Poetry: Smita Agarwal



                The mind

                is a suitcase. It packs in

                screws, bolts, shards, splinters, soft silk, gems ...

                It never fills up: rarely disgorges. When it does, howls acquire

                shapes in the thin air. The mind cannot breathe ... The demons it

                hugs close, refuse its offered refuge and stalk, uncharted regions ...


Smita Agarwal


The blind King could not see what was there …

The one who could see, could not see what was not there …

For both, the unseen became more important than the seen.

Human eyes, taught to see beyond the nose

In most cases, completely missing out on the seeing …





I look at the tree

Its fresh green leaves

The scaly bark ...

By accident, I see a hardly noticeable wind

 Circumambulating the tree,

Tossing a wisp of silk cotton in its wake;

Two barbets literally drop down

From the tree, screeching,

And, snarled in the branches, a faded torn kite

Twists and twists, manically …





She said: I'm in pain.

Was she in, a house? A bath tub?

A spaceship bound

For outer space?

In a box? In a boat, adrift?

In the washroom? In her hospital bed?

Where is pain? What is the colour,

 The shape of pain?

She hasn't burst a vessel

She hasn't broken a bone!

Where is this pain, she is in?

Is the colour of pain, incarnadine,

Like a slashed vein

Gushing blood?

Does pain look like an amoeba,

Shape shifting at stimuli?

Does pain sound like

Swiss peasants yodelling

 Across mountains in pre industrial times?

Is pain the houri that makes her

 Wail like a banshee?

What is her pain? What, it's language?

I'm illiterate in the tongue of her pain.

All day she moans, I am in pain.

No bones broken, no physical damage

Or discomfort ...

I am in pain, I am in pain,

We stand around pained,

Anguished by her pain, in pain with

Our inability to figure out,

Her pain ...


Smita Agarwal is a well-known poet and cultural person. Her poems have received awards and residencies and have been curated in magazines, journals and anthologies published from India and abroad. She has also published critical articles and translations from English to Hindi. She is professor of English, University of Allahabad, India, former Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies and a professional singer. Currently, she divides her time between the two cities of Allahabad and Mumbai.

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