An avid reader of the Punjab Kesari, my father
uses the toilet longer than any man.
Forgetting how these conversations always end,
I express my repugnance over a mob lynching.
If they know beef hurts our
sentiments, he asks me, why eat it?
On the screen, a pack of gray wolves
hungry for days, hound a reindeer.
I tell him lynchings are unjust
even if someone eats a cow solely to offend.
How can you ever compare human life
with a cow’s?
The music in the room rises to a crescendo
falls to the sound of teeth against neck.
Deer in the jaw of a wolf — the pack slows,
the death of their hunger close.
A hundred and one Muslims can be sacrificed
for a single hair of a cow.
The Nat Geo narrator calls it the circle of life.
My father calls it survival.
My Helpless Ode
My father asks me to write
a perfect poem, one with no moon.
All moon-poems are clichés,
he says, plus it makes me think
of Muslims and you know how
I feel about them. So if there is
even half a moon in your poem,
I’ll drink tonight. I chip the moon
from my perfect poem and look
for other things. I try to add
oranges, honeybees, a fire licking
a lake of knives, a woman who
is smoke if you look closely, a pig
which is not really a pig but a man
with a dead dog in his arms,
a laughing light, a pink clock
with Shaolin swords as its arms,
Sisyphus’ boulder rolling down,
winged apples, walking pens,
a yawning book — I stash
these images in the refrigerator,
and when my father asks me
to serve him a perfect poem, I offer
him a Black Dog. He’s so dazzled
that instead of saying your poem
couldn’t have been more perfect,
if there is a thing such as that,
he forgets his promise and swigs
the whisky neat, wipes his lips
into a grin. I cry green
tears and dream of carrying
a crescent moon on my head
for the rest of the night.
Nine Reasons to Write a Ghazal in a Time of Fascism
Draw on tongues of two worlds to light a ghazal.
Hijack the fire of the sun, sing the night a ghazal.
You are a passenger of grief, your Stygian
soul one noun alone ignites: a ghazal.
Some break a mosque, some build a temple.
Some bite the bullet, I bite a ghazal.
Blackbird, parrot, nightingale, all need to sing.
When we can compose, why fight a ghazal?
The world brims with bruises and paper.
Curves of words spark respite—a ghazal!
Words elude us in weighted times.
Give in to the want of calm, flight a ghazal.
They’ve changed names of cities, now erasing Nehru;
write, write before they come to set alight a ghazal.
It is a body suited to joy and light. I want to pen—
though, father, you look at me with spite—a ghazal.
Karan, are you ashamed of being a Hindu?
If not, then why should you write a ghazal?