My mouth is a prayer
to be translated.
It is soft light,
in its warmth,
a city happens.
Wrapped in the fabric
of my pink dupatta,
Begum Bazaar is
the fabled navel in
the eye of antiquity.
The streets stomach
like measured gulps
of Irani chai. We walk on,
moving in a soft-haze
of sounds and colors.
You propose a game of
make-believe. We spend
hours trying to imagine
this street a thousand
I erase cable poles
and electric wires off
the canvas, then this,
then that, and then some
more. You chuckle.
by an itr-seller with old eyes
that map sadness on
old-mosque surfaces, selling
perfumes that will linger
long after its all over.
The Charminar looks on,
as it drowns under the weight
of its own history, year after year.
Between Maghrib and Isha that day,
we may have sailed through
the ambiguity of linguistic living.
My consciousness-- no, not my rooh,
but my khudi-- may have taken flight
at the Muezzin’s call. It may
or may not have flitted out
of my brown pupils, past
the borders of our bodies,
past the granite solidity around,
past chai-sellers, dream-vendors,
and high minarets in ochre and gold.
It may or may not have overseen
our covered-heads leaning
into each other, the pink of my dupatta
touching the blue of yours, before
swooping back to the ground
to where we were. Between
Maghrib and Isha that evening,
we may or may not have
lived an illusion.
The City is a Synonym
for perennial beginnings. Something hits a wall,
something else crosses over, passes into another
dimension, becomes something else. Nobody
knows how to accept something as just the thing
anymore. Wilted white roses from your birthday
still exude freshness in my phone, and now
they become ink across a screen. We let nothing
really die, you see. Things end, then begin
into something else: A wilt is a waltz is weltschmerz.
*(For the hours spent with Tannistha in the premises of Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad, Telangana)
These poems have been excerpted from My City is a Murder of Crows by Nikita Parik (Hawakal Publishers, July 2022). Chunks of this book have been shortlisted for the Rama Mehta Writing Grant 2021, long-listed for the Toto Award for Creative Writing in English 2022, been awarded the Mukti Bose Memorial IPPL Young Poet Award 2022, and long-listed in the Emma Press Manuscript Submissions Programme.)
(Nikita Parik's debut book of poems is Diacritics of Desire (2019), followed by Amour and Apocalypse (2020), a novel in translation. Her third book, My City is a Murder of Crows, has just come out from Hawakal Publishers. She currently edits EKL Review. )