He always came

when the chrysanthemums bloomed,

not a deliberately timed arrival though.

The staked, serrated white blooms

stark white in the darkening winter dusk

he hardly noticed.

Ushering him in, her bashful glance, trembling fingers, split second confusion

he noticed.

Before he took leave,

in the awkward silence —thirty seconds—

he bought time

fingering the spiky,

ticklish texture of the flowers and asked

in blissful, botanical ignorance

the usual question:

Are these dahlias or marigolds?

Too polite to correct

she’d smile — a wide smile,

her lashes lowered — and

the chrysanthemums paled

into insignificance.

The evening

stretched to its elastic limits

catapulted into night.

What she didn’t know was

that he had always known

they were chrysanthemums.


As I made tea

on a metallic stove,

he stood chatting,

leaning by the door

catching up on the three years

of exile and silence

through mango-blossom- fragrant summers,

foggy, surrealistic winters.

This time it was tea bags-Tetley-

dipped in frothing, boiling milk

poured into ceramic cups

placed in precision

between us.

Between sips

he spoke

of his Caribbean cruise

night ride down the Nile

the Black Forest drive


Between us now

the empty cups

and the three years…

The three years

that had drained the lemony hues

off mustard fields in winter bloom;

the indigo blues off summery skies

rent by the cries of roosting parakeets;

the silvery rhymes off slanting rains

rhyming over tiled roofs and banana groves.


I blame others

for the things I lose.

Pam, for the vanishing

of a dappled silk scarf at Dilly Haat

trawling through hyper, tourist-shoppers

dazed by fashion wheel defying

clash-color ethnic-wear.

Promila, for a pied one

on a rainy day, hop scotching puddles

through acute-angled, cow-congested

bylanes of Shapurjut.

Now, this one, a muffler,

a red and green tartan symphony

picked up at Harrods in memory

of Diana and Dodi,

lost on a twilight walk

through your nondescript neighbourhood,

was looped around my neck

as a style statement.

Oh! really, your raised eyebrows asked?

I had gagged on it

what with the seesawing temperatures,

your guided tour profound pronouncements

on your neighborhood landmarks-

the church, the school, the wooded hillock park,

Building-Code violations in Punjabi baroque.

Then I remember

twining it in a trance

around my shoulder bag.

No style statement this…

Was it during the walk?

Your faster than usual walk,

that had me hopping and running

on my chilblained feet

through a roller coaster shady path

to catch up with your whimsical talk

of starting a club – an exclusive one

of just kids and you-

to game through life

defying logic and locale?

The walk, the talk,

the tentacles of a dense winter darkness

slithering through the meshed branches

had enmeshed me in a moment of dread,

of what will be left of this wood and us

ten years from now, oh no, one year from now…

The secret, winding, green-canopied path for two

abruptly ended in incongruity

at a milk booth and grocery.

A futile, frantic rewind-fast forward-search

In the darkening gloom…

And then, cold comfort your words,

Next time around London

maybe I could look in at Harrods…


The Chopping Board — Made in China –

picked up perhaps from the wayside

on exploratory walks through mazy Hauz Khas

portrayed picture perfect mutant women

of Chinese —Japanese descent or vice versa

sporting passion-red flowers, secret smiles.

Endless possibilities

in this sexist gift.

I can see myself

chopping, chopping, chopping –

patting back in place from my bent face

a teasing spiral strand —

in a gloomy, grimy kitchen

churning out wicked,

South Indian spicecraft

to lie in wait for an onslaught

on your taste buds,

then to waylay

and smother you

with my spiced up ways…

Or after power game weary

trysts at Madras Café, Ganga Dhaba

and chosen-on-the-spot green belts

drive back home for a cathartic kick

through transference

chopping, chopping, chopping

making mince meat of you

in a tearing-hair-frenzy

of frustration, despair

or whatever!

Or in demure, smug happiness

prop it up as a picture piece

to be viewed at will

during kitchen weary pauses,

mix drudgery with desire…

Possibilities endless…

All said and done, a great gift,

I concede,

from someone who went back

in cyclic patterns to Erie Berne

to script and seal my fate

through this eloquently mute gift.


NEERADA SURESH. Is a poet and translator based in New Delhi with many creative pieces to her credit. She has published two collections of her poems Bonsai and Reeds in the Wind.

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Is a poet and translator based in New Delhi with many creative pieces to her credit. She has published two collections of her poems Bonsai and Reeds in the Wind.

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