and I’m one of them


arguing with my father    in despondent tunes

him saying:    you’re nothing

like me    my riposte:    it’s for the best

and yet I’m surprisingly impressed

the way he can so utterly    forget he was fuming

just the previous second


while I’m still dealing

with the consequences of the lyrics exchanged    there is no cause

for reconciliation    only the muggy haze of an overcast day

in a city near the shore    where waters spray windows

and speakers bray Bollywood beats    from terraces on Friday night

drowning any adorning banter


when behind my back someone

in a restaurant remarks—   Pisces are the best kissers

“in the zodiac—    and the sine wave of flesh drooping    from my ear

prickles    it desires cartilage    I desire mileage

for my scooter    affection for my body    my chest a seismograph

when garlanded with your fingers    tremors passing through ribs

ike lips through tense valleys of hips    like shapes of sand spilling

on a road from a moving truck    murmurations of the tiniest birds

breaking invisible on our car’s bonnet

on a long road trip for my sister’s wedding    points of rupture

rearing again    my father’s words    unfazed ornaments

breaking my resolve: I don’t want any advice from you    sudden lumps

in my throat    acknowledging the stubbornness

of hard language in humid air    as if that’s the polished fruit

whose cracked skull my teething voice emerged from

lots of lumps I stir in warm tea    is it gauche to swish sugar

in the mouth when one trembles

from the want    to please at any cost?    oversaturation helps me

loathe my thawing throat    ruptures allow me

to stay living    behind my house a rupture in green    a trunk blares

behind foliage   a fugitive elephant that strayed from its herd


and crossed a river

to arrive here    only to be attacked by firecrackers

only to be a casualty of sound and light   

the herd inside the forest too smacked with hot light    when shed leaves

from deciduous trees    caught fires lit by poachers to distract

the wild ones into being hunted    a drone blooms above the forest

like the only flower that remains uncharred    reporting for our molten

eyes    the travesty I’m jabbering about    

there is still joy to be had after death    after sifting through

the carcasses    a forest officer dances during hailstorm showers

that doused some of the immediate rage    rains hissing leaping flames

with smoky kisses   


after learning of those who died and their endearing names   

and those that moved into the critically endangered bracket    

flashing on the breaking news,

you’d come to know that animals who managed to escape

the burning biosphere and reached neighboring villages

were turned down shelter    

did they invoke fear when near?    what language of communion

failed to fuse    incongruent atoms

toward sustenance?    If you say kindness

we will probably reach an impasse


a stalemate right here    when my father refuses to shake

my hand and I move away    like untraceable cloud on windy day

a lack of intimacy relieves    the way a chapatti dipped in hot dal

bandages an achy mouth    once in a gallery when I was ten

his fingers pointing    at a screaming man’s twisted face

in a painting    he instructed:    stand here and keep looking

spend some time with the painting    then tell me what you see


I stand

outside his clinic    as the curtain covers and uncovers


in oscillation his steady hand    examining a patient’s body

I slip into pubescent


meditation    watch in the way a creation might glimpse

its creator    muted colors of a portrait


quivering shrill tiny wavelengths    of tenderness

I tried but couldn’t distinguish    his calm


from my rage



Satya Dash is the recipient of the 2020 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2020 Broken River Prize. His poems appear in Poet Lore, ANMLY, Waxwing, Rhino Poetry, Cincinnati Review, and Diagram, among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator. He has been nominated previously for Pushcart, Best of the Net, Orison Anthology and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cuttack and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043.