Urvashi Bahuguna's debut poetry collection was selected for the Emerging Poets
Prize and will be published by The Great Indian Poetry Collective in 2018. She is
a poet from India whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Orion, The
Nervous Breakdown, Eclectica Magazine, Jaggery Lit and elsewhere.
I turn on kitchen lights, open taps to be greeted
with the iciness of freshly woken water.
The boy from UAE and I sit at 2:30 PM to
watch the sun set, scraping our plates because
our bodies tell us it is time for dinner. In a few
hours, a friend will text asking if I want to
step out to the pub, & I will say yes even
though I am certain bedtime has come
and gone like a specter several times. Speaking
to you on a sunlit day, I come to believe you are
this shade of afternoon curtained light. I want
something to hold on to: watch rabbits run
in the grass, try to memorize their white
behinds in flight, walk at night by the river,
leave my door unlocked, these are the little
things. Posting letters I can't afford, layering
shawls with duvets to attempt warmth, losing
the ability to read, these are the others.
I re-assess language. Cold is another word
for being in another country. I sound unreasonable
when I criticize Frank O' Hara for being racist
in a room of people who love him. I dream of
curling onto the beige carpet and napping.
A girl asks: why can't we just stop thinking of
women as oppressed? I remember you telling
me I am mechanical and changing the topic
when I point out: I'm a writer. I want
to be winged, to be even as a stone.
How easy is it to become what I read of.
A bird bath is built
in the shape of cupped palms.
The center is carved from
As water fills to the brim,
amethyst swims like a dark whale
below the surface
where olive-backed sunbirds
drink and do not question
shadows more beautiful
for being submerged
like shipwrecks that choose to remain.
I sit in a garden chair
and wonder what brings a stone
to a person, and some bird
to my bath.
Waiting for movement
The laburnum is late
with its lightening yolk.
An abundance of mulberries
A bird call, round & refined,
emanates from the forest.
This day holds its stillness
I set out to invent explanation:
for a rotting fruit to solve.
The only event
Somewhere, a heron
has been perching for hours
waiting for the stillness
to give way
for the surface to tremble
with a tadpole or insect to eat.
Evening prayers at the mosque
travel over the light
leaving the tops
At seven, the church radiates
through the houses in the village
pausing between each toll
a vehicle in the distance.
Mount Mary Steps, Bandra
I washed the coasters the day before
you visited. We took turns making tea.
We heated bath water in kettles. You
said I shouldn’t live this way but I did.
The first day I moved into the apartment
on church steps the flood came — without
a broom I soaked the water up in rags,
wrung it out in the sink & repeat.
I have been working on an inventory
of phrases I did not use with you.
I study contours on my days off —
crescents fade where you stayed
for a moon cycle. I held the body
as it waned like you held the head
over steaming kettle when I had
the flu. In a hurry, I give away
your clothes. Somewhere in Bandra,
there is a man hunched in your shirt.
Not even from a distance
could I mistake him for you.
Back to Front.