Poems: A Selection


What should poetry mean to a woman in the hills

as she sits one long sloping summer evening

in Patria, Aizawl, her head crammed with contrary winds,

pistolling the clever stars that seem to say:

Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

So what if Ernestina is not a name at all,

not even a corruption, less than a monument. She will sit

pulling on one thin cigarillo after another, will lift her teacup

in friendly greeting to the hills and loquacious stars

and the music will comb on through her hair,

telling her: Poetry must be raw like a side of beef,

should drip blood, remind you of sweat

and dusty slaughter and the epidermal crunch

and the sudden bullet to the head.

The sudden bullet in the head. Thus she sits, calmly gathered.

The lizard in her blinks and thinks. She will answer:

The dog was mad that bit me. Later, they cut out my third eye

and left it in a jar on a hospital shelf. That was when the drums


Since then I have met the patron saint of sots and cirrhosis who

used to stand

in every corner until the police chased her down. She jumped

into a taxi.

Now I have turned into the girl with the black guitar

and it was the dog who died. Such is blood.

The rustle of Ernestina’s skirt will not reveal the sinful vine

or the cicada crumbling to a pair of wings at her feet.

She will smile and say: I like a land where babies

are ripped out of their graves, where the church

leads to practical results like illegitimate children and bad


quite out of proportion to the current population, and your


is kidnapped by demons and the young wither without complaint

and pious women know the sexual ecstasy of dace and peace is


by short men with a Bible and five big knuckles on their righteous


Religion has made drunks of us all. The old goat bleats.

We are killing ourselves. I like an incestuous land. Stars, be silent.

Let Ernestina speak.

So what if the rose are in disarray? She will rise

With a look of terror too real to be comical.

The conspiracy in the greenhouse, the committee of good women

They have marked her down

They are coming the dead dogs the yellow popes

They are coming the choristers of stone

We have been bombed silly out of our minds.

Waiter, bring me something cold and hard to drink.

Somewhere there is a desert waiting for me

And someday I will walk into it.


The reality of music is a problem

Waiting to be solved by the black guitar,

Not the girl, nor the jug of blue hibiscus

The pigeons are insane with grief because you left them

The clouds will be noble and distant as always

The scent of citrus flowers will fade in soft explosions

And the girl will put a blue hibiscus in her hair

And the computer will speak in flawless Japanese

Talking of the elegant instant and how the quasars are

Forever expanding

How the jealousy of common stuff finds itself fully

In an uncommon criminal act. In the red earth lay her like a seed.

The sad subterranean gong1 will go on accusing

Until it becomes the black guitar and music becomes

A cleft of a certain colour waiting for the first quiver of strings,

Until the gong is quiet and the woman in the earth goes to sleep.


I will leave words too and be

A gunrunner, keep a boy to thrash

When he’s lazy or stupid or because

I feel like it. Give up cigarettes, take up

Opium instead… because, you know,

It sends us dreams.

I’m packing my things.

The sun can’t be much brighter there

Than here… but… anyway.

We all like to feel so special.


1 The ‘subterranean gong’ is an allusion to ‘Pi Hmuaki,’ said to be the first poet among the Mizos. As the story goes, she was such a prolific composer that the people of her village buried her alive with her gong to keep her company, so future generations would have something left to write about.

Default image

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124