At the Turn of the Road

by R. K. Biswas

Is it dusk already? The doves
on the electric pole must have gone home.
In here, your heart is bleeding away
into the pool of your unbearable solitude.
When did the eggs crack open?
When did their wings become dry?
The sun had laughed at you from behind his screen
of clouds. You had turned to face the wind
once, twice, thrice.
But the answers were always the same.
And now, it doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing
takes away the sharpness
of knives whittling down bones.
Soon, they will be gone. You will not
know the hour of departure when it comes,
even after the door has closed behind them.

Wake up

To the grass bending to receive
its daily pint of dew. To the road lying quiet
beneath the stampede of day. To last
night’s embers that still harbour
a spark or the hope of a spark. It’s time
to go back to that last full moon, when
you had an urge to pluck the orb
fresh off the sky and place it on
your warm sticky tongue. White
as the flavour of spearmint gum,
and as cold as a slice of arctic ice,
melting slowly, radiating

                                         its aura around you.

This is the taste of solitude.
Its sweetness is divine. Its touch thinner
than a dove’s eggshell. Its scent
more delicate than a damselfly’s wing. And,
its harmony is one that can never be known
in the company of constant love. 

Oriental Darter Birds

by R. K. Biswas

Something disturbs.   
There is a movement
in the rushes and waterweeds. And you
see them rise
as one. They dive
upwards
into paling air. Black
flap of wings dropping dew-like
globules
returning water to the marsh beneath
them. They dive upwards.
Their necks snaking
towards sky. Smoke
from scud scatters at a touch
of their webbed feet. Light swims
from wing
tip to wing tip.     
Into the waiting blue
they go. Become dots like pock
marks on sky-skin. And then,
downward bound again
they swoop
to where the minnows
beckon, and frogs play
dead among the unhurried pace
of water snails.  Intense-eyed they seek
only that
which their bodies can keep.
Unlike man.  Unlike
man’s ceaseless greed.

Petrichor

by R. K. Biswas

A few days before she leaves, she teaches me
a new word. Petrichor. And when I forget
its shape and sound, remembering only
the taste, touch and smell of it, she points
to the moist evening outside, inhaling from
the soaked earth, asphalt, flower pots, car tops,
anything that rain cared to visit. Petrichor,
she repeats. I murmur after her. A chant
that I will wear like a talisman in the barren
months ahead. Dread spread by newspapers.
Fear from TV channels. More than what
I had ever dreamed of. At her age I had been
almost foolhardy… But now my heart is wet.
Horses thunder past my bed
when I lie down at night. Their clean animal scents
linger on. I can see the meandering pathway
from her school stables. I see her going
to the most solitary place on earth. Grass pitch
they call it. Her mates and her. Serene. Empty
of everything but the gentlest of beings. Where grass
meets bog meets clear water meets sky meets
slender steep eucalyptus trunks. She comes here
I know. And not always on horseback. She comes here
alone to gather silence. I do not fear this place.
The ones I do, are closer home. I am so
powerless. I cannot compress the world
she inhabits now. I cannot return her
to my womb where petrichor is eternal.

Hormonal Snares

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

You turn the corner
and no lascivious gaze
envelops you from breast to thigh.
On the peopled street no one
to arouse your instincts
and take an x-ray of your body.
You have gone from woman to person.
The mirror never lies.
For your part, you feel
disengaged from all entanglements
safe from passion and the jeopardy
of those hormonal snares.
But liberation does not bring exhilaration.
You are far still from an angel.

Familiarity

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

No sooner do you touch the trophy
than the brightness dims.
Seize a star
and you will find between your fingers
a skeleton of battered tin.
Take the beloved from the castle
both crown and scepter will be lost.
Better leave the trophy
on the shelves of Olympus.
Let the star stay in its galaxy.
And let the loved one dwell among the clouds.
Familiarity defiles
and corrupts all things.
With the divine, distance
plays its part. Only the impossible
partakes of the celestial breath.

Ancient Scenario

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

The outizeiro tree beside the wall
has only grown a bit.
There is more rust on the gate
and the house has gathered moss
along with streaks carved
by the plowshare of the rains.
In fact, nothing has changed.
But where are the tender words
(I thought eternal)
the caresses still timid
the ecstasy of discovery?
It is as if everything has
gone down the drain
and what we lived was nothing
but a dream or imagining.
You went away and now come back
like an afflicted soul,
one of those that prowled
the terrors of my childhood.
And so I say, get away from me, nostalgia,
leave no trace of me,
that bud blossoming beneath caresses.
Beside that wall, I now discover:
the heart is not mere muscle.
More than anything, it is a sepulcher.

Death By Water

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

The first time
no one saw the danger.
Even her mother smiled thinking
how dramatic that child is
and saw her once again beneath an acacia tree
swooning in pretended death.
How lucky that, responding to her cries,
an angel suddenly appeared among the leafy branches
to snatch her from the river’s navel.

The second time
the wall of the sea came crashing down
a shroud upon a mermaid’s silhouette.
But it was a time of courtly love and valorous
gestures. Without delay
two chivalric gentlemen rose from the sand
and astride the backs of waves
conquered the marine monster
in service to the damsel fair.

The third and last time
upon a breast shaken with sobs
eyes unleashed a flood.
It was her soul that died departing
with her son’s dark skiff headed back to clay.
This time there was no escape from foundering.
When her body floated up from
the abyss, it was a drifting corpse,
soul severed by the razor-edge of pain.

Half Lord of the Fishes

by Nathalie Goykhman

She preferred to unroll her mat
rather than unrolling her tongue while on a couch
in a bland office: dull art

and sentimental trinkets with
precautionary tissues perfectly placed by
the armrest. She knew that well.

Prying questions rarely helped her,
she’d rather pry her shoulders open in a
Half Lord of the Fishes pose.

This twist wrings out her swirling thoughts.
Like wild salmon, she battles stormy currents and
sharp, unexpected boulders. 

Blossoming in Padmasana

by Nathalie Goykhman

Discouraged by    her nine-to-five    in class she hopes    to bud.
Padmasana:   that which is born   out of the muck   and mud.

Expansive chest   sitz bones planted   like tuber roots   that grow
into lakebeds.   Sepal fingers    cradle dewdrops   thoughts slow.

Another breath    a departure   whirling incense   a pause–
smoke dissipates   to-do lists slip  beneath the mat.   Her flaws

are less daunting   in Lotus Pose   floating limbs fold    serene
exhalation    disturbances   beneath ripples   unseen.

Sometimes the winds   the pelting rain    tousle her fine   petals.
But debris rolls   off petal tips.   The calm blossom–settles.