There is a lull here
some dog begins his beat
cars stifle their laughter
the birds have nothing to say
a peacock pretends to pick the weeds



Tonight as dark clouds pass thunder-laden,
I walk an ocean bed, the glowing creatures of which
swarm about my naked legs.

Hart Crane isn’t dead. I’ve known him these 79 years.
I saw him sifting pebbles on the beach, his toe outstretched,
by the Arabian Sea, where wild ass and bustard throng
the estuaries and strange fish are auctioned on full moon nights.
He had on a vest and trousers, a mouth red with recitation.
The swaying motion on the bank of the river fell.
The swaying motion on the bank, over and over.
He said the sharks were waiting out at sea,
where the tide never recedes and everything is static.
I wanted to make my way into his hand,
but didn’t know how to bring it up.
We stayed until he waded out to sea. In those parts,
the seabed breaks into a gorge a city couldn’t fill.
I half lay on my side until he never found
what he was looking for and
followed him thereafter
around the seas of the world, though
often I was spurned ashore.


Riding a Bicycle

My fingertips know every cow that chanced by. My locks
Have been stretched in the wind.
I know every rut, each low-hanging bough.

Tractors have raced me across mud mounds and pit traps.
I can tell from the puff of soil
How deep its hollows go.

From the fortress of Deo Garh to the Golden Malabar,
Over cliffs, through estuaries, beyond where the earth curves
One day they will see me in the Savannah. I will go by with a roar


Lifecycle of a Pedestrian

Filth lashed streets, wires skein drawn, dripping greasy silt stalactites.
Webs catch the light of yellow halogen, long locks.
All that is visible of his head by a road by a black backwater.
Where a row of rusted chassis, shattered windshields, are one against another.

Webs of webs catch the light of halogen, from afar a dark bridal gown.
At some stretch closer twinkling galaxies fixed your addled smile in response.
Where a row of rusted chassis, shattered windshields, are one against another.
Space all around could have been free fall, but obviously isn’t

At some distance closer twinkling galaxies swarmed lights everywhere.
Night turns, it began swarming fleas in his hair. But not the black backwater.
In space, or deep under water, there are zones outside all fields of influence, all equal.
At nine he still sleeps facing east, in this weather the sun mellows as it grows.

It was swarming fleas in his hair. But not the black backwater. Artery of waste.
Or ferment, crumbly cheese, curd from yesterday, woozy wine.
At nine am you were not giving in but driving to the floor, into corners, behind walls
Rushing as you went, led by magnetic charge.

Cheese, yesterday’s curd, floors and walls, you love the fungus.
Smells of the apocalypse, which is endless, unfulfilling, and nice.
If either of you tore you don’t know, a split space when she was alone, and you.
Knew evenings hang heavy with a sweet spice, early mornings a lighter white flower.

It smells of blood, not coursing, but frothing, conduit of poison, like the backwater.
Mornings the dead puddle fills up with slush, little holes are punched into dough.
Heavy with butter, punched-in shapes of flowers, bake in a horizontal tandoor.
Everybody can touch, walk by, drive by, he’ll still lie, matted.

Puddles, even dead ones, fill up. Designs are delicate here, after November.
On the wet floor, sometimes summer leaves your memory, winter isn’t here.
Everybody can touch, or whatever, it doesn’t matter which way or another.
In oceans, out of range of sonar, no day, night, nothing but the core.

On a well floor in this plain summer and winter are harsh and haven’t met.
Even on sweaty days in November, not in hovels, thoroughfares, or shortcuts.
Where everybody can feel bread, pinch off a piece, or go by in a low car, slow.
Sour cheese, salty bread, green chillies, dodge the puddles, step on some.

Even on a sweaty day at noon, by a thoroughfare, facing east—it doesn’t matter.
A week’s rest from aimless walking and smack, or wine, or something.
Fine print of flower on baked dough, outside stalactites, some dodged, a few not.
You ached onward so slowly a war might have come.

Aimless where all law is nature, you may as well have fermented.
Caught her animal odour in your corners, licked yourself, a cat who likes the rot.
Slowly forward, or race, doesn’t matter where, motion might drive
The call of prayer all five times, morning people, evening people, the last low car.

Caught animal in your corner, cat who likes the rot, wailing midnights now.
Camouflaged by shadows in the garden, under tree trunks and bramble.
Morning people: evening might see her, so might that last low car.
Then she leaps, all muscle, gone. Except for a rustle on the roof.

Of a house, camouflaged by garden, trees and dusty by evening bramble.
By the road where his locks are all you see now facing south, a compass.
A rustle on the roof, he lies as though he doesn’t know there are others.
On this road, shattered windshields, people odour.

Winter facing south causes amnesia, whether anything else ever was. I know.
I noted it down. Everyone touched and felt the mantis in its season.
On the road, but no one remembers. Your head was a blast furnace for glass.
Or crystal or whatever she was made of. You were dog fighting, kite fighting.

Everyone was touched, all attended court, in good season, or worse.
Laughed about something, got ten more, sing the mantis in their season.
Dogs, kites, low cars become twinkling beetles, swarming-clambering all over
Her dark clothes, a galaxy of orange stars from afar. You’re smiling, still.

Sing the mantis, still there’s that pavement with the dead man now facing north.
No one knows, until the object there, is not horizontal, all of a sudden.
her dark scent, you lick off your corners, smile, twinkle orange.
You dodge wires, skein drawn, taut, live, lashed, orange, soot, all.


Sonali Raj

Sonali Raj

Sonali Raj received her MFA in creative writing from City University, Hong Kong. She lives in New Delhi.