Voices Within: Vinita Agrawal

Vinita Agrawal is an award winning poet based in Mumbai. She has authored four books of poetry. She was senior editor with Womaninc for three years. She has read at Kala Ghoda, Cappuccino, Ethos and Lucknow Lit festivals. Her work has been widely published and internationally anthologised. She was co judge for AsianCha contest in 2015 and judge for the RLFPA (international prize) in 2015. She is on the board of advisors for the Tagore Literary prize.

My Best Face

Here’s the face I created just for you.
It wasn't made in my mother's womb
but built instead, by tides of life
the way banks of silt and sand are made
at the end of a lonely beach.

A soft-cushion face
that absorbs dismantling
yet stays in shape -
this face is a face saver.

Almost a rose without thorns
a sponge soaked in water
a squirrel face
that hoards tears for later.

Oval neat satin
swab for wounds
unnecessary to be admired in the mirror
for the mirror shows nothing of the soul.

Sometimes I stumble over
the alien floor of my cheeks
slip on all the marble
skid on cold granite.

But when I recall the number of dawns
it took to sculpt this mask
the sum of shoulder-straightening resolves
it took to put it in place
I hold my chin up.
My journeys have ended on my cheekbones.

Each Other's Company

Lead me to where I need to go
A land of peace, a piece of land
Earth's free schooling in trees and water
A sanctuary of flora and fauna.

No more the hamster running in a treadmill
resorting to trickery just to appear accomplished
frantically covering all bases, to be everywhere
and later, cowering in a corner...

asking why do I cast my pearls before a swine?

I'd rather openly be a novice
fallible...prone to making mistakes
I'd rather be myself no matter what
before my ruptured tears start.

In a world filled with men, how can that ever be?
Men don't allow a woman's inner self to surface
They draw penis lines of yeses and no s
and turn women into shrews.

I don't want to end up as a tumour tale
pelting angry stones at the trees I love.
When spring carves blossoms in my yard
I don't want to sit crocheting bones of pain.

Give me a life of inclusion, my love
my partner, my friend.
Let us succumb together to the allures of a peony
our brows lush with a lust for togetherness.

Let our sun be tart, our rain floral, it's pollen perfumed
Our voices one when put to the monsoons
Our eyes - let them be audacious silver boudoirs
Twin masquerades of wicked joy.

If I want anything then that is what I want

Fathers are like Autumn Trees

reflecting gentle autumn warmth
in every strand.
and daughters, their ferruginous leaves
little boats sailing on gentle waves.
If you stepped inside a father’s heart,
a warm autumn equinox would bathe your feet. 

When valencies of seasons turn leaves to gold
cause green bowers to blush a bright red
trees hug the aching earth
and sigh softly as they let go of their bounty.
The burly barks
pepper silence with stoic breaths.
They bear the brunt of seasons - Fathers.


Tonight I’m as broken as the night.

Is that a dead bird in the bush?
Is it just a shadow?
Is it anything?

Bring all the tides
of all the oceans
to my doorstep
so that I may drown.

My hopes are full of life:
they don’t me die.

Take the pitcher and drain this blackness
jug by jug into the pond by the village
which is dry anyway
it won't mind my burdens.

someone else might face
the agony of these narrow labyrinths
that make one pass through knots of water
and blind the eyes.

Odyssey from Home To Homelessness
Heads, we’d stay in India, tails - Pakistan.
So we picked up a fistful of soil
and left our country
carrying in our palms
the nonsense of emotions
when they should have clutched at food
and water for the journey of no return.

The August monsoon
grated into our wounds
and poured like blood
from ravaged skies
Our breaths were tattooed blue
with the ink of migration
memories stung like bees.

The ashen smoke of disownment
rising from Partition ‘s pathetic fires
screened our tears.
Our bite-sized footsteps
measured separation
with a dysfunctional inch tape;

too many fold marks
for the road to straighten ever again.
Home was an empty caravan without scents.
Radcliffe's pen turned out too strong
the borders too gullible
dying became easier than living.

Till today we water the fistful of soil
we’d brought along, every dawn
and look for the slightest sign of roots
we’d abandoned at the flip of a coin.
Voices Within Complete List of Poets :: Setu, January 2019

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