Vol V No V
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Published quarterly beginning February 2021
Sophia Naz Five Poems
The alphabet soldiers
many times its weight
no way to out fox-
hole ant, black on back
up against the wall
scroll on despite
Vault the bereft keep
count, multiplication divides
red flags blue & white
masks falling down
say, can you see
to don pinnacle
Take off your shoes outside this shrine
where ghosts of the mother
tongue reside, alongside
lamps of extinguished geographies
Should I gauze this Dacca muslin today?
Say: *mull, mull, glaze a homonym hymn
in Kabir’s cadence over an earthen p(l)ot
of amputated thumbs?
Warp and weft pour from the cleft
mandible as tomb, sanctum
sanctorum, womb of wombs
mother tongues ferment
Matryoshka dolls, each within
another, mother, grandmother
great grandmother till the last pod
God — embedded seed syllable wails
Ma, mother of memory, heal me
unmake my prosaic days of bricks
troll *bhooths, malware, endless phishes
click by click the dick pics box me in
*Anarkali, sentenced to snark alley
by that blind emperor, autocorrect
the walls the walls are closing in
trance fixed on a selfie stick
Mother of memory, Ma, reveal me
a heaving loom the greater grid
buried in these lines, electrify a thousand-
fold suns in the mouth of every silence
From Open Zero (publication forthcoming).
mull mull: A homonym for mulmul, a very fine muslin renowned all over pre-Partition India and of such fine quality that the British cut off all the thumbs of the weavers who produced it in order to protect the British textile industry.
bhooths: Evil spirits.
Anarkali: Pomegranate Bud, heroine of Mughal Azam, a popular Indian film epic in which she is sentenced to death by being walled up alive for the crime of loving the crown prince.
Skin Like Paper
In Memoriam, Zarina (1937–2020)
Everything unsaid condensed
in that jagged line, featureless on both
sides of the divide that, compelled
to hem as children, freehand, spoon fed
memory from the pot of royal blue
India ink splotches all over
the map, fresh blood
a smell that clings
to paper like skin
line that thick rag paper yielded
supine below a lover’s nails, raw earth
succession of severed witness fingers
line you swallowed like a sword
drew out, blackened from alembic
some called alif, others parallel
bars of a cage, destined to run
the length of a life
yet never meet
What is home? Only the moon
is sky clad
For the rest of us, toil
the flapping of wings
faraway, out of reach.
First published by Chapati Mystery.
alif: The alif (the letter a) is isolated in writing. This means that it cannot be written connected to the letter following it. The alif thus symbolizes transcendent, unqualified essence. The downward stroke of the alif symbolizes universal manifestation from the highest state of Being to the lowest one.
The jilted’s fifty six stabbings
could not kill Janaki Bai
as chappan churri
When I type
churri, autocorrect is also
a stab at language
giving me the option
of cherry, char
cheri, churn, churl,
chi and occasionally, chai
A conjoined cup I sip
walk a tightrope
one foot in each bone-cheeni
my lines are burning fiercely
each wound giving me
a brand new mouth
The Last Beekeeper
Bees are living
in my eyes, they feed
on my tears, all day
and through the kohl
black night, I can hear
them buzzing as they mill
my dreams to honey, hum
incessantly in the raga reserved
for species on the brink of extinction.
I blink the bleak milk back, lachrymose
to the core, at the thought of being
this ocular cave hole, last recourse
of Apis Mellifera, sweltering belly
to melting poles
First published in Erothanatos.