Ahir Bhairav and Two More Poems

When father spread his net over
its body, the river heaved through
the mesh, packing fish into its giant
mouth. She should have known then...




Morningness bathes you. Grandfather’s

Arms rise skywards. The newspaper-man

hurls elastic-clasped, rolled-up

headlines into the porch. Mother

lights the stove to wake up milk.


Ahir Bhairav takes you to a place

so empty, it’s full. The absolute centre

of nothingness. The beginning of

all beginnings. A lighthole.


In a slowly-igniting corner of your mind,

your guru’s saintly beard unspools.

You can hear him talking about the sadhu

who devoted his life to the service of Bhairav,

the primordial sound. Your guru’s smile is

a cryptic message now.


Vilayat and Imrat lead you with strings.

Unscratched morning flows into

a cowshed. The uniraga sadhu still

befuddles, but with Ahir Bhairav, you

partake in a fraction of his madness, his

self-absorbed samadhi in the lighthole.


The school girl dreams. One day she’ll tune

her voice to the throat of the songbird

whose call mocks the cage of age.






Water was the first traitor she came

To know. It didn’t drown her.

Seasoned traitors seldom do that.

She was the river’s sibling-child, knew

its mood swings, joaar and bhata

like she did her night terrors, throat-clasping.

Easy to forget once the grip loosened.


When father spread his net over

its body, the river heaved through

the mesh, packing fish into its giant

mouth. She should have known then

What it is to be thrown onto dry

Ground. Gasp. Wriggle. Writhe. Succumb.

Forget that water ever nestled your breath.


The river’s betrayal came not in abandoning her.

It did when it became a concrete mesh,

And she, a fish in the city’s sewage tank.





A long-dead poet brings home truths to the work desk.

Mid-day ennui seeks lunch break and a walk in the park.

Between flesh and flight, the girl chooses to ride the breeze

Like kebab smoke trailing the gallies of purani Delhi. Careless, footloose.

Another dead poet dreams of a new day on earth, a more womanly day.

Old wounds find new ways of festering. Congealed blood rejects washing.

Rain harnesses in megapixels tears that no longer wet hearts.



Image: Satya Birudaraju


Bhaswati Ghosh

Bhaswati Ghosh writes and translates fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her first book of fiction is 'Victory Colony, 1950'. Her first work of translation from Bengali into English, 'My Days with Ramkinkar Baij' won her the Charles Wallace (India) Trust Fellowship for translation. Bhaswati’s writing has appeared in several literary journals, including Scroll, The Wire, Cargo Literary, Cafe Dissensus Everyday, Pithead Chapel, Warscapes, and The Maynard. Bhaswati lives in Ontario, Canada and is an editor with The Woman Inc. She is currently working on a nonfiction book on New Delhi, India. Visit her at https://bhaswatighosh.com/

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