Pink Himalayan Salt
Deodars tall. Tall and rock-hard.
Soft, the softest mist on mountains melts
you into me—
hidden half, in full view
those valleys and those peaks.
I sprinkle pink Himalayan salt
on sliced tomatoes, freshly washed rocket leaves.
Daisies must’ve filled the crevices
of all or at least a few promises
of bright sunshine skies
buried deep in the dirt
of my birth-earth.
Softly, like a whisper, the bees must’ve gathered
from flowers ready, taut.
Dinner’s ready. I call out.
We sit to eat.
The Sufi CD plays incessantly.
If God is anywhere, He’s in Music.
He must be.
Spittle flute. Hot air.
Passion escapes the clarinet.
Notes high, low, whisper soft.
Sighs. Delicious deep, pink—your lips
trace my contours—goosebumps
grains of salt, salty my body
What’s bread without salt?
What’s us without the love-making?
We’ve played the waiting game ever since
the surgery. It cured your cancer.
“Lust for life is a good thing.” The surgeon had said.
If God is anywhere, He’s in Music.
He must be.
Perhaps a prayer then
to bring us back—
to how we used to be.
Pretend he's not Real
Plant your gaze on anything but his face.
His face—less than ten
in years lived holding orbs
At the traffic signal.
Your car hums a cool song at 42 degrees Celsius.
Pick up your phone and stare at the screen.
His eyes, masterful handlers, will tug
at your gut: Fasting to fit into a new dress.
His eyes will read you. Quick. Hide. Disappear from his gaze— Kohl
Shade—street hardened arrogance.
Put your hand up to wave him away but DO NOT establish eye contact.
He'll linger at the curb and turn the fan tail
on his bright baseball hat and swing
it so well, you'll want to peek.
Be Warned! DON'T!
If you do, the kohl will hold you hostage.
You'll want to help him.
Offer him change. Since you don't carry small notes, you'll decide a coffee
is money better spent.
Pray the lights turn green soon.
he'll open his shop of kohl and plead "Please Miss—I haven't eaten in three days." and you'll be able to hear him.
Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.
Smother any stirrings. Think of the dress. The dinner. Look at Google maps instead. Starbucks.
Anything that separates.
Them and Us.
Red snake awaits ahead. You have no patience for children who beg. You know it's a scam. You do enough to help others, you tell yourself.
Pretend he's not real and move on.
Green means go.
Devi Divine of Garden Pots
Devi Divine of garden pots (and patch of green plot)
at my dehleez and said
Your garden, my child, is full to the brim.
I’ve done what I could
with hibiscus and neem.
Not forgetting frangipani, of course.
She holds, like all my creatures, the fragrances,
the essence of the first
the first kiss on Earth.
I’ve decked the bougainvillaea in Rani Pink.
And the buxom Madhu Malati, that shy blousy thing, has woken to the soft,
heady, steady, summer's first wink.
The oleander will intoxicate you just like I’d planned she would.
And mulberries are ripe. Pay heed.
Eat them. That's their need.
Their purple will stain you, your tongue, your floors, your soul
with the first— the very first
hint of a tint of this world.
I’ve put on a show like I do every year.
You’re their gardener.
But I’m your keeper.
The grass, the dew, and all the earthworms who renew
my soil. Your toil.
I leave in your nigrani.
Keep them. Shower enough paani.
Work is worship
Dehleez (Urdu): Threshold Nigrani (Urdu): Surveillance Paani (Hindi) : Water
Racism at a Concert
I pick pebbles
from riverbeds and distant shores
mark them with names: places they were picked
and arrange them on my desk,
windowsills. Indelible bookmarks of a day in the sun, family
fun. Holidays far from home.
Kashmir, Chicago, Cyprus.
Holidays. Homes. Hiraeth run parallel. They never intersect.
We dismiss one to seek the other and yet,
it’s always home sweet home.
Nomads seeking oases, unable to dismiss that deep primal urge
to label, to tether stones,
humans, skins, accents
to “But where do you really come from?”
When you pushed me to get ahead
and shouted “Robbie’ at the Robbie Williams concert,
you turned me into a dry riverbed
no arms to protest or mouth to shout: STOP! Back off!
You pushed me off like I was nothing.
Ahimsa taught me to always step back.
And I instinctively did.
“Do you even know the lyrics!” you scorned
from your great height of privilege built on so many wrongs—
your colonial conditioning distorted to suit your narrative
to disguise racism in convoluted logic.
“Does it matter?” I responded above the din.
You didn’t respond. How could you?
It was the call of an ancient river that plunged me into action.
The mountains in me, my Himalayan pedigree
avalanched me free.
Curses to Gandhi’s other cheek.
When stones on riverbeds move, they change
courses, they move mountains to oceans, rocks to sand.
Shocked, you asked, “Why did you push me?”
“Because you pushed me first.”
I uttered matter-of-factly.
It felt so good to reverse my flow and glow,
grow back into my fullness,
my humanity, into my fierce Kali and Shakti
into my voice, my history, my identity.
You couldn’t push any further so you hollered ‘Robbie’ from your spot.
The next morning, I scrubbed all the pebbles clean,
even the ones marked with permanent ink.
Arti Jain is a poet, blogger and author. She lives in Doha, Qatar, with her husband and half a dozen neem trees. Her work has appeared in publications including Gulmohur Quarterly, Kindle India Magazine, and The Kali Project. She writes and performs poetry in English and Hindi.