Wednesday, May 1, 2019




A blur at my car’s closed window,
a pair of tired hazel eyes,
hunger, anxiety and appeal,
packed in a drooping translucence.

The blur passes to reappear
in a different avatar, eyes -
angry, hateful, and accusing,
pushing an exploding pregnant belly.

My thoughts follow the blurs
to the footpath  where they live,
to the garbage dump where they pick,
to the ash heaps where they cook.

I look at them from the safety
of my car’s cool cushiony paradise;
feel sorry with a calibrated civil  whine,
polished by an escapist’s practiced line.

My own eyes from my car’s mirror
turbidly reflect
a soulless apprehensive animal,
shrinking from an absent pandemic.


Every night you undress
on your lone bed, hope -
the Gulmohars would bloom
and set afire the dry grass,
bring the reptile in the open.
Perhaps you miss the fact,
the serpent is dead and what sparkles
is a piece of its past’s cast-off skin.

At night you wash yourself
in dark’s turbulent stream,
expect the jasmines and roses
come wafting and anoint
your forest. You forget -
the fire in your loin
burned down to its flora, the musk
it emits is the soot of a hope.

All night you wait for yourself
at the half-ajar eagerness,
command the macho-self, “Apparate*”
before going out to hunt in the world.
He, perhaps, appears guised as a lover,
a sophomore; could be, as a peddler
of faith; but you, a musk deer,
miss to smell your own musk.
(Apparate* is a magic spell in Rowling’s Harry Porter serial novels)

(For Agro-activists of India)

Harried I scan around:
his words hold hands and the phrases,
hyphenated or free, stack themselves
with adages on cushions of claps.

Metaphors, clumsy yet earthy,
vie with the man’s mud-caked shoes,
stick-umbrella, askew  Gandhi-cap,
and tongue thick with rustic lichen.

His aplomb shines on his ramshackle visage;
a tractor his dais, voice rises stentorian
on handheld megaphone; a million soiled hands
applaud him to their helm, his faith.

He stands alone; the peasant rally
mills around like an undercut tsunami
before it strikes; but it stinks
of an aroma of defencelessness.

Will he lead them to Red Square or Calvary,
invoke a typhoon to get sucked in,
or return to his ploughs and mud, and wait
for a southerly to bring home his harvest?

(Dedicated to the 26th August 2018)

The death and rot
crush my little body,
press me from all sides -
thousands of glass-fix eyes,
stony little tongues, and stifled beats
of tiny rocky hearts
melted into a loam
of powdery brittle bones.

Calcify memories,
fear braiding our camaraderie;
we lie rock-dry, cheek by jowl,
devoured by worms,
sucked by meandering roots.
The only water that ever seeps
to reach our parched lips,
the tear of our unwed mothers,

the bereft angels of love.
“Blessed be your love, its fruits!”
whispered the Pope
in his Papal Prayer;
our tangled bones had little space
to turn in our grave
to make room for his holy words
that pardoned even the sacred shame.

Would the Papal tears wash the blot -
ours or our unwed mothers’ -
paining more than burning at the stake,
for the sacrament
they committed,
for the cross they bore,
leaving no ash, no soot?
Well, we can hope ….. !

(Pope Francis held a requiem mass at Tuam, Ireland, on 26.08.2018 for the nameless lost souls of more than 800 babies whose mortal remains lay buried in a mass grave there, disposed between 1914-1961 but revealed in 2014, the fruits of unwed mothers.)


Dust congeals the air
from excavators’ feet and wheels.
Dry Ghaggar* cringes with pain,
recalls the bygone days,
houses full of gamboling children,
happy vibes of plenty, prosperity -

bygone are green fields
that lay sprawled by her wet thighs,
abundant game hunted in forests around,
hordes of plunderers from north
that galloped on the trails of wealth,
laughing all the way back home.

She looks around helplessly -
lying scattered are beautiful pottery,
empty but grimly aesthetic,
the remains of well-designed roads,
torn tombs of her dears-departed,
the broken idols of the failed gods.

She recalls the flavours of recipe
cooked in happy Harappan homes,
the crockery and cutlery
washed in her perennial stream.
Where have gone those diners,
in search of what new oases?

She preens in her bygone glory,
the perennial green cauldron,
seething with the maddening aroma
of ripe crops, pampered by icy fountains,
keeping her thighs ever wet, and fertile
with silt washed from her hinterland.

She laments with horror
recalling her motherly Sindhu
gobbling her up alive,
weeping crocodile tears
for her demise, and the exodus
of her children, the orphaned Harappans.

In excruciating grief she
had to hide in earth’s alluvial,
crying impotent tears
to see her children leave her banks
of the puddled skeletal remains.
Today, Ghaggar chokes if called Sarasvati.

*River Ghaggar is believed by certain geologists as the skeletal remains of the mythical Sarasvati River. Major parts of river Sarasvati is believed to have been grabbed by the giant Sindhu around 5000 years ago when the lattwe changed course, leaving a small stretch that stagnated as Ghaggar. All excavations sites of Harappan remains are found on banks of the river Ghaggar.


PRABHANJAN K. MISHRA writes poems, stories, critiques, besides translating and editing. He works in two languages – English and Odia (mother tongue). Three of his collected poems in English have been published into books – VIGIL (1993), Lips of a Canyon (2000), and LITMUS (2005) - by reputed publishers Rupa & Co. and Allied Publishers. His fourth book “Along a Pilgrimage” awaits publication. He is a practicing poet-writer living in Mumbai. He is widely published in anthologies and literary journals including web-journals. He has translated Odia Bhakti of Salabega of Bhakti Period for the Penguin anthology “Eating God” by Arundhathi Subramaniam; and has edited the book “From the Master’s Loom (Vintage Stories of Fakirmohan Senanapati)”, the classic stories of the famous Odia author penned during a period when Bamkim Chandra and Premchand were also active. Mishra was the president of POETRY CIRCLE (Bombay), a poets’ group, and edited the group’s literary magazine POIESIS from 1986 to 1996. He has won Vineet Gupta Memorial Poetry Award and JIWE Poetry Prize for his English poems.

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