Sophia Naz Five Poems 

Count

 

The alphabet soldiers

many times its weight

no way to out fox-

hole ant, black on back

up against the wall

scroll on despite

bytes’ drip

feeding toll

 

Vault the bereft keep

count, multiplication divides

red flags blue & white

masks falling down

 

(P)irates bare

jagged crowns

say, can you see

this means

to don pinnacle

cough success

go viral.

Mother Tongues

 

Take off your shoes outside this shrine

where ghosts of the mother

tongue reside, alongside

lamps of extinguished geographies

 

Should I gauze this Dacca muslin today?

Say: *mull, mull, glaze a homonym hymn

in Kabir’s cadence over an earthen p(l)ot

of amputated thumbs?

 

Warp and weft pour from the cleft

mandible as tomb, sanctum

sanctorum, womb of wombs

mother tongues ferment

 

Matryoshka dolls, each within

another, mother, grandmother

great grandmother till the last pod

God — embedded seed syllable wails

 

Ma, mother of memory, heal me

unmake my prosaic days of bricks

troll *bhooths, malware, endless phishes

click by click the dick pics box me in

 

*Anarkali, sentenced to snark alley

by that blind emperor, autocorrect

the walls the walls are closing in

trance fixed on a selfie stick

 

Mother of memory, Ma, reveal me

a heaving loom the greater grid

buried in these lines, electrify a thousand-

fold suns in the mouth of every silence

 

From Open Zero (publication forthcoming).

 

Author’s notes:

mull mull: A homonym for mulmul, a very fine muslin renowned all over pre-Partition India and of such fine quality that the British cut off all the thumbs of the weavers who produced it in order to protect the British textile industry.

bhooths: Evil spirits.

Anarkali: Pomegranate Bud, heroine of Mughal Azam, a popular Indian film epic in which she is sentenced to death by being walled up alive for the crime of loving the crown prince.

Skin Like Paper

In Memoriam, Zarina (1937–2020)

 

Everything unsaid condensed

in that jagged line, featureless on both

sides of the divide that, compelled

to hem as children, freehand, spoon fed

memory from the pot of royal blue

India ink splotches all over

the map, fresh blood

a smell that clings

to paper like skin

 

line that thick rag paper yielded

supine below a lover’s nails, raw earth

succession of severed witness fingers

 

line you swallowed like a sword

drew out, blackened from alembic

some called alif, others parallel

bars of a cage, destined to run

the length of a life

yet never meet

 

What is home? Only the moon

is sky clad

For the rest of us, toil

the flapping of wings

faraway, out of reach.

 

First published by Chapati Mystery.

 

Author’s note:

alif: The alif (the letter a) is isolated in writing. This means that it cannot be written connected to the letter following it. The alif thus symbolizes transcendent, unqualified essence. The downward stroke of the alif symbolizes universal manifestation from the highest state of Being to the lowest one.

Chappan Churri

 

The jilted’s fifty six stabbings

could not kill Janaki Bai

thereafter known

as chappan churri

 

When I type

churri, autocorrect is also

a stab at language

giving me the option

of cherry, char

cheri, churn, churl,

chi and occasionally, chai

 

A conjoined cup I sip

walk a tightrope

of english-urdu

one foot in each bone-cheeni

my lines are burning fiercely

 

Like Janaki

each wound giving me

a brand new mouth

 

From Pointillism.

The Last Beekeeper

 

Bees are living

in my eyes, they feed

on my tears, all day

and through the kohl

black night, I can hear

them buzzing as they mill

my dreams to honey, hum

incessantly in the raga reserved

for species on the brink of extinction.

 

I blink the bleak milk back, lachrymose

to the core, at the thought of being

this ocular cave hole, last recourse

of Apis Mellifera, sweltering belly

to melting poles

 

First published in Erothanatos.

Sophia Naz

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