Poem by Rinzu Rajan
To drive past this city is homecoming.
21 degrees Celsius. Summers don’t shiver
underneath bare neem trees.
The street is a molten river
gurgling an old song
carrying rust and residue of metal automobiles.
It hasn’t rained
since I went. Parched tar gapes its mouth.
Chatrapatti Shivaji terminus,
she looked like an enchantress that evening.
Today she is an old woman
beaming ear to ear at the city
that walks past her. Will someone pay heed?
Her eyes well with tears. Careful, lest they spill.
I stare at the swelling suburbs
that once spelled my name.
Old famished brick buildings jeer at me.
I feel like a princess trapped in a cage.
Escape. Exhale. Exit.
Last evening spilled silver on the walls of the RCity.
In the mirror I see the moment that had imprisoned
the beauty of your deep brown eyes.
They paid me in full
in those stolen smiles.
The blue dome of the sky bowers the Mantralaya
as I crave to coil in your arms.
I had wanted to see you last night. After four vodka shots.
To tell me stories of a city
that speaks in tongues of fire
even when not drunk.
This ache is a stalker;
it hunts me down every night
when the walls of my room crumble
to hide me from loneliness.
At the Mount Mary, candles waxed in wishes
melt to get maimed.
I will stop lighting them from today.
My skirts dance to the sway in the sun
as I stroll past the Marine Drive
shaking speckles of dust
off my feet.
Your voice chases me,
The Mumbai tone. The agony of apology.
Messages that were never sent.
Phone calls that would forget my number.
Mumbai local ferries human life
to and fro, back and forth.
I sink in a confession that will never be made.
Soon the city will wear her jewels;
she will sparkle and make fun of me
when prostitutes will paint their lips red
and offer themselves to the night.
I steer around the Bandra-Worli sealink
halting at a lonely spot.
I will come here every year.
I will tell the sea our secrets.
And in every season the lump in my throat
The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry
We are pleased to announce this poem as a Finalist for The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems and hybrid poetry works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
Rinzu Rajan lives in New Delhi, India, and is a biologist. She loves to write poems focusing on femininity and gender issues. Her work has been previously published in The Ursa Minor, Kalyani, Ottawa Arts Review, One Title, Cadaverine, Ofi Press Magazine, and elsewhere. She is working on her first poetry collection and wants to write a fictional autobiography about being a feminist someday.
Originally published on 3/8/16.