Wednesday, January 6, 2016



When you and I were about to break

there was no question of a fight

over who would take the cups

and who, the saucers.

You spilled over with steam,

meniscus rippling with the slightest

touch; I, supine on the floor,

licked the milk once meant

for you. Both of us

were china at that point.

One of us had been to China too,

known the meaning of porcelain freedoms,

sniffed red guards. One of us

had known the sound of an alien tongue,

harsh and guttural as it came

from smiling mouths.

Our smiles were circular, yours and mine,

yours from the top of the tea

and mine below – two halves joined

together on separate rims. When we blew

at each other, the crockery

stayed firm, and who but you

and I would know the liquid moved?

No, there was no fight

over chipped white glass.

The pieces lay upon the kitchen floor.

And I – I've moved to tea parties

in other living rooms, balancing

alien porcelain on a frigid palm.

                          ---Menka Shivdasani


The task is almost impossible.

Beheading comes easy these days,

but not with rats. A swish of tail

behind the dining table; it's gone.

You know it's still there in the morning

when the creamy layer of setting curd

is nibbled through. The lid fell with a clang

at night, but no one heard.

So you try the peaceful methods.

A piece of cheese, you've been told,

will do the trick; lace it with love

and a drop or two from a poison tube.

You watch it gather mold,

then throw it out.

A piece of rat cake, then,

colour of coal,

brittle as your heart.

You hide a piece in every nook,

believe your space is safe.

You've built this world around you,

Mumbai to Mosul,

Kabul to Kashmir,

Peshawar to Paris...

all the world is your home,

but there are rats.

Your sofa becomes an enemy bunker,

nibbled through at the bottom

with holes for escape – safe harbour

from your broom and dying will.

If you get one, nine more

will be born in the trenches.

Sometimes, as you watch TV,

or read your holy book,

you wonder about killing

and your own beliefs.

No, it isn't easy to kill a rat,

but what does it take

to live instead

with the enemy

beneath your skin?

              ---Menka Shivdasani

Menka Shivdasani is the author of three poetry collections, Nirvana at Ten Rupees, Stet and Safe House. She has edited an anthology of women’s writing in India and two online Anthologies of Contemporary Indian Poetry for Big Bridge online, and is also co-translator of an anthology of Sindhi Partition poetry. In 1986, she played a key role in founding Poetry Circle in Bombay (now Mumbai). *Tea Party first appeared in Stet.

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