By Salil Chaturvedi
Winner of the JRLJ Editor’s Choice Award


from this
height I
(lavender-smelling Kiran, are you listening?)
my seed into the
night of Mumbai towards the
ovum of earth
passionately hoping that my
quintessence will mingle and
release a
species from extinction, if my love for the earth
has been true.


Now they’ve built
a bridge, Kiran
which looks like your asana
over the Mapusa river
so that it’s possible to traverse
it quickly (and quietly)
regardless of the time
and of the half-hourly
ferry and also without
the incendiary sips of feni
and the usual verbiage
at the water’s edge —
in short, now one can cross
the river
without experiencing it.


You say you don’t remember
(you have absolutely no inkling?)
But I remember that lazy afternoon
when I applied the sun-tan lotion on your
back on Bogmalo beach. You said,
‘my body is your canvas.’
I am devastated that
the memory exists
only in my brain.
Frenetically I’ve researched the matter and
gathered all the facts. It’s amazing that all our
happiness (and all our opposite sorrows) reside
as invisible proteins attached to the end
of synapses. A jaded memory is simply
a contusion, an amino acid, enzyme
or exhausted reagent knocked out
sacrificing a precious illusion, my
lovely love protein, Kiran!


At the lakeside,
by myself,
in a rare comma of existence
I discovered the great silence
(that you often speak of!)
Right there, on the edge
of the lake, I understood what you mean
when ‘feel gravity through my buttocks,’ you say.
A goat nibbling on the
grass looked up at me and
how, I don’t know,
but it communicated
just how good the grass was.
Keenly I observed the silent syntax
of the Universe: the lingo of thrusts
and pinches, strokes and squeezes,
rubs and nibbles, these morphemes of the cosmos,
now you don’t have to speak of them —
One wink will do.


 I much prefer this new clock, Kiran!
This keeper of time has no tics
(or heavy tocs)
Its hands run smoothly
in a serene circular glide
from moment to moment
not like the staccato and unreal nudges
of the previous clock.
Or do you think that nature keeps
time like that?
Perhaps our births and deaths
are a tic and a toc?


Do you think they curse us?
(bi-petalled, single-stamened Kiran)
Even as they rise up
from their mutilated bodies,
these virgin souls of young
girls and boys
hacked by metal splinters
in their homes in Gaza
(and Burundi, Kashmir, Serbia, Syria…).
Jealous are they of our
kamasutra nocturnes?
Let us knit our bodies on less
murderful nights.


Blizzards, storm systems and cold-wave fronts were predicted
by the weather anchor last night, Kiran.
Extreme weather she presented—
ferocious winds over mountains like thrust boobs,
gusty winds and gales over powerful shimmering thighs,
warnings of hurricanes with perfect white teeth,
impending floods from melting ice over a taut black tummy,
jarring avalanches cascading down perfectly formed hips,
and a 18 karat gold chain dangling over delicately rounded offshore winds,
lashing at scrumptious lips. The weather's been
maniacal and sexy.


All sorts of criminals,
bad types,
deviants, delinquents and
evil doers, when they
farm, the earth still offers them
germinating seeds that are
healthy and robust, even
illuminant – I’m so bewildered by the soil's

9 .              

 As I sit in the hollow of this brook
deep in the Molem forest 
my bulging stomach facing upstream,
the cool water enters my navel
carrying a few tadpoles,
slim brown fish,
fragments of floating moss,
a red leaf,
the song of a Malabar thrush,
a monkey’s shriek and
a flower of a Kumbiyo tree.
The water swirls around the depression in my back  
between my fractured T10 and T12 verterbrae
and makes its way downhill,
already warned by the archives of my body
of what awaits it in the flat inventive plains.


Conversations have become lethal, Kiran.
Our friendly verbiage
is eating the earth. A portion of a virgin Sahyadri forest loses
its hymen every time we pick up the cellphone
to incubate our love, dear
(that’s two rose bushes,
a ladybug and a caterpillar you're holding to your ear).

From this third floor flat in Dona Paula,
I see an egret fly over a clump of coconut trees,
a small waterhole in a green field,
and two moorhens building a nest around it.
And far away, on the Mandovi,
what look like incessant water ants –
the barges that work day and night,
carrying a bit of red Goa
heap by heap,
out to the waiting ships.
I can also see a crow riding out on a barge.
Perhaps they've taken his piece of earth this time.

Is it possible Kiran
to love
just one of your smiles,
or to pour one's heart into
just one strand of your hair. To keenly adore
just one shoulder blade.
When it rains, is it possible to love just one ripple
even as it spreads out, magnifying
the circle of affection?
Is love to be niggardly and confined
to just one tree, one limb, one cloud,
one bird, one river, one sunrise,
one butterfly, one woman?


Read the poem in our print anthology ‘The Brave New World of Goan Writing 2018.’ Buy the anthology here.

Salil Chaturvedi’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals, including Wasafiri, Guftugu and Indian Cultural Forum. He is the Asia-region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, 2008, and he won the Unisun/British Council Short Story Award in 2009. He also won the Wordweavers Poetry Contest in 2015. His debut poetry collection titled, In The Sanctuary Of A Poem, was released at the GALF, 2017.