An Imagerie (of Summer Afternoons) by Chetan Ashish (June 2021 Issue)

Three regrets sit outside my house and start arguing;
they make up eventually and share a cigarette.
A plume of cigarette smoke turns into a swallow,
it flies into a house being built and is trapped forever.
The ghost of a knife sharpener roams the streets,
he cries out his services — unheard then, and now too.
Five children look for a spot to resume playing cricket,
they find a severed ear and disappear into it.
A sanitation worker sits in a shade formed by lilies
and shares his lunch with a missing afternoon dog.
Grandmother hums and breaks down a chicken
while a group of cats waits outside for the gizzards.
You hang two chikankari kurtis and last night out to dry
and look at me with eyes carrying a composite sorrow.

___________

Chetan is a BTech graduate and a subsequent IT employee, who is actually a wannabe arts student. Poetry is his window to that world, supported by a passion for consuming and discussing cinema, literature, and music (mainly through an anti-caste and Marxist lens). It is also a means for him to understand his place in the world better, both personally and politically. He can also be found sitting by the window in his room sipping coffee, in the company of his best friend and pet shih-tzu Albus. You can find him on Instagram.

Torpor by Chetan Ashish (June 2021 Issue)

The summer that has squatted outside my house-
trudging through a mix of last night’s nightmare
and the heat already in the air.
I run towards a vague morning light with leaden legs
avoiding garbage strewn in cryptic patterns
and diseased dogs appearing at every turn.

Our dying conversations settled on the various objects in my room-
wading through used up words,
fallen like yesterday’s flowers atop the shed.
We indulge in passionless sex
As you stare without blinking at the grime on the ceiling fan
And I, at a couple of kites stuck in electric wires outside the window.

The day’s torpor stretched like a tundra-
swimming through the frozen moments
stuck together in the shivering hands of the clock, broken since December.
I descend down a blue screen
with an icy indifference both to the latest celebrity gossip
and the number of people who have died in the pandemic.

The city’s cement atmosphere-
passing through masked faces moving in unintentional unison
as if fated to the same destiny, if only until the next junction.
I wait for my bus to arrive
as I breathe in the dust of the human condition
that mixes with the lump in my throat from last winter.

The black and white television sand-
staring finally at the analogue of the absurd,
boxed in place by the night’s looping drone.
I try to move for that was my only rebellion against this
but all I can do now is pick at my nails
only conscious of them falling on the floor
and disappearing into its stagnant surface.

The viscous morass of reality-
sinking into the quicksand of my bed and blankets
and my syrupy cold sweat.
I try in vain to remind myself that stopping does not equal dying 
as I turn into abstract mosquitoes
and dissolve into a dream with polar bears playing on a beach.

_________________

Chetan is a BTech graduate and a subsequent IT employee, who is actually a wannabe arts student. Poetry is his window to that world, supported by a passion for consuming and discussing cinema, literature, and music (mainly through an anti-caste and Marxist lens). It is also a means for him to understand his place in the world better, both personally and politically. He can also be found sitting by the window in his room sipping coffee, in the company of his best friend and pet shih-tzu Albus. You can find him on Instagram.

Print Areas by Dr. Ashley Tellis (June 2021 Issue)

(For Somesh Dahiya)

As I lay beside you,
felt the heat of your body,
felt the print areas you placed between us,
the minutes ticked by and I saw how
even a night might have so many chapters,
how it can be so difficult
to turn a page, even one page,
to make us reach any closer.

But what struck me as even madder
and somehow more beautiful
was that I still wanted to edit the pages
between us:
place a comma here,
a colon there,
add a word here
cut some there
and never
let a full stop come between us.

______________

Dr. Ashley Tellis is a gay activist, poet, journalist, academic, editor, and general troublemaker. He is from Bombay, lives in Hyderabad, and longs to leave the country.

https://independent.academia.edu/AshleyTellis

https://linktr.ee/ATellis

Summer Scenes by Ankur Jyoti Saikia (June 2021 Issue)

Steadily discarding
it’s twilight robes
to the tunes of
rice planting songs
—the Sun ascends

Clouds rumble
heralding a shower
cows moo
goats bleat
—a wonderful chorus

The breeze of Spring
riding upon the fan
greets the trickling sweat
on a summer day
—a shudder passes

_________________

Ankur Jyoti Saikia (he/him) is a researcher at a forestry research institute in India. His work has been published in the Minison ZineBluepepper, Sledgehammer Lit, and Openwork Mag. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.

The Little Red Balcony by Akshay Balan (June 2021 Issue)

Summer feels starting
Sundays are now stay-at-home days
And step-outside nights,
And nights are now shorter than the clothes we wear,
And afternoons,
We sit by the aloe vera in my little red balcony.
Tender coconut water from Prabhakaran’s cart in one hand, Still in their shells, straw-less and doused in lemon
Spill over the sides of our mouths,
While on the other hand our cigarettes burn with envy, Spilling their ash into an unplanted pot,
for once craving our attention more than we crave them. Summer feels starting in my little red balcony,
Our mouths never resting
Sharing our collective need to run,
And recollecting all the times we ran.
Sat on the cool floor,
We sing things. Our neighbours don’t complain.

______________

Akshay Balan is a 24-year-old writer. He has worked as a journalist, but at present, is completing his master’s in Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. His work has appeared in Agora Magazine and has been published in the anthology titled A Letter a Poem a Home by the Airplane Poetry Movement. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.

Breakfast Plan, Summer 2019 by Akshay Balan (June 2021 Issue)

In the morning, I will have oatmeal,
And pretend to swallow the stars—
Each grain in my mouth feeling as heavy as giants in the sky, Bananas in asteroid cuts mixed into orbit;
Pomegranate seeds dotted like red stars in the Milky Way, Will explode under the weight of my teeth.
My coffee will be unsweetened,
Will blacken the bright colours of my breakfast,
And brighten my mood for a short burst.
If I close my eyes,
I will hear the sunlight outside.
If I listen closer, I can even taste it.

_________________

Akshay Balan is a 24-year-old writer. He has worked as a journalist, but at present, is completing his master’s in Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. His work has appeared in Agora Magazine and has been published in the anthology titled A Letter a Poem a Home by the Airplane Poetry Movement. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.

Loneliness Is a Half-eaten Energy Bar

-Ankur Animesh Surin

The half-eaten energy bar 
peeks at me when I 
open the fridge 
at night.

Cold escapes in a wooly flight,
disappears around my ankle.

I could have sworn it swirled 
an anklet around, 
tying my fate to the bar,
before disappearing in search of shadows 
in my LED-flushed room.

Domestic adventures that last 
less than two minutes 
deserve no post-it mentions 
on refrigerators, so
I take time and care 
to boil my noodles 
— self-love doesn’t conquer carbs.

The cool of darkness is reassuring.
A room bereft of memories
is a sore sight. 
My eyelids scrape off what remains of 
the emptiness lit 
by nosy street lamps projecting 
silhouettes of restless mosquitoes.

_________________

Ankur is a cinephile, photographer, and writer-editor. He loves Asian cinema and swears by Tsui Hark and Johnnie To. He is working on a fantasy novel.

_________________

The poem appeared in Pop the Culture Pill’s April Special Issue. Read it here.

Tonight’s Ghazal

– Tenzing Palyon

I read a Dalit was dragged till her skin peeled off,
But my back will find a mattress tonight.

The drunk across the street has locked his wife out.
She isn’t sure if sleep too would mock her tonight.

The glare from street lamps lays sand in their eyes.
“Get the lights, Darling. It’s your turn tonight.”

The tribal girl scrubs the floor and then sleeps on it.
The employer has told her to sleep on the bed tonight.

Stars have lined up in a pageant across the sky.
Yet many can’t afford to dream tonight.

________________

Tenzing is a member of the faculty of the Department of English at St. Claret Pre-University College. When not immersing himself into Dalit literature, Tenzing thinks of creative ways to teach his students. You can find Tenzing on Instagram.

________________

Darkness and Beyond

– Icarus

There comes a time,

beyond twilight,

upon the fall of dusk,

when the city escapes existence

unto sombre slumber,

until the day comes to life.

Yet there breathes a time,

beyond twilight,

beyond the darkness,

its silence unbroken; when

the winds howl in suffering,

for all else is quiet and in dismal,

the butterflies caress the wind’s wings

no more;

words wade in the wind’s waves

no more;

I sigh with pain unto the wind

no more; as I lay hidden

within my deep slumber,

the winds howl in suffering,

for all else recognises it

no more;

the winds howl in suffering —

a desperate attempt,

at waking us up —

it screeches, “HELP! HELP!”

but you and I hear it

no more;

and the moon,

ah, the moon!

she breathes the loneliest of times,

a time and place even the wind cannot reach.

___________________

Icarus is a pen name after the character from Greek Mythology – ‘the man who flew too close to the sun – and such is the purpose of his existence: to write words with his fiery feathers until he crash-lands into a dying ember. Fret not, for he is still close to the sun. It is a long way down until he writes about the death throes of his soaring wings.

___________________

“Darkness and Beyond” was published in our April 2021 Issue. Read the complete issue here.

Submissions for our June 2021 Issue is open. Submit now!

Embroidering (in) Dormiveglia

– malaifly

i.

When sleep shies away

from the light within

that burns in shades

of softened mauve

in moonlit tones;

Not dark enough

to distinguish 

what shone,

of the shallow 

light of dusk 

from the muted 

bright of dawn

ii.

Throughout the night and day

Bouts of uninterrupted 

inertia.

Staggered tiredness

dispersed freely

in varying intensity.

Dispelling the ambit

of asleep and awake

With constant subconscious slumber,

seeping into 

perceived 

triumphs to wake;

and continuous restlessness,

stirring when stilled

until, distressed.

Inverted insomnia,

perverted to ensure

no respite to be had, nor

reprieve to any before.

iii.

Oh how wishes swallow wonders

senses somehow wake 

enter response

even night takes special little efforts speaking

games spinning gusts sweep pieces 

starry yield dramatically yawned

distend disenchant 

through hollow winks scattered

decrepit twinkles scream

metered drawings

spelt twisted

direct to omen

___________________

malaifly is an Indian artist-poetess who compulsively composes poetry. Having always thought in words and written in poetic prose, malaifly has been writing all her life and knows she couldn’t stop even if she tried. She expresses herself both in her words as well as their presentation, from hand-lettering to accompanying with photography and illustration. You can find malaifly on Instagram.

___________________

The poem appeared in Pop the Culture Pill’s April 2021 Issue.

Submission for our June 2021 Issue is open. Send your entries to popdacultpill@gmail.com