that glow like fireflies above the rain-puddles

and ask the silent wind

to shake the charpoys, the paddy fields, the wood apples

squeeze the glitter from stars,

summon Nalanda’s mandarins, Samudragupta, Lord Mahavira

to Vishnupad Temple

and rewrite the old epics

the world has wiped from its memory.

 

Let the maps bloom with green rice shoots, sandalwood

on forsaken bath areas haunted by jinns

and let an old fakir break into his songs

who has been standing on the blank paper of the moon for eons

for someone to come

and rewrite this town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Evening

 

 

When you put a champagne glass on the edge

you already hold the wreckage

                       before it falls

with moonstones, imploding stars, white butterflies

to fly in the ossuary under your fingers,

in the cup hidden, in a deck of tarot cards,

 

a shatter captured in the unlit grass

 

...the different versions of light     fall

the slate roofs burn and burn. In your eyes

the black rose renames itself.

 

Your silhouette follows the invitation of flames

the shishagari, the delicate work of the stars.

 

 

shishagari -- the craft of glass-making in Urdu language

 

 

 

 

About the poet

Saima Afreen is an award-winning poet who also works as Deputy City Editor with The New Indian Express. Her poems have appeared in several Indian and international journals, including Indian Literature, HCE Review, Barely South Review, The Bellingham Review, The Roanoke Review, The Stillwater Review, The McNeese Review, The Nassau Review, The Oklahoma Review, Staghill Literary Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Honest Ulsterman, and Existere among others. She received ‘Writer of the Year Award, 2016’ from Nassau Community College (the State University of New York). She has been part of several literary festivals and platforms such as Sahitya Akademi Poets’ Meet, Goa Arts and Literary Festival, TEDx VNR-VJIET, Prakriti Poetry Festival, Hyderabad Literary Festival, Betty June Silconas Poetry Festival, Helsinki Poetry Jam, Pulse Radio Glasgow, the University of Stirling, the University of Westminster, Waterstones Bookstore Canterbury, and the University of Kent. In the autumn of 2017, she was awarded the Villa Sarkia Writers’ Residency (Finland), where she completed the manuscript of Sin of Semantics. This is her début poetry collection. She’s been awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Fellowship (2019) in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, United Kingdom.

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Published by The Alternative.