Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Adil Jussawalla


I am deceiving you. But think it is merely at cards.
Think love is excluded from hands we hold-apart-
As fate deals us. Think they are only discards,
Throwaway rags, that bring them together, while art
And skill (perversely) lie not in revealing my hand
But in bluffing it: in giving you what I label worthless
Play an unguessed at game, perfecting my hand;
Unsuspected, keep what I hold most precious.

Yes, love for each other is out of it. Since what we keep
To ourselves to grow to perfection we hold dearer
Then what we give, what love grows so dearly deep
As self-love? We kissed, you were nearer
My heart than its beat, but who did you see in my eyes?
Fool! Your King of Hearts has a double-edged sword
And a double face: the Joker laughs out his lies
Before my silent King of Death, my dark Lord.

I hold the whole court. Think I could have packed
The game before this, stung your pauper's cards
With my sovereign jacks of knowledge, stacked
Art against your ignorance ... It wasn't hard
To deceive you. But, as the one consummation 
Of self-love is Death - my one self-perfecting.
Self-commanding Mentor - he'll force a conclusion
When he calls his card into play: the Black King
Who governs my life and my art.

I've told you now. We're quits and we must part.
Should you be waiting for me tomorrow
And I never come, pretend that I know
I'm in light; end of a game squarely packed in my heart
Where all ends and kings and pretences start.

A Bomb-site Seen from a Railway Bridge

As if the broken stumps were a girl's
Starved shoulders: as if the dusty rubble
Were her hair starfished across a pillow,
I would push my fingers through its grit.

I would press my bones into the bony
Shoulder of these scarred homes, as
I pass above their sardined tops, concealed: 
Reach out and rasp and clean the greasy tin.

But children throwing stones, trenched behind mounds,
Holler and kill and crumple like stale newssheets
Unsatisfied with spotless skies of peace,
And I begin to count my enemies.

Violence is a culture found on playgrounds.
Cities fall to let their children breathe.

This poem first appeared in Land's End, under the title A Bomb-Site

Her Safe House

walking up a corridor
with a stick
as frail as 
tissue paper
on a stick
moving up a corridor
inch by inch
a hairball
being pushed 
by a breeze
into her safe house
her sonless kitchen.

From Trying to Say Goodbye, Almost Island Books, 2011