Poems by Manisha Manhas

Poems by Manisha Manhas
when the
worm- bitten memories; decided
to consume us,
we offered them a part of
our hearts
and took a flight over a river
to reach a land called-
in the memory of a lane-
the silence of a town,
a market of corpses,
we were once the
sparrows of a dawn
turned owls overnight.
Our wails – a crematorium
looms over us,
like a cloud,
an eagle
fluttering wings;
catching its prey,
to filter blood
and write
its migrained story.
we see those inks
bathing under the sun
shade of jujube
c u t,
the laughter of long
dead children, echo,
their sleeves torn,
slates broken.
Taking off kites
from its canopies,
they gather marbles
and lay a charpoy.
in that aangan*.
The courtyard of today wants
waters from those wells,
the stoves, fire
from those heaths
when those pots, earthen
had not emptied into the night,
the embers of divide.
Burning feet!
that night was an aching
delivering her dead and
offering them to the vultures
for freedom.
Listening to this,
the storms gathered in no time
from the dust of grief.
That monsoon,
August was fiery as hell.
Its turbaned fate
tied its head
with perfumed stinks,
knocking on each door.
Asking for water,
its dried lips
and cracked feet
spilled secrets of a
a pain that
breaks our bones till date.
Our life,
the thorns of destiny
stuck into heels
as we
made entries over
maps. Maps!
to be hung over walls
like the paintings
of a dead ancestor-
the strokes
of which
we can’t bear pain, till date.
No pictures or odes,
we hear them through
a wrinkled voice,
a crumpled breath,
a town
Over radio- Dead.
Resting in peace.
A punctured fate- a nation.
Scattering leaves
over its young coffins,
bazaars became
barren lamps, broke streets,
burnt shadows.
a town raped,
a city cremated.
A country‘s l i t.
Punctuating time,
hitting arrows at the
hour’s glass,
the frozen memories
of our infants,
our cries
at the ghats of Ganga —
we made a tryst
with the destiny,
a concord with the night.
That night when you came
to “life and freedom.”
We were declared dead.
Aangan* means courtyard in Hindustani
Memories of Love
He rests in me
as chlorophyll in leaves,
swarming locusts of his memory
grow over my breasts.
Gnawing the
shrub of my desires as a yawning sun
prunes the testicles of a dark night,
morning with its splintered teeth,
trots over to
that whittle grass,
like the ball of
a toddler,
spins, its infant cries replaced with sleepy snores.
When in Love
In love, we were once
sesame seeds
nestling into a pan.
Surging fragrance
hinged to our hearts
we painted together.
Our moans,
glowworms webbed
to the music of nights.
Gleaming once like
the mistress of an emperor,
our life, similar to
the sound of her anklets
whose beads broke loose
one evening and
we became ascetic drops
pouring from an orphan sky.
I Call You By My Name
You say that I
slither in your blood
like the trade winds
of peninsula.
Nudging the ships
of your heart
to a tactile desert.
And that one flash of me
dissolve in you
that deprived
a restless sleep,
injecting in you
a disease
that you
feel wouldn’t leave your
body until death.
You say that there is
no difference between
you and me as we both
like Ranjha* and Heer*,
are two hoopoes that
from the same branch
Thus, I call you like Heer,
by my name, my love,
and weave a dandelion
colored dusk over your lips,
the marijuana of
your sweat,
I smoke each day,
as you slurp
the whisky of my skin
every moment
Placing the wreathe
of luscious grapes
over the basket of my ribs
You’ve built in me this tomb
in which I echo your name
I call you by my name inside.
I call you by my spirit outside.
I call you my jigar* everywhere.
Ranjha and Heer are two lovers whose
love saga is a popular inspiration for lovers in Indian subcontinent.
Jigar* is sweetheart in Urdu.
To the Midnight
At night, when I am alone
and I feel low,
you sit next to me
staring like a drunken-dusk,
drowned in glasses of red wine.
In your wilderness,
you cause ache in heart.
twisting curtains of desires,
hung in spell of dried
you smell of detergents
soaked in sea-green sky.
Some time later, you whisper out secrets,
slow, panting heaves
and I count days,
that I will have to spend without you.
I try drawing you on my yellow pages,
sketching lines with desires,
marking vowels with speed,
ioning them,
locking them,
erasing them.
Piling a brocade of haywire
I set them on fire.
I collect smudge from my kohled eyes
and drop them in boxes of sleep.
Removing glasses,
I promise myself to never see you again.

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