Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry

Tishani Doshi

Cutting Broccoli

Between this moment and the next
there's always space for a lover's return,
though you may no longer weep for him,
or ache to lie down in the woods with him.

But say he chooses to appear on a Sunday
afternoon, when you're walking upstairs 
for lunch; cutting broccoli into perfect spears
while the rice in the cooker is boiling.

Would you ask first that he strip away
the layers of the past, the times you washed 
together in darkness between whispered words
and the husky calls of nightfall's birds.

Would you say how you've been waiting
for something to grow from the silence -
nothing phenomenal - just cracks of light
in the long doorways you've been walking through.

And now that he's here, do you let him
stand in the house like a new-born god, 
carrying the empty weight of sky 
in his eyes, saying nothing is irreversible.

Do you offer your impermanent body
against the solid frame of the kitchen door,
allow him to fall easily - into the future -
knowing the moment never disappears.

That Woman

That woman is here again.
She's found her way out
from under the stairs.
For centuries she's been weeping
a song about lost men,
the disappearance of beauty,
Now she's back in the world,
down by the traffic lights,
in the shade of trees,
hurrying to the parlour
to fix the crack in her face.

Don't become that woman,
my mother said. 
By which she meant, 
don't become that woman
who doesn't marry
or bear children.
That woman who spreads her legs,
who is beaten, who cannot hold
her grief or her drink.
Don't become that woman. 

But that woman and I
have been moving together 
for years,  
like a pair of birds 
skimming the water's surface,
always close to the soft
madness of coming undone;
the dark undersides of our bodies
from our reflections.

Love Poem

Ultimately, we will lose each other 
to something. I would hope for grand 
circumstance -  death or disaster.
But it might not be that way at all. 
It might be that you walk out 
one morning after making love 
to buy cigarettes, and never return, 
or I fall in love with another man. 
It might be a slow drift into indifference.
Either way, we'll have to learn 
to bear the weight of the eventuality 
that we will lose each other to something.
So why not begin now, while your head 
rests like a perfect moon in my lap, 
and the dogs on the beach are howling?
Why not reach for the seam in this South Indian 
night and tear it, just a little, so the falling 
can begin? Because later, when we cross
each other on the streets, and are forced 
to look away, when we've thrown 
the disregarded pieces of our togetherness
into bedroom drawers and the smell
of our bodies is disappearing like the sweet
decay of lilies -  what will we call it,
when it's no longer love?