Five Poems: A New Ministry

By Mrinalini Harchandrai



She is an illusionist
walking among
the people
wearing sunrises
in her lambent eyes

her cape sweeps
in a fishtail
of silver arts
a diviner of nets
and scales of settlers

a time traveller
through parchment
ages, a conjurer of bridges
from ferries, and casinos
from Arabian dhows

a moontide soothsayer
that echoes an amphitheatre
of emotion in the audience
an alchemist of silt
and salt, courting open-mouthed

kisses from the ocean
with snakeish feat
rippling, brooking,
eddying away tropical
mango heat with the cooling
murmurs of a hypnotist

juggling old and new
cidades with super
natural sleight you have
to look closely
or you can miss
a seasoned shapeshifter

au current with the ebb
and flow on a Konkan spell.


I was born in a river
of mortar, when a migrant took off
his shirt and wiped his armpit
on a one-lane highway.

I tom-tom the arrival
of real India loudest,
my mall deracinates
wildflowers, illegal storeys
sickle away folk
stories, ATMs fringe
my banks like palms,
commercial zigzagging
paves the pockets
of slap-and-dash investors
who dream of recreating
their metro natures
in a nova cidade.

A venal northbank pass,
a throbbing mainline
to hash-brown sands;
old-timers like Socorro villages
and O’Coqueiro sit on a bench,
watching the Millennial rush
like indulgent matriarchs
as the new dogs of the neighbourhood
give chase all the way
to the market.

The rash elephantiasis
after the Panjim bridge,
a malignant surge
is the chicken-and-egg
to beached-out seizures - Baga and Calangute
- that feed on tourist bus arrivals,
an aboveground landfill,

I am where the sun has set.


She dreams in curryrice
and handchurns policies
with the cool blade
of her grandmother’s tales;

she is the new communidade
who takes the wadi back
from the sharktooth developer;
she schools the next generation
with the dew of the paddy field;
she pulls the saudade
from the hearts
of the old witnesses
and plants them as gardens
patulous in the cidade;
she is the confluence
of colour and language,
an estuary for a future-past;
she is for whom we hold
that vote in our cells
that promise in our pocketpurses;

she stems the erubescence
from gored hill-limbs
and fills in the Luso-Ind cracks
of faded mansions;
she cuts the techno lights
on the waves, brings space
into the sun; she is the last
hope for a lost state;

and she is the dourada  
for whom chapels
and temples will hold
their ground.


 Those were summers
of overexposed lulls
we still heard our breath
over the oceanic roar
within conch shells
our lithe limbs draped
on the arm-lions of rocking
chairs that creaked
like our grandmother
whose cupboard still hoards
her talcum smells

we heard the sizzle
of mosquitos whose curiosity
was piqued between faded
pages of novels, they entered
like new characters, we respired
them over again and bit
though the plots
tinged with swattings
of our young blood

we watched Sundays
proceed like churchsong
when we bounced
like palm fronds
in warm water swells
suckling on a mankurad
and nourished by an azure weft

the foliage linked arms
with us, while we drank
boxed port the bee-eater
watched shadows lengthen
outside, the intimacy
of solitude in a deepsea
crab-crawl seasoned
and filled us with ourselves.


A labyrinthian cirque
                                        congealed pomfret-scale of merchant
traffic, medieval dust crier
              a spiced omphalos
                              selling   soul       catchers
                    and t i m e   t   r a v el
                                                        and aquamarinemagicbeans

her skin churns daily
                                      evokes our funambulist,
                                                                                 a borborygmus of Vespas
                      scrape like guts
                                                  in a fisherwife’s call

Friday market patrao
                                                           bids like           ^          ^          roulette
              mazerunning for change
overtaking busloads
                                                       of sungrazers
                    seekers of redchilli                                          burn.

Banner features artist Ravi Varma courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Mrinalini Harchandrai is the author of A Bombay in My Beat (Bombaykala Books, 2017), a collection of poetry that explores the soundtrack of the city, personal cadences and jazz poetry. Based in Mumbai, her poems have appeared in several literary journals and 'The Slippers' won first prize in The Barre (2017). She was longlisted for The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2018. She is Editor at Bombaykala Books. You can purchase A Bombay in my Beat here.