Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Abha Iyengar

The Way Out

Painting my face may help.
Strong lines of white,
yellow and red.
My body a deep purple.
He likes me scrubbed clean.
Every tiny morsel.

I could wear
a feather head-dress.
Tomahawk in hand,
dance the Voodoo.
Throw some magic.
Bring the rain.
Pierce his heart.
Blood may taste fine.

They say a bear
licks a man's feet
and kills him with laughter.
I could become a bear.

First published in Up the Staircase, Issue 10, August 2010

Torn and Stitched

Torn and stitiched. My heart or just
my pair of jeans, torn at the crotch. 
It has to hurt. 
Exposed as something naked, to be stitched again; 
the world does not want to see 
what I hold within. 

I could throw them away, 
let them go.
I have this one precious pair, 
Lugged across the mountains
by a much-travelled  hippie
who sold them to me for an exorbitant 
fifty rupees, many moons ago.  

 Jeans were precious then.
I wanted them. I washed the grime, 
they did not smell of him;
went without a meal or two 
to  ensure the perfect fit.  
My mother was astounded
at the cast-off jeans,,
but I had made them mine.My cast-off heart 
I have kept, have I not? Time and again,
worn it, winter, sunshine, rain, often ripped.

There is a desire for certain things. 
My obsessions are peculiar to me,
So I have kept these jeans,
as I have my heart, special only to me.
I could not throw mine away 
to get a new one beating in its place. 

I just keep mine stitched.
Torn so many times, 
So often ditched, or thrown.
Torn and stitched,
threadbare, yet my own.

I pull on my jeans, the crotch 
I have stitched again.
The thread, though thick,
 may break. I clutch my heart, 
and feel it in its place.

Then it spills out
the blood from my mouth, and 
as I fall, the jeans
give way, at that vulnerable spot. 
Stitched and torn once more. 
Till now I had the balls to carry on.
I, keeper of the old, the thrown and cast-off lot.

This is my last time with heartbreak.
Blood spills. 
My fingers are not thread.
I am torn, unstitched, spilling red.