Editor's Note

Working on this issue, I was repeatedly reminded how poems leave us with two kinds of impressions. The large, overall sense of the work, which often comes up in editorial discussions (“unexpected treatment of motherhood in this set”, “good use of ghazal conventions in that one”) and then the smaller, and more immediate response to line and language, which escape easy summarizing. Which is also what I want to talk about in this space. Particularly because in summa iru’s set, the poems find their dramatic energy in how a phrase shifts before one can fully rest in it. In how an idea is inverted, or at least diverted, before it finds itself.

While much has been said about bigger poetic turns, such as the volta of sonnets, I’m referring here not to a shift in intent or orientation as much as to an opening of new, surprising language. Consider, for instance, the beginning: ‘anything helps to even out a wobbling table / but my father’, where, before we can fully absorb the universal statement followed by the odd exception, we’re told he ‘cuts an empty tetra pack’ (okay, sure, except it is,) ‘of rat poison’. The image in the reader’s mind, of happy-appy juice needs to be quickly replaced by this macabre revelation — a pattern this poem employs generously. These small turns, facilitated by line breaks, serve to create a series of revisions as we make our way through the poem. Also, this is perhaps the first time I have encountered a poetic technique represented by an object within the poem. We’re offered a very meta description of how the printed text on the folded tetra pack is ‘waterfalling / onto the other / side just as the other side is othered again & again till I / reach the end of the card / trick’. This othering, this small act of estrangement is as emotionally powerful as it is dexterous. I invite you on these turns (and u-turns!) to experience how some poems are truly about the journey.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine

[killing a sacred deer]


anything helps to even out a wobbling table

but my father—

he takes a pair of scissors, cuts an empty tetra pack

of rat poison

into neat business cards and hands me one

to fold like a betel leaf


at my practiced gestures, the

card bends, I catch a 1,3 difluo, an Ars, an ium, a thal—


warping around edges, waterfalling

onto the other

side just as the other side is othered again & again till I

reach the end of the card



this I wedge

under the squiggly leg of our table, the table


like a dancer posing for a photograph in the middle of

a routine—I have done this



taking a form and turning it

into a stopper

to balance the wobble in my



the cot in my room lost its squeak a year ago

how else

do you think a world goes silent



[variations on ‘everything has two endings’ by Jane Hirshfield]


often i think of the tattoo on your left hand, at the base of the

thumb with its half-moon


instead of sayin’ “purple hat,”

they all say “hurple pat”


we are reading from Silverstein’s Runny Babbit to each other

in that old country library somewhere between


Boise and Wyoming

did we giggle like two teenagers sharing a dirty joke?


i hear your name every time David Naimon says

‘narrative’ in his podcasts


it was a right hand the colour of a fading summer

leaf, that tattoo


how it points to the knucklebone every time you make a hoop

w/ your thumb and the index—


an almost perfect circle around which all veins flowed*



a wreath

see, everything has two endings





long stalks of blue, red and bleak yellow flames

e bought

m washed our glass vase, filled it with running


u clipped those graceful stalks into short wands,

and speared them

into the vase while i dropped a pearl

of aromatic oil


and there they remained, lit on the kitchen table

wilting lighthouses, still

as a heron on the verge of a strike

we were the fish, always

busy little troutsouls waltzing around, waiting to be struck

to die and be spawned in an instant by the

spectacle, again; again


it is this i give you

a sharp, decaying stillness, decaying into


you must find out for yourself


think of them as arrows in a quiver

think of them as the minute hands of a grandfather

clock, leaking

away their scented hours


once a floret fell on the table

i kept it inside a book to keep track of my reading

progress, still have it

the flower with a book as a flowermark


all these metaphors i give you

you will need them for the


are there bees where you live, are there abandoned

wasp nests flicked by the last burst of

pulse, what about

grievances to rake before the winter?



[one way of looking at a horse]



Sometimes, instead of the distance I find myself

looking at, say, the hair on my wrist.

All that vastness surrendered for blades of black

grass. What I gain is a turf to graze.



Like a horse painting on a wall, my gaze. Tamed

by the geometry.



When I release my gaze back into the distance, it takes

a moment for the gaze to get used to the new

preposition: from looking at something to looking into

a lack thereof.



When I say the distance, what I mean is an awareness

of the distance. What I mean is love. How else

will the gaze know it is a part

of what it is seeking?



If I stand between you & the horizon, my gaze a far-

flung stone, am I a wall or a portrait?



If you find yourself at a shore, would you look at the

waves or the vastness?



Only the longing gaze finds the horizon.



Only the longing gaze finds the horizon.


Image credits: Sequence of a race horse galloping. Photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge (died 1904), first published in 1887 at Philadelphia. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Needless to say, the poem “one way of looking at a horse” inspires this choice. We may be capable of perceiving motion, but to understand it, takes some kind of recording that must stand outside the flow of that motion. Photographers take photos, writers write, and banner-image selectors may sometimes step sideways.

There are several wonderful online articles on Eadweard (yes, it’s not ‘Edward’) Muybridge’s remarkable photographic recording, the first ever, of the horse in motion. Advanced the cause of science, etc. But really, also, just bloody cool.

Author | summa iru

summa iru happened when a poet came across Rilke’s Book of Hours. The rest, as they say, is a dog whistle.

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