Ashwani Kumar, India
Remains of a new ecological order
Cafes, cinema halls, bookstores, medical shops, bars,
washing machines, refrigerators, televisions.
They all look the same here.
He skims through the garbage—
broken bottles, discarded syringes,
sanitary napkins, polythene bags,
hacked and twisted together.
They all taste the same.
Novels, short stories, poems,
films, songs, paintings,
speaking in various tongues.
They all sound the same.
Desires, fears, surprises, illusions
sold for rupee, dollar or pound.
They all cost the same.
Is this a new shopping experience or
do we live in the slums of new languages?
Pythons, Rabbits, Caterpillars, Ants
After thousand years of uninterrupted
sleep, I wake up and see pythons
chasing lion-sized rabbits in my living room.
There are open temples.
There are closed temples.
But there are no Gods anywhere.
Only handsome headless caterpillar
priests telling stories of the murder
of four hundred aging ants.
I know it sounds ridiculous to suggest
that the forest can only be a forest
with trees, animals, birds and insects of all kinds.
Ashwani Kumar is a Mumbai-based poet, writer and professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. His anthologies My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter and Banaras and the Other have been published by Yeti Books and Poetrywala respectively. His poems, translated in Indian languages and Hungarian, are noted for their “lyrical celebration” of garbled voices of memory and subversive “whimsy” quality. He is co-founder of Indian Novels Collective which brings classic novels of Indian Literature to English readers. His other major scholarly contributions include Community Warriors (Anthem Press), Power Shifts and Global Governance (Anthem Press), Global Civil Society: Poverty and Activism (Sage International) and Migration and Mobility (forthcoming, Routledge). He also writes for Financial Express, The Print, Business Standard, The Hindu, Indian Express, DNA, Open Democracy, amongst others.