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Love’s Ways and other poems

Deepa Onkar

What I saw


At dusk, the flower women  are a diptych:

tree-framed, skin aglow in the flame of an oil-

lamp. They sit apart from the rushing city;

fingers deft, over a thread,

weaving  a cosmos of their own: pale orange

roses, each a risen moon,scatterings of jasmine stars.

I try to read the look in the dark

limpid eyes, that meet mine for an instant –

Is there  joy, or pain, or weariness

from all the toil?  The light dims:

eyelids drop quickly, long-lashed


Love’s ways


Mostly, the memory of that journey is in fragments

bits of roads, rivers, blank skies


There was also desire, a capillary tide below skin,

inexorable: carrying us  deeper and deeper through

dappled paths,  tangled with history. Often we lost

our way , but were monuments enough, for the other


And it ceased to matter where it all began:

I am back to your fingers flaming

against my cheek the image of your eyes, closed,

flickers into a dark street thick with smells


Another longing floats in:

if only you’d stopped with me

at corners with sudden jasmine bowers

and men lolled with their motorbikes

under trees, the hyacinth bloomed in the quiet sun


At the beach


The crowd, half-hidden in the mist

is a continent unto itself. My feet

on the wet edge of the shore, still:

things the fine net of crows

feet fished out along with a million

foot-prints, bits of broken shells


The sea’s voice, a roar, a ghost

the mind’s membranes soak up.

Engrossed in cell phones, a couple

takes selfies, a woman roasts corn,

someone yells. Such happy insouciance:

all against the backdrop of blue gaping

nothingness that suggests anything

could happen


The froth pounding, pounding, ineffectual, for millennia

the city lights have inched closer every year.

Unnoticed, I pick my paths

afraid for the earth dipping

on its axis, into darkness, afraid for the sea

Deepa Onkar is a Chennai-based poet. Her poems have been published in several journals including The Lake, Coldnoon, Sonic Boom and The Bombay Literary Magazine. She has also worked with The Hindu.

Sayed Haider Raza (1922–2016) was one of modern India’s greatest painters and abstractionists. He was born in Babaria, Madhya Pradesh and spent most of his life in Paris, before returning to Delhi in 2010.