Fists That Turn Like Keys

On May 6, 2016 by admin


Aishwarya Iyer



Splitting Seed


How often must we arise from this seed

Yellow, nutted, moon-spent, tree-withered,

The seed splits and leaves climb out, thus flow tears,

Time spreads like disease, the swell of mood hangs

Over split seed—


Hands, legs, tongue, hair—bodies roam about in space

The city is abluster, automobiles now have faces,

The city where eyes wander, where stones are broken,

Where language has no home: ‘Drive Slow’, ‘Kanti Sweets’,

‘Herculean Builders’, ‘Pasta Street’; the city where the hand

betrays the leg, the mouth betrays the eye, where the ground

breaks like seed, but nothing climbs out, thus flow tears—


Between us great distances hang in the smallest of words:

‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘of course’; sometimes dictionaries are the end

of meaning; the garbage dump got cleared; we ache to know

wherefrom we speak; how often must we arise from this seed?


Afternoon flows out of the sun’s tongue:

the day is some kind of speech.





Iggalur, or Far from the City

The fields are woven from hands, air, water and sun,

The eyes of stalks gleam in the afternoon

The trunks of trees offer vertical hold

Far from the city, from the sleep of human beings,

Time goes into the body of plants

So full is this passage that night too is left undreamt

Time is eaten—and plants grow.



After Paul Celan


Keep your words married to their sense, the sense married to absence.

Don’t lead them too far astray, hollowed, searching for their point of emergence.

But if they search for their shadows, let them, for shadows are what bind them to breath.


A word is a stone without its breath.





A meeting like one where the sky and earth meet

is illusory, we all know

The sky and earth walk together in their meeting

Their meeting being a not-meeting;


Our bodies are held in curtains:

The azaan, the temple bells, the chants next door

leave a gold rush that is too bright on them.

Our bodies, when they meet, must walk together

The legs with legs

Hands with hands

My language cupped in yours—

That gold dust torn off must envelop us in a far circle

Minting fresh moments like chants.


No, our bodies shall not chime, they shall not sing

They shall not announce any god

Like the blush of sky and earth in embrace at sunset

Our bodies will shiver warm at the passing of time

Mark day and night, become sun and moon.


They shall be held in curtains too.





Make Time


Make time

Make time from the joyous tinny screams of children

Bathing in afternoon sun


Sew time from the leaves holding out to the afternoon

Belting the terraces of low houses

Rising like invisible ears


The crow looks askance. The truth is here.

Make space for the shearing of time

The glass-pulp of action froths to the top


The dove that floated in its sky will be lost



Scene from a First-floor Window

Over the treetops comes a surge

that swallows the eyesight of dreamers

The construction workers have wet their feet

in ditch water; one lights a cigarette

and launches into a tale for the other

They sit on a slab and wait for the afternoon darkness

to bleed; the koel has come visiting, but you almost

forget to hear her, the green of the trees runs into her voice;

The rattle of implements has a sharper sting; clotheslines

become forlorn and balconies begin to be besieged;

The earth had been asking her due with iron stillness

Now way’s made to cure her of her bitter agony.



We are in flames…

We are in flames

Very often the evening spars

And the night is a cauldron for little fires

The splinters come from everywhere

Sparks dripping about the construction worker

The crackling voices of playing children

The television makes other fires in homes;

You and I are hands aclap

Your words are fists that turn like keys

The locks are between us.





And that blesséd word with no meaning—who will utter it?

                                                                                   —Agha Shahid Ali

stars vanishing into nothingness

stop and turn back to participate

in the utterance of your name

that becomes the element of time


your name breaks into numerous syllables

and with it brings suffering to sound

the stars race against the shatter,

against time, holding your name together


your name engulfs the splicing of days

the morning, a dewdrop from your name

the night, a pod for your name

your name bristles under the earth

leaving the ground groundless


far from the concert of stars

fall crystals of duration

hours and days spent in your name





Which kind of flesh have you found pierced in the encounter?

You and I, suppurating leaves falling from a naked tree

Cut off, with blood sap

We were never joined, and now finding our midribs in line

Our flesh disappears, the green grows distant

We have grown eyes



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