December 3, 2016

Three Poems by Daya Bhat: "Hegemony," "Identity," and "Kanakambika"

Daya Bhat, from Bengaluru Karnataka, writes poetry and short fiction. She has published her first book of poems with the Writers Workshop (India) in 2013. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Kitaab, Off the Coast, New Asian Writing, The Tribe, The Bangalore Review and Earthen Lamp Journal among others.


Hyperboles are iced cakes in virtual markets.
Well-manicured monopoly
     only hate in finger blood trails
     only the lust for omnipresence in a wart-sized world.
Sell what sells best
     names look good in bold italics.
     You know the worth of your name.
     Here your fingers burn a night lamp
     and there a door opens to the wolves.
You have nothing to lose
     you never belonged to any of these rooms.
     But when you have to answer that eye
     locked in fear to the rosewood door
     look away...walk away.
What free tongue
     that can’t simply liberate itself from its own dark alleys
     that has no vision beyond its own leaning.
Leeways of an eclipsed moon
     growls of the sorry moorland
     strands of silk lost in the ruffian bronze.

You must know
     the house you live in is not yours alone.
     How many suns more we need to see together.
     How many crops of bajra we need to reap together.
Here we are. You and I.
     I’m pinching my eye for a horseshoe
     and you burn the last straw.
Here we are. You and I
     one soil
     one allegiance.
No crannies
     no room for split talk.
     to earn the ground beneath your feet
     and then it doesn’t take long to love.
     how far stretched can a war be with oneself.

hegemony" has been published in "New Asian Writing".


I wouldn’t call you a nymph of the Orkney folklore
     or a mermaid of the mythical sea.
     Nothing fancy about losing both worlds!
Living on the periphery does strange things to you
     a line of fiction
     a horizon
     a fringe
          time, nothing but a pretty satin ribbon in your fingers
          dress the falcon’s wings
          the Pegasus cloud and your own ashen feet.
     an empty epoch
          ravaged sinful torn sullied.
     a grey fable
          and a glow-worm city turns into forest fire.

The devils dance on your brows
     the calm
     the frolic
          an illusion of the yaksha.
     Back in the yard
          drum beats
          sweat beads
               and rivers turn crimson.

I wouldn’t call you a genie of the lamp
     nothing fairy about a wanton wish
          a rub of the thumb
     nothing fairy about turning a kingdom into a sepia map
          a scroll of lost identity
     nothing fairy about letting the moths eat the borders.


She says destiny engraved it on her palms.
She says she was twelve
yes, twelve
when she submitted her hands to arishina shastra, the bridal turmeric
her feet to belli kalungura, the silver toe rings.
She says by thirteen she rolled out perfect round rotis
puffed them on high flame
roasted fenugreek seeds and red hot, hand-picked chillies for the curries
lolled her head to the rhythm of the grinding stone.
She says the pestle took away the lotus-like pink of her palm
and the spices settled for the whiteness of the coconut.
She says she set the perfect curd meal after meal
the type you could cut with a knife.
She says she mothered a dozen kids.
It reminds me of the Tupperware bowls in strawberry pink
a thousand rupees for three sizes, smart bargain.

I tell her there are three ‘ka’s in her name, she smiles.
Seventy years haven’t taken away the glint of her diamond nose pin.
I ask her if she would have preferred life another way
her index finger sweeps her forehead
an easy calm in her eyes. 

© Daya Bhat

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