You can kiss yourself in the mirror, but only on the lips.
—Neil deGrasse Tyson
1. In pink city Jaipur, I see Delhi’s first cousin suffering from a good-natured malaise, a want to please, a want to be enjoyed like a body—mellow, sacred after a warm bath, more succulent than most virtues.
2. When I hear from afar your fluttering voice, I hear cradlesong of the summer I spent in a village drinking from the lake. Like an almond meshed into chicken curry, a memory too becomes a faultless way to enhance texture.
1. I’m trying to shake off a vigorous mood. Last night in a club that rocked to bhangra beats, I danced like I had no feet, staring at chandeliers that swung like fists from an overhead garage of illuminated hands and thought about my tongue on a thigh bruise deprived of sunlight for days.
2. The crevasses punctuating your arias are my fertile pits. Here, I lie soundless like an abandoned thought. Here, I revel in the infinitesimal probabilities of easier miracles, calculating time difference from longitudes striping the walls and parting our windows.
1. I condone these daft pleasures for I adore the clarity gifted by pulsing spaces, as if propelled by a snaking roller-coaster finally free of the burden of coming to a halt.
2. I don’t know how arithmetic crept into all this, except that these numbers whether on clocks, registers or holy books constitute the pathology of my small accomplishments.
1. Been this way for a while now. Cities in this country look to each other for compassion. While some of them flame, governed by the name of the God furrowing our brows—yes, the estranged one curdling the ink of passport letterheads, we pray for someone to pray to.
2. Lord, if you’re still there, I’m asking you to explain why desire comes ingrained with the cardinality of digits. Quixotic in the way they could reveal anything: the radius of a moment, the depth of meaning, the hard volume of a little or a lot of feeling.
1. When I slip on the lobby floor, the janitor in a flash wipes his fingers with a napkin before offering me a hand. I wonder if this is faith, the notion that his life has tribulations just like mine. I’m betrothed to my share but the idea—two humans negotiating strife side by side, minds working with limbs like clockhands of winter light, spreading shadowy azimuth on the sundial of a locust ridden desert—is irresistible.
2. The list of things I’m terrible at only gets longer, vine wrapping my knees tight on stormy nights. While nails advance towards their freedom, hairs knot underworlds beneath the sinkholes of loss. As a kid, I ate chiles knowing this would force my tongue to lap mounds of jaggery soon. The temptation of a final prize motivating towards suffering, this strategy I find still gaudy & beautiful.
1. At the end of a tiring day, the only religion: air, the only morality: touch.
2. The heart rents a palace and here from your brim emerges, the brilliant song of an ice cube dissolving in a glass of water. The invisible fountains spawned water in the kingdom’s forest.
1. The ability to praise is where I trust myself the most. Images stitching layers through mirrors weave the first pail of light.
2. In inexplicable consequence, self-pity like an overweight airplane starts jettisoning the red-dyed cargo sacks of pity. The self distends its belly in the blue air.
Why I’m telling you this, I wish I knew but my teeth only chew, it’s the mouth that bites—
Satya Dash is the recipient of the 2020 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Waxwing, Wildness, Redivider, Passages North, The Boiler, The Florida Review, Prelude, The Cortland Review, and The Journal among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He has been nominated previously for Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cuttack and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043
Photograph by Alex Lopez