Culture & Society

Three Poems By Ruth Vanita

These three poems are from author and poet Ruth Vanita’s book ‘The Broken Rainbow (Poems and Translations)’. These three are from a chapter titled ‘LGBTQIA...Or Perhaps A to Z’.

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Love Like Hate Adore

a villanelle

You can take the lesbian out of India,
Strike matching letters, tally up the rest.
What remains will start to seem familiar.
Eros unveiled the features of accidia.
The happy ending turned into a quest.
Can you take the lesbian out of India?
Decanting hope and exorcising fear,
Distil the elements of east and west.
What remains will start to seem familiar.
Spell in reverse, add middle names, discover
A hidden player made the game a test.
You can take the lesbian out of India.
Hate cancels liking, adoration lingers,
Love cooks into a mishmash all the rest.
What remains will start to seem familiar.
Dorsetshire, Montana, West Virginia,
Country roads to migratory nests.
What you took away was the familiar.
The lesbian is still writing verse in India.

Gay Indian Poets

for Prageeta, who asked the question

For years it lay quiet in a corner—
the answer a mirror caked with dust,
till a slant question set it dazzling.
To what school of poets did you belong?
she asked. Belong? Where? In what world?
There was a you, an I, but no—no ‘we’.
The dead were speaking and I overheard
enough to stammer. Song needs windows.
Maybe one will do, if through the bars
a king may hear a minstrel serenade.

Fresh Sapling

translation of a ghazal by Insha Allah Khan ‘Insha’ Dehlavi (1756-1817)

A man speaks:

Your cheek is made for kisses
Why shouldn’t I ask for kisses?
When my mouth touched your lips
They turned red with kisses
Locks falling over that face say
‘We’ve woven a net of kisses’
In the morning your cheeks were blue
Due to last night’s thoughts of kisses
O mister, I’m dying, do give them to me
Today give me your promised kisses
This is a fresh sapling, and look!
It blossomed with the bliss of kisses

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