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Night, Water, Stone

Poems by Debarshi Mitra, Savita Singh, and Johny ML



I used to wear it on my head like a crown

when we went to my father’s ancestral home

on some Sundays, the railways leaping in time

several centuries

taking us away from the city and to that other world

where concrete was sparse and the pale yellow of disease

left its unrelenting trace everywhere. Growing up in the city

there was little congruence I could find there.

Inside the house, surrounded by other relatives, sometimes

my (now dead) diabetic aunt would drag her body across

the hall to pick up a fruit kept on the table,

her eyes gleaming while she looked directly

at me and asked, “What do you call this

in English?”




It seems at this time of the night,

I could bring my neighbourhood to a standstill

just by wishing if it were so. Only the street lamps

flicker in nervous anticipation and precisely

at the designated corner, the night watchman

holds up his unfinished cigarette

and sucks time into his lungs. The windows

remain shut, all stray dogs occupy their respective

places in the universe.  Not a leaf dares to quiver.

Even the shadow of the thought of you in my bed

refuses to leave.


-Debarshi Mitra



अनिद्रा में


कुछ कम उदास करो मुझे मेरे देश

कुछ कम चाहो मुझसे

कितने बदहाल यहाँ के लोग

कितने कम लोगों की ख़ुशी के लिए

फ़ाक़ाज़दा दिन और वैसी ही रातें

कितने थोड़े भरे पेटों के लिए

जंगल के जंगल कारतूस और बंदूकों से लैस अब

रात भर जगे रहते हैं पेड़

कुछ बच नहीं पा रहा

न मर्द, न औरतें, न बच्चे

न रात, न उसका रहस्य


अंधकार प्लास्टिक के फूल सा मामूली वस्तु भर

स्वप्न बुलेट सी बिंधी एक आँख


अनिद्रा में तैयार हो रहा एक

नया देश




Assuage my sorrow, my country.

Ask less of me.

How your residents are rendered feeble

for the joys of the few.

Famished days; and nights, the same,

For the satisfaction of such few stomachs.

Jungle after jungle replete

with cartridges and rifles

The trees are awake all night

Nothing is able to stay

neither men, nor women, nor children

nor the night, or its mystery.


Night, like a plastic flower, is

now an ordinary thing.


The dream remains pierced in its eye.


A new country

is augmented

in this sleeplessness.



क़त्ल की रात कल ही गुज़री है


है सुबह की पहली ताज़ी हवा की सुगंध

हृदय में अब भी बची

मुस्कान अपने ही उस प्रेम के अहसास में

जिसे भुलाना ज़रूरी हो गया है


दुख बहुत है इस समय में सबके लिए

उम्मीद फिर भी करनी है सुख की

ख़ून के धब्बे दिखते हैं शहर की इमारतों पर

क़त्ल की रात कल ही गुज़री है


Last Night Passed Yesterday Itself


Crisp breeze, early morning, their redolence

all remain in the heart still,

and the smile that lingers

in the remembrance of that love

which has now become necessary

to forget entirely.


There is far too much sorrow in this time

for everyone. Yet, one has to hope, hope

for contentment. City monuments, still

carry visible stains of blood.


The night of the murder

passed yesterday itself.


-Savita Singh

Translated from Hindi by Medha Singh





In which shape

Should I exist,

As water or stone?

Water they contain

Stone they break

Fire they extinguish

And air pollute.


Don’t I know

The lesson of Sky?

Be everywhere

But distant and alone

The hopefuls look up

So do the hopeless

Grieving and loving

Look nowhere else.


Be there

Don’t hide

For there is no one place

That they have left out

Forests, rivers, villages

Caves, mountains and vales

They have taken over

Spread their red carpets

For huge carnivals of

Fancy dress to pass.


Be there

Don’t run

For the bullets

Know chasing as you go

Better receive one in the chest

Than a few in the back

Tell your mom that

If you come with holes on the back

Drag the corpse on a coconut frond.


But you could be silent

For many would listen

As they too will have

Antennas hidden

One day

The procession of silence

Will submerge the streets

The din of arrogance

Will startle to see it.


Silence in study

Or in the grave

Measures equal

It decays to manure


Love and overcoming.





It was like slipping into

Molten silver without noise,

And shiver; skin shone

In sudden strangeness


Holding me hostage

At the fence of a hostel

Sun rays demanded

The last drop of water

Left in my eyes


Tearless I turned to life

How dizzying a feeling it was

Like animals crawl out

From strong thickets

Visions came one by one

From the hot asphalt road


Watches melt

Skeletal men cross

A pope loses his face

A phantom bus starts


Mugging was done

Rays withdrew

Silver plating scalded off

A knife’s still hurt my neck


I can’t stand these moments

Dripping light on my head

I scream; the city falls down

Tripping on its own shadow.


-Johny ML

Debarshi Mitra is a Delhi based poet. His debut book of poems Eternal Migrant was published in May 2016 by the Writers Workshop. He received The Wingword Poetry Prize 2017 ,the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and was long listed for the TFA Prize 2019.

Savita Singh (b. 1962) did her Master’s and M.Phil from the University of Delhi and went to McGill University, Montreal, for higher studies. Her first collection of poems in Hindi, Apne Jaisa Jeevan (A Life Like its Own), was published in 2001 and received Delhi’s Hindi Academy Award in 2002 and ran into a second print. Her poems are published in several magazines and journals of Hindi and English and have been translated into Marathi, Gujarati, Maithili, Urdu, French, German, Spanish and Dutch. She is also the author of Nind Thi aur Raat Thi (2005) and Swapna Samay (2013) which received the Raza award for poetry and Mahadevi Verma award from Rajbhasha Parishad, Govt of Bihar.

Medha Singh is a Delhi-based poet. She is currently the India Editor at The Charles River Journal, and Editorial Board member of the Freigeist Verlag.

Johny ML is a Delhi based art critic, writer, curator and translator.