One of the ‘discussions’ (our polite word for arguments) we repeatedly have at TBLM is whether it is more fulfilling to feature the work of writers whose work we already have a connection with, or writers who are new to us, and therefore newly compelling. The first come with the delight and assurance of a richly weathered style, and the second bring with them surprises which can challenge us out of our comfort zones.
When I first read Samar’s poems, I was struck by the title of the very first piece. As a poet I do not have the easiest relationship with titles; perhaps that is why as an editor I am so alert to them. When the arresting title was backed up by a nuanced Ars Poetica meditation, we knew that we were looking at an interesting new voice. Or consider the freshness of ‘A Perfect Horse’ a poem that deals with bipolar disorder and the artistic talent that often accompanies this condition. The poem addresses a curious dilemma; if one cannot be divorced from the other, is it worth holding on to the art and the illness both? ‘A Lock of Antler’ has a similar doomed recognition where the creature’s own attractiveness turns out to be fatal: ‘Spare this poor animal / the guilt of being / killed by its own face’.
The verdict on the ‘discussion’? We’re still making up our minds, but before we do, we’re making our way back to Samar’s Indian Uncles!
— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine
Paper Weights. Waits. Weighs. Waste.
These words were caught
in the night, in rat traps
I laid on the clean floor.
Pinned down, snatched
from their spellings, they wriggle
to remain undeciphered.
Fur and pink feet inspected
for meaning, they say nothing good
ever schemed onto a page.
I feel them hatching
in every direction.
The moment I set
the traps loose,
a poem disappears.
A Lock of Antler
This deer needs a haircut.
Slice off some horn before it
curves inward to grow
right through its cheek
and betray its perch
in full knowledge
of what bore the weight
and nursed the stubs,
ate dead velvet
to free it up – ready to love
how blood vessels taste.
Spare this poor animal
the guilt of being
killed by its own face.
A Perfect Horse
I am tired, beloved Art, of bleeding for you and bipolar
both. My blood only consented to you, not your fanged
pet now brokering our embrace. You must pick
between us – cut the tumour and let things
pour. To aid your choice, I will draw a horse so perfect
that infants in distant lands will awaken
and burst into symphonic tears;
dead languages will crack the ground from
underneath, chasing dictionaries with pitchforks;
old white plumbers will gather at street corners
and angrily demand the reunification of Korea;
emotional mules will burn bottles of hoof sanitiser
to protest cruel, impossibly high beauty standards.
A horse so perfect
that stubbled Teletubbies will share needles next
to garbage dumps, cussing out passing schoolchildren;
opticians will chop contact lens cases in half,
to accommodate a new, surging cyclops clientele;
sharks will pull their oars out of the air, retiring
from upside down underwater boating;
clear goblets will wail the highest note,
shattering opera singers to wild applause.
Beloved Art, as you can see, all this is lovely.
your answer, the clipped umbilical, the broken pole.
Portrait of Indian Males – Uncles Away From Wives
A plate bears kababs and tikkas, onions and green chutney,
poured from small plastic bags knotted at the top.
There is no point in wondering why they began
with forks, if they eventually had to use their hands.
Some wipe them on their pants. Some put theirs in their pockets and conduct
a dexterous, internal wiping ritual. Some suck their fingers. One uses the curtain.
After attaining the highest form of Indian maleness – breath in the traditional
mixture of onion, whiskey and garlic – and burping spices like dragonfire – they opine and advise on several things.
The respected elder sits shirtless with his arms cradling his head from behind.
His grey armpit hairs shoot out like bouquets and fountains, fluttering
slightly under the fan.
They look like old shuttle corks, and are threatening to take over – like ambitious worms. He burps richly and his head – an ugly bridge between his shrubs – talks seriously.
Deep disagreement follows after each one claims – with a smug smile – to know
who will win the coming election. They all claim to have the ‘inside news’.
The elder lifts a buttcheek and farts his soul out. “Inside news,” he says, scratching
a damp armpit, inhaling his fingers.
Samar is a writer, musician and journalist from New Delhi. Graduating in philosophy from Hindu College, he has worked at the Asian Age, Mint, Rock Street Journal, Hardnews Magazine, The Wire and Times of India. He has recently concluded writing a debut poetry collection and is currently working on a novel. He also records and performs alternative rock and rap under the projects Samar and New Delhi Revival.