Culture & Society

Ten Poems By Uday Shankar Ojha

Poet Uday Shankar Ojha writes 10 poems for Outlook.

Photo by Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook

The Drug Decides 

The night has no darkness, 
nothing to hide tonight. 
Bare giant shadows 
blow curly locks, 
all grey. 
Unquenched chimneys pant 
beneath a fire white that 
runs riot with each puff. 

“My shona*, my darling, 
you loved me not as I did, 
and do still.”
This, while the coughing 
mother in the kitchen 
sinks night and day 
for a weekend hug. 

A giant tree groans to see 
dozy, dishevelled children 
waiting in bundles, 
babbling near the park, 
lying in dark dreams, 
licking powdered pavement. 

Mother, still, with windows open, 
counts falling stars 
and not her blurring tears. 
She knows the fate of tears 
as uncountable nouns. 

*a Hindi term of endearment used by lovers, often ridiculed as being cheesy

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


Distancing is an art. 
You knew it well 
and planted 
suitable seeds, 
watered so 
that I varied from you 
and vanished. 

Weakening winds 
blew away butterflies 
late to lectures. 
But points were proven—
the rigid truth; 
and ruined 
were the long treasured 
you and I. 

Softened ways now bleed 
and steps stagger. 
Don’t know how long 
will you play. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook

Hung Assembly 

Hang me halfway 
across the wall. 

I will wait year after year 
for you to come in haste 

lest the exotic evening 
tempts for a nostalgic stay. 

Memories paralyse; hence 
the dusting of the glass 

that obscures my shadowy self. 
You got me close, 

setting your specs higher. 
Not an inch have I hindered 

your way; stayed as I loved, 
stayed as you have lived. 

Greying hairs grow 
uncountable with the years. 

This year too you have plans. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


Riddles abound 
in polite society. 

We eat books 
like worms do, 
yet they don’t fail exams. 

Idiots fly like kites—
rooted yet free; 
we bind ourselves to air. 

It is late night 
and the city lies 

to decipher 
codes and cries. 

Ruined rustics 
turn dead 
with evening.

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook

L’art pour l’art 

Chaotic frame of an unframed life, 
chariotest on free will and wings 
unbound, like fuelled flames unchained. 

I voice on obscure planes 
linking the past hyphenated 
or left aside on rambling parentheses, 

the legacy in my veins so prone 
to articulate the bejewelled raw pain 
and annoying pleasures of coughing goats. 

Late in stirring nights, 
I do read discord in divine love 
like none in your sprung eyes, 

and dare to plunge deep, 
yoking myself 
and desperate many-selves. 

I adore extended interiors, 
beneath chiselled brows. 

I have learnt to laugh at rejections. 
Love’s heterogeneity: 
I call it art. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


Unsettling thoughts kill us 
ere it’s destined. 

The wish to smile in visible darkness 
fades like the feeble morning moon. 

Love that stays with uncommon desires 
breathes beaches sprinkled with bent pines. 

Dusky exotic eyes whisper sparkling delight 
to ease the stony way. 

It doesn’t happen so often that the smell 
of your hair, your soothing voice, 

the unheard melodies of parting lips 
burn the hopeless void. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


How long will you wait? 
Is it till breath be frozen, 
air be solid fog, 
or choked voices utter 
secrets through bulging eyes? 

Sometimes we get sick, 
longing gloomy corners 

Why is it that we open windows 
to embrace icy killing creepers 
sans blossoms? 

Nay, it’s time to thaw the ice, 
look for birds fluttering 
with cherished colours. 

It is time to break the frozen mirror 
and reassure lackadaisical eyes, 
for the summer warm knocks, 
kissing your door 
for a lavish breath. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


Scars and scratches 
scare not stones. 

Rough artless edges 
speak simple and loud. 

Rustic ruffled waters 
in expanding gyres unleash 

their anger 
merely to go green and 
placid with subsiding waves. 

Unmasked elements 
know no schooling 

nor fake philosophy 
that shapes false notions, 

inflates ego, 
erects an I to isolate, 

concretises castles 
of vanity, 

and misleads 
those dear. 

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook


Cracks, creaks and chasms 
whisper the death of a rock inside. 

Hostile winds kiss 
to erode lush patches. 

Rains melt stone to sand. 

Let the shrubs be greener 
than our wounds green.

Photo Credit: Sandipan Chatterjee/OutlookTha


There are times you know not 
for whom you peep through windows 
(indifferent inanimates who 
make you feel now a saint 
and a sinner no sooner). 

The biting wind is sharper, 
keener tonight. 
Fluctuating lights blur vision. 
Things don’t fall apart; 
they crumble in heaps of chaos. 

Still I trust 
(I don’t know why) 
the fogs will roll by. 

Uday Shankar Ojha is a professor at the Department of English, Jai Prakash University, Chapra, Bihar, India. He has written and edited a number of books on British and Indian English poetry. His poems are published and forthcoming in print and online venues across six countries. Uday can be reached at