Editor's Note

Sam Luthiya’s poems of gender dysphoria engage with seemingly straightforward formats and then push them to their most luminous possibilities. I’ve often heard poets dismiss the list poem [“just a catalogue”] for its apparent plainness. To me, this only demonstrates that it is a form that is easy to do badly. When used carefully by a poet like Sam Luthiya, we can see the form fully flex (and serve as a reminder of how some of the most powerful epic poems too employ this technique in sections, from The Mahabharata to Homer’s Iliad). ‘Butch Hands’ works up a celebratory energy, which turns into a cumulative powerhouse of sound and image. Its sensitivity reminded me of Amy Gertsler’s poem Saints, while its ambition is closer to Tim O’Brien’s short story The Things They Carried.

The last poem in this set, written as an acrostic, similarly employs a style which, in the hands of someone less skilled could have been too explicit. Instead, by starting with a gorgeous question referencing a fact of nature (‘Did you know dragonflies can fly in any direction they want?’), Sam Luthiya opens the poem to larger questions of choice. And courage. And hope. Read these poems for how they do not confuse the simple with the easy.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Butch Hands

Butch hands

.     zipping or unzipping leather jackets, clutching handlebars, expertly coaxing hair into an endless assortment of styles with or without the aid of gels, waxes, clays or pomades, buckling up belts, carefully knotting ties, clipping on carabiners, idly rolling around the metal in ear or nose or eyebrows piercings, wrapping school textbooks in brown paper covers, fishing out swiss knives, small combs, men’s handkerchiefs from the endless pockets of their cargo pants, gripping paintbrushes, pouring from tea kettles, hip flasks, watering jugs, flipping pages and parathas, dusting shelves, washing dishes, fixing faulty pipes and broken toys, folding palms into namaste and paper into origami, carrying tupperware tiffins and tool kits.

Butch hands

.     heavy with the weight of rings, bracelets, wristwatches, pulling bodies closer at the waist, effortlessly unhooking bras and untying strings, mapping invisible continents on exposed backs, pressing up against cotton, lace and nylon, stroking nipples hard as neelam, fingertips decorated with callouses or soft like malmal, now settling into the small of your back to safely navigate crowds, now tracing the broken lines on your palms, massaging away that fortnightly migraine, easing the knots of your WFH shoulders

.             butch hands now resting within your hands,
.             their flutter enclosed by your stillness.

Costume Party Piece

after Yoko Ono’s ‘Grapefruit’

Go as Pinocchio.
Wait until midnight arrives
and everyone has caved to nasha or neend.
Stand in front of the tallest mirror
that you can find.
Call yourself a boy.
Touch your nose and smile.


Did you know dragonflies can fly in any direction they want?
You could’ve too, if you had waited for your wings to arrive.
Sometimes I see dragonflies in our garden,
Playfully dipping in and out of the champa trees,
Hiding between the pinks and whites of our bougainvillea.
On your birthday, I tried to get one to sit on my hand,
Refused to give up until the dog whined for dinner.
In a parallel universe, you and I are dragonflies,
And at the end, your body has wings, not wounds.


Image credits:

© Jérémie Almanza. We chose this illustration of Almanza (part of his Pinocchio series), partly because of Sam’s reference to Pinocchio in “Costume Party Piece”. But more importantly, also because of the emotional complexity of Almanza’s illustration: what the mirror says, what Pinocchio is, what the world affirms and in some situations, refuses to affirm. Almanza’s work is hard to pin down on the web. But a good starting point may be Joanna Mora’s writeup on the artist.


Sam Luthiya

Sam Luthiya (he/they) is a non-binary, transmasc person based in Bangalore. He received his B.A. in Psychology, English Literature and Communication Studies from Mount Carmel College Autonomous has been working at One Future Collective since October 2021. They have been volunteering as an Editor at Dear Asian Youth and a Beta Reader at The Young Writers Initiative since February 2021. They served as Youth Advisor on Sangath’s Addictions and Mental Health Youth Advisory Board from August 2021 till February 2022 and as Director of DEI at STEM Without Boundaries for two consecutive terms. He was also a fellow for two consecutive cohorts of General Intelligence(s)’ Capstone Mentorship Program in 2021 and 2022. A magpie at heart, Sam finds joy in collecting rings, coins, shells, dried flowers, leaves, pebbles, feathers and other shiny and natural trinkets. They run a small business via Instagram (@yeet_the_yarn) where they sell handmade charm bracelets, chokers, anklets and earrings. Besides dabbling in poetry and photography, they enjoy knitting, crocheting, devouring soup and street food. In the future, he hopes to work with animals and fill his home with rescues of all kinds.

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