our hands smell like smoke but we weave flower crowns out of our lungs & wear our vices with a smirk

light
falls
into our palms 
and slips 
through the cracks.
we curl our fingers 
around 
paper-palmed cigarettes. 
in the middle of the open road,
we look up to the naked moon in worship. 
every act 
of destruction 
makes us feel like
a God.
we pray 
to ourselves
for the ability to dream. 
there’s a crater on the side of the road.
there’s a bridge at the end of the sky.
hold my hand. 
let’s walk. 

love letter to “kabhi khushi kabhie gham”

thunder rumbles outside my window as rohan walks into rahul’s home in london
& first sees him, after a long, long time. their parents watch their reunion from a portrait on the wall
& i / cry as they lock eyes. watch me watch myself in my grandparents’ room watching 
the same film for the thousandth time & still—noticing a speck of dirt under anjali’s eye i
had missed during the first nine-hundred ninety-nine. is it love if i still find your sunlight
soaked reunion song to be absolutely annoying? kabhi khushi kabhie gham is a spit-fire nicotine
crushed ochre stained cashmere sweater i should have thrown out years ago. when i
was fourteen, it curled around my back & whispered in my ear: your home is the darkest room
you’ll ever sleep in. & that’s alright. i have found my brightest corners in my parents’ home 
& i never want to go back. rahul goes back. he forgives, [because forgiveness whittles away 
at your bones until you are the perfect mimic-man. your parents hate you.] & i have grown up
in india which means i / always arrive home. my home is the effect of my history of 
obedience. i adore this film. chandni chowk tastes like a history unabridged 
& unbroken. this is a capitalist state & everyone’s happy. shayaris twist tongues 
into figures-of-eight. & everyone’s dancing. how could rahul not fall in love? 
anjali’s bangles bite at his throat & he curls his dupatta around his neck twice to hide the bruises 
she has left behind. every fourteen minutes, he presses down with his fingers & they turn up violet. 
how could rahul ever hide his love? / they fall in love & they don’t die. spin songs about their future 
& twirl a classic tale of forbidden romance: rich man falls in love with a poor woman & his family 
despises her. she’s the greedy temptation rich man spied from the shop window & now wants. 
& bratty indulged rich-boy, rebel without a cause longs to save someone. her father dies & he
whisks her away. they revel in domestic bliss only / marred by their phone which never rings. 
bole chudiyan arrives like a letter from a friend who had forgotten about me. it takes my hand 
& its melody tastes like rainy evenings in hauz khas when my date stands me up & i’m smoking 
in the fort writing poems to my favourite city. shava shava is everything that’s wrong with my city: nandini & yash’s presence splatters the scene through a smoke-screen. my nostalgia comforts me.
rahul & rohan talk cricket in london & india wins. here’s a secret that will ruin my reputation:
in my favourite films, india always wins. but we are in the middle of a pandemic 
& i don’t give two fucks about my reputation anymore. lightning cracks the sky open: 
look! here comes the helicopter & here comes rahul & there he goes running towards his home. 
nandini will be waiting with an aarti ki thali. he will run his hands over the bannister & lilies
will grow in the webs of his fingers. anjali will tuck one behind her ear & smile for the camera.
the raichands will forgive, & we will know that forgiveness marks the return of peace. 

childhood carnivals

pink mouths softened cradle candy floss.
excited hands swat flies, & someone buys another
ticket to the merry-go-round. this must be 
a carnival — where else can one find such innocent
decadence? sunshine sinking dips into clavicles  
& my childhood’s gone. this must be a dream
— where else does my tongue still taste so sweet?

on earth, we are

(i think) the theory goes that the entire universe is sitting in an alien school-boy’s science project jar. every planet is fixed on the end of a string which is tied around his fingers (& pluto always trips & planet nine is —). & the earth. blue-green disformed lump of clay which once slipped into the school-boy’s cup of tea & now never stops sparkling. mysterious. & now. humans. h u m a n s. huuuuuuumanss. sometimes when he’s bored the school-boy just sits & stares at the shiny rock & the tiny tiny dots which keep running from one end of the triangle to the other. school-boy’s science notebook has a chart tracking the increase in the dot-cover on EaRth with a blinking question mark at the top. busy buzzing flies flying flying flying. 

on EartH, we are. zipping zapping light years swallowing sunlight gobble gulping globs of sUn. sometimes school-boy feels twitchy & his left middle finger flicks & earth flips. all the dots wobble. & settle. some disappear. 

school-boy’s charts are all messed up right now. all the dots keep flickering &. he does not have the time to chart. there’s a storm coming. he has a date. 

bodies / space

i could never hear the birds chirping before. 
they sing, & i taste melons. 
it’s summer. & my body remembers 
even though we’ve never been here before.

the bed sinks beneath my weight. 
it takes three & a half hands to reach my mum. 
i pinch her cheek. 

every day, nothing happens.
& yet, every night, i sink beneath the weight 
of every mote of dust stuck to my skin. 

everything hurts

everything hurts & we slice our wrists on

your softest corners   render ourselves hollow

& yet your words find spaces to bury 

themselves. everything hurts & you water 

flowers inside our lungs & every thing of beauty

is followed by death. everything hurts &

there’s no joy left unmarred  unstained  un 

broken