Four Poems: ATS

By Rochelle Potkar


When the earth-diver plunges into a seabed of dough
in the artisanal bakery on the curve of a road
comes bread on palm, waiting for sun,
life-sustainer with sugar, starch, gluten

cosmogonic passovers from cast-iron skillets
azotised and hydro-carbonated
deities of crunchy outsides, moist insides
fermented by lactobacilli
entwined, croissant-like, maple syrup-blissed

drawn from ex nihilo in open-air bakeries
off addictives of bran, rye, legume flour
with salt, this loaf is gazpacho and salmorejo
of hypnopompia

from within the void
life without aysh is without eigengrau
ceremonies of phantasmagoria
states of amorphousness - oral traditions of myth,  

thoughts of divinity
baguette giving way to unity; challah to duality, brioche to trinity
bread from the progenitors of sourdough and yeast
passing through worlds - psychic before physical
sound and word, cracking of the Egg
of a life dreamt first.

Old soldiers, bankers, tailors
now grinding grain,
salt-rising, bacterial, cheese-flavored foam,
leavening hope, textured in sweet crust
against the crumbs and croutons of daily kneading

grain rupturing, harvest of coarse flour
stocked in stone-built scent of the walls
bonfires of cold hearths roti, kapra, aur makaan 

between the crumpets and cupcakes
pretzels, pandesals, eucharistic
the first-light of chimera, warm as broth
baptismal as sun-kissed barely and sedge

bread for the worm, bread for the fish
bread for the rabbit, bread for the civet.

The ice factory

…owner Sarosh is a Parsi;
of a diminishing Indian community.
His voice so husky, like saw
scrapping ice to slush.
The factory produces ice slabs, ice cubes, ice blocks
to keep fresh soups, drinks, juice.

Sarosh visits on rare occasions, when
his phone rings, when glaciers are to melt
in sheepish Kalyan. Time moving backward.
No industries, agriculture in this town,
just a train junction, stopover for two historical sites: fort and marshland.

Today he receives a call at 8, to keep aside a slab, coming by any of his trucks.
He holds a jute-sack blanket
and before anyone else sees, his mouth goes agape,
a frozen woman - mouth ajar, eyes wide, hair far-reaching as capillaries, thighs
marked in red branches - tree to roots
is in a slab.
like in ice age.

She doesn't seem local -- fair skinned in a red blouse,
skin olive, porcelain goddess… caught in surprise
of a photoflash with metal, mental, gun-dust.

The instruction is to ship her
with other consignments: flake, tube, slurry.

Between ammonia gas, gushes of water, common salt,
engines of electricity, hums of tanks,
Sarosh hefts the slab. Drives the truck himself.

A quick exchange at the landing sites. Flesh for fresh.
Fishing habour sites of aquaculture.
This unknown woman is unnamed too for now,
before the search from her visa-country begins...
many unknown women-hunts
for lust, prize, or game,

who have gone through slabs to the Arabian sea,
until time preserves the melt of truth,

each second – a loud plop.

Harry Mendonsa (may his tribe decrease!)

died on a vacation in Siliguri
at 98
on 27th January 2018, quite unexpectedly.

He, the consumer of Amul butter, Limca, Lipton tea,
lover of Krackjack biscuits, Gold Spot, Parle-G,
and Old Monk and Bagpiper on Christmas eves.

They found in his side cupboard
20 styles of brooms,
four harps, five mouth organs,
a sauce bottle that had turned black,
items from the flea markets,
and a bag of chips from 1976.  

He was the user of Old spice, Colgate-Palmolive, Dettol,
Amrutanjan balm, Borosil for burns, Dabur talcum powder,
and Gillette shaving cream.

They found under his mattress
a diary of how he killed neighborhood dogs,
polaroids and drawings of torture of birds and cats.
Some occult diagrammatic stuff…

He is survived by his son Roger, daughter, Alva,
grandchild Jane, wife Olga,
predeceased by brother John, father James, mother, Jean.

Roger discovered letters with revealing photos
of several women.
Unopened, unused gifts atop his cupboard,
a box of sardonic emails for all the neighbours.
A gift to be opened only after his death:
of a cock ring, massage oils, and vibrator.

He was a wearer of Bombay Dyeing, Bata chappals, Raymonds.
Purchaser of Reynolds pens, Bajaj scooter, Gold Flake.
Was always thrilled to travel Air India or on his Hero Cycle.
The last one to sip McDowell's No. 1. on any child’s christening.

His daughter Alva found divorce papers
from a previous marriage.
She never knew he was married before.
Also, a will where he left his garden spade
for her mother-in-law.

Harry was born in Naigon on Jan 8, 1950. A graduate of St. Agnel’s Institute of Polytechnics.
Assistant manager at Ashok Leyland.
On June 2, ‘75 he married Olga - librarian and school sweetheart.
On Dec 11, 1979 they welcomed Roger. He had five LIC policies
and loved Doordharshan an Onida TV.
He enjoyed carrom and travelling to 33 villages.
Problem-solver, he was in-house mason,
taking up difficult projects for his neighbors.

Wife Olga found condoms of different colors
in his drawers.
Porn magazines in attic boxes and
bank’s names in anagrams with PINs
which turned out to be
women’s names and phone numbers.
A briefcase with VHS porn
and lots of blue prescription pills.  

An amateur badminton player at the Dombivli sports club,
he was into church activities, playing the mandolin at Saturday services.
Every Sunday he ate at Sarvanna Bhavan or Murugan Idli’s 
driving-slow in his Fiat 1100,
sipping Campa cola or Duke's Mangola.

A co-worker brought home his membership cards
to a sex club
and subscriptions to several sex magazines.

His last words were: “I'm going to beat this, this is nothing. I got away with murder.”

He will be deeply missed by friends and family. A funeral service is schedule for 1.00 on February 12th at Bardez Church, Karnik street.
Reverend William Athaide will officiate.
Flowers, donations, condolences may be offered
at 23rd room, first floor, St. Joseph's Colony.


They never disagreed - Ruby, Tessa, Helium;
he didn’t need coping mechanisms.
He sowed his oats into soft burgundy strands
or in the blonde, or the one with rolling blue eyes.
Each time he came life-size: wife, girlfriend, wife,
or slave, slut, whore
haunted by the happenings in Syria, or the price of potatoes.

He had picked them from inventors in a garage
teasing each lump,
picking each pinch of nipple,
flex of vagina, shape of breast,
quantum of lip,
succulent pulp, flexi-waist,
programmed orgasms.

Somewhere they spoke of marriages
society, safety and children.
Not sex three times.

The blonde knew how to shudder
the brunette to surrender,
blue-eyes loved rape.

Somewhere far a researcher
was doing the rounds
on new doll makers and owners in town,
dipstick analysis on loneliness,
flaccid alienation,
affinity to moist silicon,

as he celebrated triple birthdays:
he took them to the movies, grocery shopping.
Front seat of the car
turn by turn – with no insecurity,

Until the lamps went dry,
outside his smoky window.

They said of every innovation
colas and bulbs,
that in the first year
they only had early adopters

You see, this was going to be one big – one BIG trend,
he thought quaveringly.

Rochelle Potkar is an alumna of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2015), and Charles Wallace Writer’s fellowship (2017), Rochelle Potkar is the author of The Arithmetic of breasts and other storiesFour Degrees of Separation, Paper Asylum. Her poems The girl from Lal Bazaar was shortlisted for the Gregory O' Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2018; Place won an honorable mention at Asian Cha’s Auditory Cortex; Skirt was made into a poetry film by Philippa Collie Cousins for the Visible Poetry Project; To Daraza won the 2018 Norton Girault Literary Prize in poetry; War Specials won 1st Runner up at The Great Indian Poetry Contest 2018; Amber won a place in Hongkong's Proverse Poetry Prize 2018 Anthology. Winner of the 2016 Open Road Review contest for The leaves of the deodar, her story Chit Mahal (The Enclave) appeared in The Best of Asian Short Stories, Kitaab International. Her reviews have appeared in Wasafiri, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, Asian Cha, and Chandrabhaga.  Her poetry is included in two major Sahitya Akademi India-published anthologies.

Rochelle has read her poetry in India, Bali, Iowa, Stirling, Glasgow, Hongkong, Ukraine, Hungary, and the Gold Coast.  She will be a mentor at Iowa’s Summer Institute 2019. Find out more here.