Rochelle Potkar (India)

Rochelle Potkar (India)
An alumna of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2015), and Charles Wallace Writer’s fellowship (2017), Rochelle Potkar is the author of The Arithmetic of breasts and other stories, Four Degrees of Separation, Paper Asylum. Her poems The girl from Lal Bazaar was shortlisted for the Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2018; Place won an honorable mention at Asian Cha’s Auditory Cortex; Skirt was made into a poetry film by Philippa Collie Cousins for the Visible Poetry Project; To Daraza won the 2018 Norton Girault Literary Prize in poetry; War Specials won 1st Runner up at The Great Indian Poetry Contest 2018; Amber won a place in Hongkong’s Proverse Poetry Prize 2018 Anthology. Winner of the 2016 Open Road Review contest for The leaves of the deodar, her story Chit Mahal (The Enclave) appeared in The Best of Asian Short Stories, Kitaab International. Rochelle has read her poetry in India, Bali, Iowa, Stirling, Glasgow, Hongkong, Ukraine, Hungary, and the Gold Coast. Her reviews have appeared in Wasafiri, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, Asian Cha, and Chandrabhaga.
When the girl of 13 got obsessed
with the perfume of victory,
she waited outside an eagle’s nest
before its chicklet flew
into the daring empyrean.
Her imagination etched against
barb-wired flesh wounds in a family of nomads,
where only men, for generations, hunted eagles
– the parade of sameness against the triumph of doyenne.
She now stands atop an unsound mountain
training her golden eaglet for the Ulgii festival
to the tremulous gasps of traditions.
And after the breaking of records, winning of competitions,
travels with her father into Mongolia’s harsh winter for her eaglet
to kill its first fox,
so they can all return like raven, rocky mountains against
the amaranthine skyline seen after a deep night’s dream.
Like light leaves after years,
iterating the static of spheres,
the orangutan exhales warmth
monographing embrace
into winter’s foliage,
as time loses scope.
Young as a blank square, nurtured for years
at its mother’s teat, beat, emerging from dark art
growing from snugness, luxurious as a shaft,
it goes deep into the forest: light into cave
to live alone
for a thousand years.
No ruffle, or safety of spring meets its spirit
yet as strong as an inflorescent flame
it cinders,
while winter speaks in autumn’s
barbed tongue.
The three boys jumped over the boarding school wall in the suede of night. They had scored 3 out of 20 marks and were horse-whipped 17 times. The teacher promised a similar punishment the next day too.
The river couldn’t have killed them. Its flow was narrow. Did the fall from the wall do it? Or something else that had failed them? Their bodies showed similar bruises and stamps of lashes.
In my five-year-old daughter’s school, the teacher meets me to complain about her handwriting. ‘It is not cursive enough,’ she says. ‘The d’s bend forward, the e’s look like l’s, p’s like h’s, g’s like nines.’ She nods in disapproval.
the way pink orchids
blossom into periwinkles
heresy . . .

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