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