Love in a New City
The metro arrives looking similar
to that childhood game
where we had to prevent the ever
growing snake from eating its own tail.
It was our first lesson in desperation,
how if left hungry, the body feeds
on itself. When the doors open,
men and women spill out like inmates
broken free. I’m new in Delhi
and still as loveless as I was
in Lucknow but now, I’m more alert,
more receptive to hope
and affection. Inside, the compartment
is packed and warm with freshly
washed bodies crashing softly
into each other like morning waves.
Ever wonder, if it wasn’t for moments
like these, we would go on without
touching another body—
so busy we all have become with our
minuscule lives? And as we wait
inside this white pill gliding through
the city’s oesophagus,
I notice a man looking at me, once
and then once again as if recognizing
in me something inherent,
something these people separating us
might lack. When I smile and he smiles
back, I know I’m not alone in my own
loneliness, that no one really is.
When the metro slides into a platform,
I step outside knowing he would do
the same. We meet, give each other
our names, and I see how gently he puts
what I’m called inside his mouth,
licks and tastes it, and I get to hear
after a long time and in a manner never
before, my own name
mouthed by someone else’s.
Things I Have Done
Liked my own tweets,
my own Instagram posts, and called it self-love.
When I was fourteen, I kissed my reflection—
the mirror a fog, my own lips like someone else’s.
If it wasn’t for the mirror’s coldness,
I would have thought I got what I always wanted—
the boy a class higher then me. During summer
vacations, me and my brother would accompany
our grandfather to all the distant trees
his father and grandfather planted. Our favorite
were the mango trees because they rewarded us
for our travels with fruits like golden nuggets
hanging precariously on thin boughs.
Though I never learned to swim, I know the rush
of water past my dangling feet. My first kiss
was hasty, neither of us knowing how long
it should last. On those village visits, we learned
about stars, lying on the roof at night, dreaming
of lands farther and farther away. I have loved many
men, a few only for a night. I stopped praying
when I realized I would never change no matter
the time dedicated to the gods. What use were prayers
when as a fag I went to sleep and as I fag I woke up.
No metamorphosis for this queer, the gods
must have declared. Now, I only bend my knees
to comfort men, to make them rest for a while
in the softness of my mouth. And how grateful
they are, their eyes relaxing as deflated balloons.
To love others is to love the self, isn’t it?
They give so much love, I sometimes spit it out.
Tell Me, Do Faggots Fear Dark
It's night because so many things refuse
to capture the sunlight and what can
a moon do floating as it does in the sky?
Give credit where it’s due; at least it tries;
at least you can see the road beneath
your feet. I do consider it impolite
to ask someone to give you something
they never even had in the first place.
I’m impolite, a condition since adolescence
and have begged every man I knelt before
to love me as they would their own.
But tonight I’m promising to be good
and decent, to ask only what I could be given.
Walking, I hear an owl hoot, calling to
what I will never know. When the solitary
street lamp flickers, the mindless
moths panic, hitting the bulb until it laughs
gold again. I notice a pair of hands
extended in that cone of yellow light, odd
and sadly bodiless, beckoning me.
The man, standing at the edge of that bright
circle is no more than a silhouette, no more
than a ghost already dissolving in the dark.
Tell me, should I not take it? These are
just hands, soft and maybe harmless
and am I not here to be held, to let another
man tell me love has many forms and this
is one of them. Tell me, should I not
give this man what he asks, a weight
to finally anchor him to this light?
What is it? If not this belief
that nothing is as cruel as the present,
that future is a bed of feathers awaiting
this body. If not this idea
that with all the crimes these hands
commit, we will be saved
once again. When I learned to pray,
I never questioned—to what?
Because, that’s faith. Because mother
had said, bow your head and gods
will listen. How ma? Since, what we
pray to lives someplace higher.
At night, I would climb on the terrace,
balance these feet on the railing
and look up to the stars shining like
lit windows of those who forgot
to switch them off. Change me,
I would whisper, would let the cold
breeze take with it my words.
Now imagine, years of praying returned
like unanswered mail, like an echo
reentering the mouth it came from.
So I did what most people would do—
put faith elsewhere and let the body
learn to live with its own illness.
Because faith, in part, is in knowing
who to trust. Like the man who said
love is just another derivative
of companionship—a moment well spent
in someone's arms. Like the man
before him with his hand on my head
as he guided me through the night.
Faith, in part, is in knowing that if you
submit, good things will happen.
Like father letting mother win
an argument every time, or a seaside tree
accepting the wind to shape its form.
Like this dark bending its knees
for the morning to finally come.