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A Railroad Puja

In the stampede at Godhra, the first child is trampled.
The Sabarmati Express stalls at the platform

like a suitcase bursting. The bogie’s coupling is cut,

the railcar isolated, sprinkled with kerosene.
Look what happens. When we collide

a struck match drops. Our arms flail

from shattered windows. Charred chappals
graze the rails. Dusty pant legs flutter, brimmed

with flames. Our mouths gasp small choking

o’s. Now the whole city smells like paan,
a gritty red splatter on gravel-strewn sidewalk.

We know we are too many. When the burnt bodies

are swathed in faded salwars, tossed in the bed
of a rusted pickup, and carried to the Ganga,

we want only the warm silt of flour dusted over

a chapatti. We turn the fan on high, cup a tea light
in our hands. Watch our prayer flicker.

 

 

 

lowering

his hood flares out, spectacle pattern
like tessellations, the glint of him gilded just so

in the light. the cobra is a garland—no, the cobra
is a man’s knuckles, a girl’s hair clumped
between them, & you

are the girl. you hold your sadness
with both hands & know
how to drive a shovel between your body
& venom, know the heft

of the handle, splintering your palm.
this isn’t your first time.

you killed the last one as he came
toward you, zigzagging, his tracks in the sand
like a graph or table

showing how many more women died
alone this year, in your village
this year, as babies this year, walked
toward him thinking spectacle

& his snake-blood made the sand blacken,
made it curdle, almost, made your blood

curdle, to hear the slicing, to feel his neck
shorn by the blade, & you stared as blood worked
its way back out of his body, thought

of the man who watched you bleed
on his bed the first time & didn’t offer
to help. the cobra veers right & you lift the shovel,
pewter almost humming, almost alive,

the blade trembling as you wait
for the snake to change its course—

 

 

 

flow

As a noun, it’s a word that makes most girls I know cringe.
A word whose synonyms—motion, flux, current—
remind me of the Cooper, the Ashley, the steady, continuous rivers
I swam in at sixteen, the first time I ever
wore a bikini. I wonder if those girls
think of a body of water—or just of bodies, of boys
who poke fun at cycles. It gets tricky for me
with the verb. As in to go along with a series of actions
you may not feel totally comfortable with. To move
in a steady, continuous stream toward or away from a certain
vanishing point of action. As in a lover saying “go with the flow”
was sort of his approach to relationships. I have gone with the flow
all the way up to the moment when time
slows & you see the thing you love
being taken from you. Resistance to the flow is often met
with an impression of me as steady, as in going steady, or why
are you so uptight? I went with the flow once
at a party in college & the next day threw away all
of my tank tops, every strappy thing
I could find. Flow can also refer to blood
between legs, to menstrual cycles, to any kind
of wound & what comes from it. As in no blood was spilled
when he stung my cheek but I felt something flow
out of me—steady, continuous. I felt it as I bolted
home, & again when I burrowed into piles of laundry.
We say a poem does or does not flow, that things either move forward
or not at all; fish are carried with the river down or upstream;
there’s this liquid motion that’s steady, continuous,
predictable. Something that cannot be stopped.

 

 

 

Indian American poet Raena Shirali grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where she currently lives and teaches English at College of Charleston. Her first book, GILT, is forthcoming in 2017 with YesYes Books, and her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, Four Way Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Tupelo Quarterly, Pleiades, and many more. Her other honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Prize, recognition as a finalist for the 2016 Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, recognition as a finalist for the 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and a “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. She is currently a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine & will be the Spring 2017 Philip Roth Resident at the Stadler Center for Poetry.  You can find more of her work at www.raenashirali.com

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Fox Frazier-Foley is author of two prize-winning poetry collections, EXODUS IN X MINOR (Sundress Publications, 2014) and THE HYDROMANTIC HISTORIES (Bright Hill Press, 2015). She is currently editing an anthology of contemporary American political poetry, titled POLITICAL PUNCH (Sundress Publications, 2016) and an anthology of critical and lyrical writing about aesthetics, titled AMONG MARGINS (Ricochet Editions, 2016). Fox is Founding EIC of Agape Editions, and co-creator of the Tough Gal Tarot.

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