WINTER IN DELHI
by Anvesh Jain
Tuesdays are to Anjaneyar
I wish I didn’t have to think
About my hands coiled in red string,
Performing ablutions on a dirty mug
As the water seeps through my knuckles.
I wish I didn’t have to feel the skin-canvas
Molting across the temples of my skull,
Standing there like a south Indian priest
Wet towel-veshti wrapped around my fat gut.
Cutting a three-week old apple,
Making chai with butter
Because I forgot to get milk again.
A brown-grey offering to the bodily gods.
I wish I didn’t have to think
About putting one foot in front of the other
Of the way my toes gish gallop inside my boot
The spot on my back that itches
Because it scratches the lining of my jacket.
My jacket is too heavy
My thighs ache.
I watch my fingers slither and yawn
Like Surasā, around something that is not there
I am watching myself but I am not there
I am not doing; I am not being,
I just wish I didn’t have to think.
Winter in Delhi
Shuck you like limed-up corn
Embalmed on a flat stove, oxygen pump on a flat bed,
Charred black, flaking, peeling skin
Picked at with particle grime fingernails,
You are not my fucking grandfather—
How dare you whisper the end-rites.
Die like I knew you properly, between
Myth and memory in a photo album
Left dusty atop the refrigerator.
Like Hansie Cronje, Lech Wałęsa,
A hero of Independence (born July 1932).
The first Independence, earthly shackle broken,
Victory of the mother’s bosom;
Strut like Nehru (and his hat!),
Shot like Gandhi (in the heart!),
Let virus God and Godse unmake you.
The dream-truck carrying pilgrims to Bihar,
Bastard piety and your Jain facemask ripped off
By spectral green hypocrisy, masala red,
Spotty spots on the periphery that read:
Keep distance//BLOW HORN
Line unto line awaiting the birth of a Republic.
Everything can be specific and diffuse, Professor,
When we speak of your forefathers that beat mine,
Upturned sod in the village maidan,
Unusual imprint of Jodhpur boots
As a lathi cracked on my babaji’s back.
Romanticism is a type of small vole.
Unravel the sacred thread from the
Navel of the Canada-wala,
Spin like Draupadi
And remind him that he too
Has a home somewhere.
There are no jobs in Calgary.
Asuras and angels dance a divine lockstep
On the crown of the seven-headed serpent.
With feverstrength your zombie claws
Try to snap my garba stick wrists.
We tousle on the side of your resting place,
Epic battle over a pan of shit.
Agni rages in cool Ellora,
Swallow the blue throat-toxin and
Listen to the sounds of street-dog pugilism,
The jugalbandi of black crows,
Honking car raags compose
An elegy, just for you.
I will deposit you at Vaitarna River, old man,
And leave you to Yama’s clutch.
Let vayu clear the dust.
Delhi Ma you choke me
On a rooftop where my lungs
Strain for atmosphere,
Where homecoming begets homecoming
And the eagles of the old city
Caw and scratch at my ears—
Evincing chalky blood from gobi pulp.
At Inchhapuri the wish-granting temple,
Shadows huddle around a charcoal pit;
Time seems supine above mustard fields
And an orange sun waxes in primal verve.
Electric-blue nightstalls pierce that
Famous Delhi fog hiding cloth
And kites and idols along Janpath.
The Kotla has fallen.
Palm trees sway as the Mahavira burns—
Obey your Prime Minister’s curfew
O’ Nawab of sleet and snow,
Maharajah of Cabbagetown,
Emperor on Parliament st.
I am so filled with hatred for you who
Was once so filled with brotherly love and amity for
All mankind in the name of a-him-sa
Meaning “the negation of violent action.”
Decrying the ancient slaughter of our kin
And ahista ahista (slowly slowly)
I drag you down the manic stir-
pot until we drown.
Sitting by the window sill,
I’m struck by how gently the snow chooses to fall today.
Fall on the unstill city,
Fall on the still faithful,
Fall on you too, if you’re out there.
There is a quality of apart-hood
To the snowglobe country, and its nacreous citizens,
Shattered by children tapping on the glass.
I ponder the last time I held you
As my Empress rules me from her Sapphire throne,
Unimpressed by my colonized musings.
Crackling logwood sets the drumbeat for an army,
Soldiers of the Raj marching along my veins.
A cantonment sits in my liver.
My reflection is trapped in the bottle,
And it dances amongst the flames.
I kissed you like the snow that day,
Desperate and ragged.
On old church steps,
In the entryway of a train station,
You held me close and whispered beatitudes in my ear.
The apart-people of the snowglobe country passed by
As you adoringly wiped my dripping face,
And they too would have felt honest in the helium of our love.
About the Author:
Anvesh Jain is an undergraduate student of International Relations at the University of Toronto. His work has previously been published in the Literary Review of Canada, and he is an Associate Editor at the Hart House Review.