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FICTION & POETRY

Six Poems

Ghee Persad


I.

You know straight away it’s ghee 

and not oil but you can’t eat it 

without gambling for the price 

of home-feelings, you may soon lose 

a toe, then a foot, then your leg. 

Call it faith—like drinking Ganga water? 

Call it an offering, like this sweet, 

that stood at the bronze feet of the ten-

weaponed, tiger-riding Devi. You’ve 

recounted the tale of how she slew 

the demon-headed asura who made 

a compact with the gods so strong 

they trembled in heaven, how 

sugar is also divine and terrible. 


II.


First hot the karahi with ghee and paache de flouah till ‘e brown-brown den add de sugah and slow slow pour de milk zat ‘e na must get lumpy.


Like you mek fe you sista fust picknki ke nine-day, how you tuhn and tuhn ‘am in de pot hard-hard you han’ been pain you fe days, but now you see how ovah-jai you sistah face been deh. You live fe dis kine sweetness.


You eat one lil lil piece an’ know dis a de real t’ing. 


Like when a-you been small an’ you home been bright wid bhajans play steady, how de paper bag wha’ been get de persad became clear from de ghee you been hable fe see you own face.


III.


You pass though 


ever kind watah,


there is always new 


life to celebrate.


 

Seawall At Morning

Georgetown, Guyana 2019




What starts at night

startles the dawn:


rain water replenishes the trench

lotus stalks and petals stand tall


Seawall signs painted Namasté in acrylic 


Beyond, the sea silts brown as mud as

a frigate soars wings of stone. 


And beyond:

a ship with sails from 1838


I look twice—


an oil rig? Another form

of bondage?



 

Pandemic Love Poem


One by one 

the yellow jackets

leave their nest, 

a hole covered 

with decaying leaves 

that warm the ground 

and an inert queen

they’ve fed 

all autumn. What sleeps 

inside will one 

day burst into 

a wind of wings. 

What will wake 

a sleeping queen? 

Beneath my waist 

growing larger, 

the sting of nights one 

by one, when 

I am stranger and 

stranger to you. 

We sleep in a converted

porch, wooden siding, 

the wall that insulates 

what’s inside it

which is not you, 

nor is it me. 

The bedclothes stiffen 

with cold. Remember

me? One by 

one peel the yellow 

sheets from our nest. Prick me

with your heat

from sleep. Place 

a cardamom pod

under my tongue.

Come, dissolve 

with me.


 

Sita ke Jhumar


स्टाब्ब्रुक के बाजार में अंगूठिया गिरी गयल रे।

स्टाब्ब्रुक के बाजार में अंगूठिया गिरी गयल रे।

हमसे खिसियाई बाकी हमार गलतिया नाहीं ।

सास करइला चोखा खावे, ससुर दारू पिये।

ससुराल में परदेसिया रोटी थपथपे अउर दाल चउंके।

आमवा लाये भेजल हमके जीरा लाये भेजल हमके।

बाकरा ठगल हमके संगे जाने ना माँगे है।

गिनिप लाये भेजल हमके जमुन लाये भेजल हमके।

ससुराल में परदेसिया, मासाला पीसे अउर बड़ा तले।

ओरहन पेटाइहे हमार माइ के, बाबा से खिसीयाइहे।

साँइया खिसियाई हमसे गलतिया नाहीं हमार रामा।

स्टाब्ब्रुक के बाजार में अंगूठिया गिरी गयल रे





stabroek ke bajar mein anguthi giri gayal re

stabroek ke bajar mein anguthiya giri gayal re

hamse khisiyayi baki hamar galtiya nahi

saas karaila choka khawe sasur daru piye

sasural mein pardesiya roti thapthape aur daal chaunke

aamwa laye bhejal hamke jira laye bhejal hamke

backra thagal hamke sange jane na mange hai

guinip laye bhejal hamke hamun laye bhejal hamke

sasural mein pardesiya, masala pise aur barah tale

orahan petaihai hamar mai ke baba se khisiyai hai

saiya khisiyaiyi hamse galtiya nahin hamar rama

stabroek ke bajar mein anguthiya giri gayal re





Me ring fall from me finga a Stabroek.

Me husban’ go vex. He mudda’ wan’ eat

karaila chokha, he faddah suck rum steady.

Me na nut’in’ to dem. Me does clap a-roti

an’ chounke de daal. Me husban’ send

me a market fe buy mangro an’ fe get jeera.

Backra been tek me ‘way wid dem come,

me na been wan’ fe come ‘way. Me husban’

send me mus’ buy guinip an’ jamun.

Me na no one fe he mai-baap. Me does pise

de masala me does fry de barah. ‘E go sen’

complaint to me mumma an’ vex wid me faddah.

Me husban’ go vex wid me but nut’in’ me na do.

Me ring fall from me han’ a Stabroek.





My ring slipped from my finger,

in Stabroek market. My love 

will be angry for what was his 

fault. His mother’s eaten karaila 

chokha his father’s sucked rum.

I’m a stranger in their home,

clapping roti, spicing daal.

My love sent me to buy mangoes,

he sent me to buy jeera. Backra 

kidnapped me; I didn’t want

to go. My love sent me to buy 

guinips, to buy jamun. I’m a stranger 

in their home, grinding spices, 

frying barah. He will complain

to my mother, gripe to my father. 

My love, it’s not my fault. My ring 

fell off in Stabroek market.


 

IN SHIPS [HONORING MAHADAI DAS’ “THEY CAME IN SHIPS”]


West—


               


They came



     dancing



  and despondent

       


hungry


gaunt



alone



do not forget



the field


or



your blood




    I lost 


the yokes of


rage


in chains.


 

Janam Bhumi

 

In November of 2019 the Indian courts allowed the Modi administration to construct a Ram temple at the site of the demolished 16th century Babri Masjid built by the Mogul ruler Babur. On August 5, 2020 they broke ground for the new mandir.

 

Jai Sri Ram, now god of murder. What

is real, Rushi, the forest is now

deforest, home its own undoing?

 

Trench lotuses hard as dicks release

truth, even the skinks and hawks shrink back

into scarcity. What of shanti—?

 

In Ayodhya’s sacked Mogul masjid,

vultures scrawl Ram on new temple bricks.

Brother, from this mandir of burning,

 

each sunrise mantra shoots itself

a poisoned arrow. Each snake prays.

The unlit path sparkles maya. 


ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
AUTHOR
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AUTHOR
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Artwork by Kareen Adam for SAAG (Monoprinted, digitally animated collage, ink on paper, 2020).

SHARE ARTICLE:
Poetry
Guyana
Indo-Caribbean
Bondage
Colonialism
Mahadai Das
Babri Masjid
Ayodhya

RAJIV MOHABIR is the author of The Cowherd’s Son (Tupelo Press 2017), The Taxidermist’s Cut (Four Way Books 2016). He translated I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (1916) (Kaya Press 2019) from Awadhi-Bhojpuri (folk languages from the Indo-Caribbean of Demerara) and received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Award and the 2020 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the American Academy of Poets. His memoir Antiman (Restless Books 2021)was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Nonfiction, and the 2022 PEN Open Book Award. His poetry collection Cutlish (Four Way Books, 2021) was longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award, amongst other awards. He is currently Assistant Professor of poetry in the MFA program at Emerson College.

Poetry
Guyana
31 Oct 2020

KAREEN ADAM is a Maldivian-Australian visual artist sharing her time between Maldives and Melbourne, Australia. The experience of living between multiple cultures, particularly negotiating between the East and the West informs her practice. Ideas about transitions, cultural identity, and the juncture between 'local' and the 'visitor' emerge in her work. Her current projects explore representations of island tourist destinations and island diaspora. Kareen explores these ideas using various mediums including printmaking, drawing, painting and digital multi-media. Kareen is the creator and maker “Kudaingili”—a range of hand-made, hand-printed products. Kareen has curated exhibitions, and exhibited her art works in Maldives, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and the Asia Pacific region. She has a Diploma in Visual Arts from the Southbank Institute of Technology, Brisbane and a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology from the Queensland University of Technology.

RAJIV MOHABIR

In Ayodhya’s sacked Mogul masjid / vultures scrawl Ram on new temple bricks.

VOL. 1
31 Oct 2020
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