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Mushroom Cloud

A poem by Hemang Ashwinkumar

Aishwarya Iyer, ‘Untitled’, ink on 300 gsm paper, 8.27″ X 11.69″

I woke up with a start.
The room was a sea of smoke.
Who the hell would have had the itch

to burn trash at midnight, like this?
A blue wisp curled out of my mouth.
Might be emitting from Pirana*, you dunce!

Smouldering thoughts got a welcome relief.
Communal tiff towards Millatnagar
from a stray mischief?

Didn’t I take a shortcut from there last night,
about ten past ten? But there was nothing then.
No telling when a flash turns to fire these days.

Snap a finger and hungry Holi blazes away.
The Sabarmati burst out on my skin.
But no, wait! Could be a gas leak, 

or a short circuit in the shacks?
Bloody they are awful,
public nuisance, heck. 

Can’t hear any uproar though? Forest fires?
What’s its name… conflagration?
Have they even heard of climate change, those men?

Fuming, clenching jaws, I came out.
A clear sky on the wings of chilling breeze
landed on the balcony like December dawn.

In a huff, back inside, I muttered.
Must get to the root
of this massive bunyan,

this billowing unholy river,
this great ariel flood,
of smoke.

Just then,
clutching the little finger of eyes,
the invisible propeller of smoke, 

speeding like a crazy firework rocket
but in reverse motion,
dodging attention,

engulfing, anaconda fashion,
its undulating spiral of slipstream,
zoomed in and sank deep
in my chest panting like bellows.
The walls in the room burst out
in green, tender sallow.

*Pirana, a landfill site in Ahmedabad, harbors giant mounts of city garbage in forty acres of land.

Hemang Ashwinkumar is a bi-lingual poet, translator, editor and critic working in Gujarati and English. His book-length English translations include Poetic Refractions (2012), an anthology of contemporary Gujarati poetry and Thirsty Fish and other Stories (2013), an anthology of select stories by eminent Gujarati writer ‘Sundaram’. His Gujarati translations of Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda Poems (2004) and Sarpa Satra (2004) have been published recently to critical acclaim.