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When or why a woman whorls

Poems by Salil Chaturvedi, Sanaaz Davood Zadeh Far, Saheli Khastagir, Michelle D’costa, Jhilam Chattaraj

Whorls as a verb: move in a twisted and convoluted fashion


small leaves 


small leaves

under your pillow

just after dawn


sure enough

there’s pollen

on my lips


from the edge

of my sleep

i can see


the snails

in your ears

curled up in sleep


i’m partially sad

but i wish

i knew


when or why

a woman

whorls into wood


Salil Chaturvedi


Ten poems



When we meet

The distance between us is several cigarettes’ smoke

When we don’t meet

There is only a cup of tea with one cube of sugar.

That is what the experience is



If you open your borders,

I will immigrate to you

Without visa.

My case is not political.

I fled as a lover.

If I get back home,

They will sew up my tongue and lips:

Wordless love

And without home.



The mist of your words

Envelopes my imagination

Look at our shared dreams

They are so close to each other.

But your hands have been

Far from me for a long time.



I was born and I was crying.

I lived and I was screaming.

I want to leave this world with a smile Like Mona Lisa’s.



When I emit the perfume of love

I am better than a full factory

Tear me to pieces like petals,

And ship me to Paris,

Then call me Juliet.

I will be your best-selling perfume



If an earthquake cracks the land anywhere

My heart will split too.

My heart thought the earth is like a cradle,

Its quake will sing a lullaby to my pain.

Oh earth, sing happily to your mistakes.



When you look at me,

You don’t clearly see my pain

To understand my looks

You need to listen to the sparrows

They speak the same language.



Enriched uranium sleeps with me now

Not your portrait any more.

I kiss it.

Each city is a white crow’s smoke

My dream of a nuclear nightmare is

Ever growing hot.



All the options are on the table:

To draw the morning with your words.

To run alongside your absence.

To find a metaphor like your hands or lips

You still pour yourself into the glass

And I drink your shadow.



When I was sleeping

The nurses came.

The clouds came too.

There was the sound of a waterfall everywhere

The nurses left

And I stayed on the northern side

Everything inside it was new and fresh

And it had a wet smell.


Sanaaz Davood Zadeh Far



“Saheli stop! You are breaking them.”

“No. They were already broken”


My leash is tied to the heart that made me.

An umbilical thread tying two fragmented lives.


“You breathe the life I could not have”, she told me.

I believed her.


I tend my wings,

rage at rusted iron grills.


A snail outgrows her shell.

Mother, she asked her, did you know I have gills too?


She taught me to fear water.

You taught me to swim.


I go to her room at night,

kiss the forehead he should have kissed.


When she opens her eyes to look into mine,

I choke her with the hands that stroke my sky.


“Oh but didn’t you know?” the bird asks the egg,

“You made me, to kill you.”


“Mother, you are free now”, I tell her

and wear the bangles I made her break.


Saheli Khastagir


Black magic


My brother, a priest in the making, catches me

reading Harry Potter.  The church disapproves.

I’ve to confess before the Holy Communion.


Hasn’t he heard of black magic beyond books?

(i)The price a family paid, when they returned

from vacation. To a black doll on their door.


Their dogs became cats and walked out

knowing they couldn’t afford them anymore.

Their parrots’ vocal chords used to royal songs,


tone-deaf to the homeless, broke open

their cages, pecked at their owners’ heads

for jumping them with poverty. They waited


outside windows of rich lonely kids to slip in

when the kids wanted to jump out, settling in

comfortably in their new homes. Not a fleck


of recognition in their eyes when their previous

owners’ passed by. Birds remember like dogs.

They do. They just pretend they don’t.


(ii)Or about the girl who said ‘No’ to a guy who’d

never heard the word before. Her teeth fall,

hijacked buildings. Calcium powder fills her mouth.


Her hair decides there are better places to reside,

tired of conventional, they leech onto her toes.

She now sits in a dark room, waiting for the curse


to return to its owners. (iii) Or the man who went

to Dubai on an Arab’s leash only to return to

a black leash back home, vomiting blood.


Michelle D’costa


Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird


Turmeric -the smell of my paint brush

plump with still born sunbeams

leaking into the morphine haze of my city


Shades of sorrow bury her face,

thin grass, one that can never grow in my concrete soil

crown lips patiently waiting for words


Eyes fixed at the bottom of space

and above them

a fallen bridge

between two capsized boats

moored(fashionably)at the shore of her forehead


Come alive, you ancient beauty

for I have tasted light and water in the womb of your wounds

I wish to be faithful to details

every stroke- a dive into a body history gave you

each shadow- a dance into the chaos of creation


Blood-worms push their way up your

barb-veined neck

they languish on your

white skeletal shirt

Yet, you, so loving to yourself

such perfection in the creeks between the hair stands,

the middle parting, the polished braids,

crisp translucence of

hushed wings,

pale purple blossoms gliding across

intense green


The green light of ocean outside the cracked windowpanes of my eyes

willow-spine- the air in my breath

sunless pools on marshland skin,

pills, syrups, bone-fires,

my door closed upon the promises of the world


And through its clefts, entered you

washing with colours

roots leaping across latitudes


Once again, I dip my brush into the ink of the night

its tongue, berry-black


I paint familiar companions of the female species-

one furry monkey, an arched cat, its glossy nose

a hummingbird fixed at your chest like an ossified relic


You are complete

now eat some air

grace the throne of my godless country

as I


bent knees,

curfewed eyes,

folded hands,

dressed in feathers of icy mist,

probably, a little drunk on the honey of dawn

pray for a joyful exit


Jhilam Chattaraj

Salil Chaturvedi writes short fiction and poetry in English and Hindi. He was the winner of the Wordweavers Poetry Contest 2015, the Asian region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, 2008, and the Unisun/British Council Short Story Competition 2007. He has brought out two poetry collections—In The Sanctuary Of A Poem, and Ya Ra La Va Sha Sa Ha (in Hindi), both available on Amazon.

Sanaaz Davood Zadeh Far is an Iranian poet and artist. She began her artistic career with theatre and has received many awards in this field . Her first poetry collection I walk on dead words has been translated into Arabic, French, Spanish, and English. Zadeh’s poems have also been published in several Iranian, Arab and other international newspapers.

Saheli Khastagir is a Delhi-based painter, writer and development/ research professional.

Michelle D’costa has poems published in Visual Verse, The Madras Courier, The Sunflower Collective, The Bombay Literary Magazine, The Bangalore Review and more. Her debut collection of poems is forthcoming from Curato this year.

Jhilam Chattaraj is an educator, poet and author. She works as an Assistant Professor at R.B.V.R.R Women’s College, Department of English, Hyderabad. Jhilam has authored two books: Corporate Fiction: Popular Culture and the New Writers (2018) by Prestige Books International and a poetry collection When Lovers Leave and Poetry Stays (2018), Authorspress, New Delhi. She is currently working on a book of interviews of young Indian poets.