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LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts

Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College, Thevara


Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.5, No.2 August 2017 Published by Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College Thevara, Kochi, India Only the copyright for this collection is reserved with the editors of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Individual copyright for artwork, prose, poetry, fiction and extracts of novels and other volumes published in this issue of the magazine rests solely with the authors. The magazine does not claim any of those for its own. No part of this publication may be copied without express written permission from the copyright holders in each case. The magazine is freely circulated on the World Wide Web. It may not be sold or hired out in its digital form to anybody by any agency whatsoever. All disputes are subject to jurisdiction of the courts of the Republic of India. Š Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, 2017 Graphic Design - Mariam Henna Page Settings - Mariam Henna Cover Artwork - Nishad K S

Editorial Board Chief Editor - Jose Varghese Associate Editor - Aravind R Nair Design/Layout Editor - Mariam Henna Review Editor - Jude Gerald Lopez Translation Editors - Minu Varghese, Mohammed Zahid Visual Art Editor -Shijo Varghese Photography Editor - Collins Justine Peter Student Editors - Gowri Nair, Sanjay Sreenivas Advisory Board - Alan Summers, Bill Ashcroft, George Szirtes, Kala Ramesh, Loree Westron, Mel Ulm, Patrick Connors, Rana Nayar, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sudeep Sen


Editorial Here is one more of our attempts to make meaningful connections among passionate writers and artists around the globe. We are lucky to witness in this process new worldviews shaped and reflected in the works we present before you. We don’t make a conscious effort to represent any specific region/culture/ideology as such, but our doors are always open to all of them. There are countless voices from the periphery that struggle to be heard in an international context, and we would be happy if readers identify some of them on these pages.    The winning story of the second Strands International Short Story Competition on the theme of ‘Water’, Kira Dreyer Messell's ‘Shipwrecked’, is featured in this issue. My role as the judge for the competition exposed me to all possible kinds of narrative experimentation and passionate yearning to preserve our present-day life experiences in memorable stories. As we are aware, this would also form the history of our times, especially for those meticulous researchers who would look beyond the dry, one-sided, official records. Messell has captured in her story all the intense pain and hope of our times that travel in many directions. I see it as a masterly achievement in the way it explores the possibilities of how fact and fiction could work around the mindscape of a character, or a reader/ analyst. The immense impact the story had on me was beyond description, and liberating in many ways. I hope you would also allow yourself to be immersed in it, to sense its spirit.    We had been receiving a lot of positive feedback on our cover images recently. This time around, it is a striking photographic work of Nishad KS that our design/layout editor Mariam Henna Naushad has chosen. This issue features some more works of Nishad and a few other brilliant visual artists, carefully chosen by our team for you.    It is remarkable that a lot of works in this issue work around the global phenomena of immigration and the attendant refugee crises, even bringing out a new terminology of displacement in artistic representations. It might not always emerge in ironed out clean sentences/lines that comfort you. On the other hand, its edginess and raw conviction are apt to upset and distract you for the better.    Let’s hope our effort to redefine your reading/viewing experience succeeds this time as well!

Jose Varghese August 2017


In This Issue Kira Dreyer Messell (Short Fiction) Shipwrecked Prathap Kamath (Short Fiction) The Painted Faces Megan Stolz (Poetry) 15 weeks Mother earth Lost child A poppy seed is the same size as a galaxy, a dream, and a human heart Shanta Acharya (Poetry) Cook and the Chickpea The Art of Eating Fruits Lucy Durneen (Poetry) Here is not where you are, Felipe

11-20

Ernest White II (Short Fiction) Pull

50-61

21-26

Cyril Dabydeen (Short Fiction) Killing Bob

62-67

Champika Wijayaweera (Poetry) Nights, Now and Then Living in Wind

68 68

John Grey (Poetry) The Ancient Beachcomber

69

Kashish Madan (Poetry) Down the old steps

70

R V Bailey (Book Review) Review of Imagine: New and Selected Poems by Shanta Acharya

71-73

Allen Antony (Visual Art)

74-79

Jonathan Brown (Short Fiction) The Long Walk

80-86

Malachi Edwin Vethamani (Short Fiction) Best Man's Kiss

87-92

27 27 27

28

29 30

31-37

Danton R. Remoto (Book Review) Review of Life Happens by Malachi Edwin Vethamani

38-40

Supriy Sharma (Visual Art)

41-49


Keith Moul (Poetry) Opera of Gutturals

93

Javed Latoo (Poetry) Wind

94

James Croal Jackson (Poetry) Rotor Wolves Sandhya Pai (Book Review) Carols of Agons and Angsts – Dr. Prathap Kamath’s Tableaux: Poems of Life and Creatures Shehanas C K (Visual Art) Andrew Dicker (Short Fiction) Sarah, Becky and Rosie Asad Alvi (Short Fiction) The Window Steve Armitage and Caron Freeborn (Photopoems) Daddy's bird Things that are dead (an album)

95 96

Abol Froushan (Poetry) Strangers on a Train Empty Amnesiac Kevin Cowdall (Poetry) The Shooting Star The Predatory Hawk The Sheltering Serpent V M Devadas Tr: Jose Varghese (Short Fiction) Babel Andrew Lee-Hart (Short Fiction) Samson

97-100 101-108

109-116

117-123

124-125 126-127

Mark Mayes (Poetry) Idiot at the Wheel The Linnet and the Crow Peter W. Chaltas (Poetry) Stephen Arrives The Masters Hand Richard Fein (Poetry) Anti-Lettuce Polemic Reveille Jose Varghese (Book Review) The Nothing (2017) by Hanif Kureishi

128 129 130

131 131 132

133-141

142-153

154-155 155

156-157 157

158 159

160-162


Nishad K S (Visual Art) Listen

163-170

Bijaya Biswal (Short Fiction) The Side-Effect of Living

171-175

Amrutha Raj (Poetry) She

176-177

Matthew James Friday (Poetry) Waving Cat

178

George Mario Angel (Short Fiction) A Wooden Bell

179-182

Brian Johnstone (Poetry) National Trust

183

Ravi Shanker (Poetry) Death of an Inflammable Woman

184

List of Contributors

185-194

Editorial Board

195-202


Short Fiction|Kira Dreyer Messell Shipwrecked (Winner of Strands International Short Fiction Competition - 'Water')

T

he second time we met I was sitting on what I've come to think of as our rock, contemplating what to do. It had been one of those nights where my boss down at the market had been shouting at me again. The Strait was remarkably quiet. Only a large white yacht was disappearing towards Pangkor Island. How I missed being out there, I thought, how I missed talking to the Old Man. That's when her head shot out of the water. She was gasping and I immediately knew who she was.    Naked and out of breath, she crawled out of the waves and tried to climb up onto the rocks. Her arms and legs were bruised and scratched, her eyes scared and pleading. She babbled something in an incomprehensible language while pointing towards the yacht sailing away. She tried to cover her breasts with her long hair and arms. I opened and closed my mouth like a dumb fish, then removed my T-shirt and offered it to her. Nadeshda, she stammered. That's when I noticed her lisp. Poor girl.    I took her home and nursed her. She would be safe with me, I assured her. ”Da,” she said. We were linked by fate, I told her, and I knew who she was. In the first few days she was agitated and kept pointing towards the Strait. I didn't understand her ancient language, but her frightened eyes gave her away. I hushed her and nodded, indicating that I knew what she had been through.    After a week she became calmer and more trustful. I did what I could to accommodate her needs. We developed little habits. When I came home from work in the afternoon, we sat outside on the wooden stairs leading up to my little house. Every day I brought fresh coconuts for her to drink. Every day her eyes travelled across the gravel path and behind the trees towards the Strait. Drying coconut shells were piling up next to the stairs. While I told her about my day, she drank the coconut water and scooped out the white flesh with a small knife. Whenever I stopped she lifted her head and smiled at me, which encouraged me to go on. Then I told her about the Old Man and my years on the fishing boat. Sometimes my stories made her sigh and turn her head towards the Strait.    I recognised her longing and left her to grieve, busied myself in the kitchen or swept the floor in the bedroom. She just sat on the stairs, chin resting on hugged knees, rocking back and forth. A movement I associated with waves. 11

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One day I told her about my first crucial encounter with water. I was ten years old and couldn't swim, despite living crammed between the Melaka Strait and the old tin mine left by the English. Could she imagine that? She looked surprised and raised her eyebrows. Then she settled her chin against her knees again. My siblings and I were not allowed to go anywhere near the lagoon of the old tin mine, but I always felt drawn towards it. If water could support trawlers, sailboats and tin dredges, surely it should be able to carry me too.    The surface of the lagoon was a glittering turquoise when the hot midday sun stared down on it. It looked warm and welcoming. What could be hiding under the glittering moist surface? What would it feel like to be embraced by water? Would it drag me down and swallow me in long circular movements the way our kitchen sink swallowed dirty water? Or would it carry me, like one of the little wooden ships with leaf sails the bigger boys made?    Nadeshda stood up and went inside to get a drink of water. She was always thirsty. Maybe the sun was drying her out. When she came out again, she was carrying my laundry tub filled with cold water. She put it in front of the stairs and immersed her white feet into it. I remembered the sensation of sinking deeper and deeper into the lagoon.    I hadn't been afraid, but had felt peaceful without all the noise and voices around me. I still remember how I sank, legs clutched to my breast, face turned upwards. Above the surface the sun became distorted. The roundness became oblong and square and divided into two through the rippling water. The colour was changing from yellow to orange to a pale white, the further down I fell. At no point did I try to flap my arms or scissor my legs. The beauty of the colours and the soothing movements of the water cradling me were blissful.    I was pulled out by a neighbour. A miracle, they said, that I was still alive after being deprived of air for so long. I threw up a lot of lukewarm water - not so turquoise anymore – while Abu shouted and Mak cried. Still, the images of the experience never left me. They pervaded my dreams, not as nightmares, but as an unbearable yearning that would decide the course of my life.    Mak died young and left me with Abu and his beatings, so I ran away to Port Klang to seek employment on the huge trawlers. I dreamed of sailing to China, Africa and maybe even visit England, but all the captains shook their heads and sent me away, until I finally became a greenhorn on a small fishing boat plying the Melaka Strait.    We worked at night and returned in the early morning to unload our fish for markets and waiting trucks. I scrubbed the deck, untangled the nets and helped the deckhands haul their catch on board. 12

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In the galley, the cook with the rotting teeth had me scour the pans, in the engine room I cleaned the grease spots and polished the machinery. It was the hottest and noisiest place on board. Maybe that was why the Old Man had developed such a booming voice. He had a cloth he used for cleaning oil pipes and wiping up spillages. He occasionally used it for his sweaty forehead, which gave him black stripes across the brow. The deckhands called him the Zebra. I sometimes heard them call me names too, like swordtail, mudskipper or clown fish.    I soon preferred the stuffy engine room and the Old Man and his tales to the fresh air on deck. The men only laughed. Old wives tales and superstition, they said, which confused me, since everybody meticulously followed the unwritten sailor rules: Tattoos and earrings prevent you from drowning, better have your ears pierced. Never whistle on board the ship, it provokes the winds. Don't ever mention a pig on board either, I never found out why.    One day I brought a banana for breakfast. Bad luck, the men said, bananas keep away the fish. That night we had a meagre catch and they all glared at me. As I found a rusty knife at the bottom of the boat and brought it up on deck, the men went furious and ordered me to return it immediately. The Old Man told me it was there to scare off the mer-folks, who can't come near sharp metallic objects.    The Old Man was always eager to help and explain the rules. Especially the ones about women: Our figurehead, the Puteri, warded off evil water spirits; real women, though, were not allowed on board. They only angered the sea and thus provoked a storm. So always leave your woman on land, but don't ever let her comb her hair while you're out on sea. It's bad luck. A naked woman on board, though, was something entirely different. She made the waves look away in embarrassment and thus calmed the sea, which was why our Puteri was naked. Buy one free one, the Old Man said, scaring away evil and calming the waves.    I didn't know much about women, so I listened carefully and was eager to learn.    I listened hard to Nadeshda's incomprehensible words and tried to make sense of them. She was so different from me. But surely, if only I listened hard enough, I would eventually understand. I took care of her bruises with ointments from the market and made sure they contained either seaweed or fish oil. She flinched when I touched her, and I reminded myself how sensitive her exposed skin would be. From behind the kitchen door, I observed her examining her bruises on arms and legs. She needed time to heal and get used to her new situation. 13

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Some days she just sat on the bed and rocked back and forth, arms embracing legs, curled up and closed like a mussel. At night I heard her crying through the thin wooden wall. I had given her my own mattress in the front room while I slept on the floor in the kitchen. Whenever she saw me in the doorway, she hid her face under the sarong I'd given her for cover. She probably didn't want me to see her tearless eyes.    I tried to relieve her grief by buying her new clothes in the market. T-shirts for girls with glittering pictures and leggings in a shiny material. The T-shirts were somewhat too small and stretched across her breasts. It was hardly noticeable though, since she usually kept her arms crossed in a constant embrace. I considered buying her a bra, but dismissed the idea. She wouldn't know anything about bras and besides, I didn't know how to buy one.    It was difficult to figure out what to feed her. She tried some of the delicacies I brought her from the market and shook her head at others. Everything seemed new to her and I realized the Old Man never told me about their food. I tried with raw fish, she turned up her nose. I tried with steamed fish on rice with belacan, she pulled a face in disgust. Only fresh fruit, rice and coconuts were accepted.    While she nibbled watermelon and dragonfruits, I entertained her with some of the Old Man's stories. He knew all about the shipwrecks hidden at the bottom of the sea and had apparently been present every time one was found: The Diana, the Desaru and the Nanyang. I told her how he had seen nets full of blue and white porcelain from the Ming dynasty instead of the expected load of fish. I told her about the precious cargo of ships once sailing from Melaka to China, India, the Arab world and even Venice: The Spanish silver dollars, the elephant tusks, muskets and bronze canons. The Old Man even kept some old tin ingots at home, he had told me, from the remains of a Dutch East India-man off Mersing. The rest of the cargo had of course been looted by the Singaporeans.    Nadeshda's dreamy eyes looked towards the Strait. She was probably remembering and trying to visualize my stories. Her gaze reminded me of the times I'd spent watching restless waves in the small hours of the morning, when our catch was twitching securely in nets and the men were smoking and joking. Sometimes the Old Man came up to watch the sunset, smoke his pipe and tell me a tale or two. I preferred the ones about merfolk and never had to poke him long.    “Remember, boy, to always look out for mermaids in the Melaka Strait,” he often said and winked at me. Malaysia had the highest density of mermaids in the world and it wasn't because of the warm water. No, they preferred the cooler climates like Scandinavia, Russia, Scotland or Ireland, where they could come out undisturbed and lie on rocks of desolate beaches. In those far away countries people were 14

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used to them and kept their distance. In Malaysia though, sightings were rather rare. The heat dried them out and the mosquitoes stung their delicate skin. During the day, they rarely came to the surface, as the hot sun would burn them. I asked why they didn't stay in the climates more suitable for them.    “The shipwrecks, boy, the shipwrecks,” the Old Man said. The merfolk were drawn by the number of shipwrecks around the peninsula hundreds of years ago when trade in Melaka was booming. Mermaids are the magpies of the sea, he said, they can't resist things that glitter and shimmer: Gold, silver, sapphires, rubies, and that's what makes our country the most attractive place in the world for them.    Contrary to popular belief, he said, their tails weren't really glittering, but just a dull grey, similar to a common cod. However, they were vain and would adorn their tails with jewels and thus turn them into a sparkling kaleidoscope of colours. No grey spot was left. Unlike human females though, they never compromised and wore only real precious stones or gold dust. They also preferred Chinese silk to Indian cotton and used to wrap the fabric like saris before the cloth disintegrated in the saltwater. Mermaids seemed to spy on and imitate humans. Lately, they had taken up the habit of covering breasts and hair, even though they did prefer to be naked when surfacing for a peek and a dance. They were too curious for their own good, which was why every now and then mermaids were washed up on the shores of the Peninsula. I frowned and said I had never heard about that.    “Of course not,” he said, “nobody knows. The government tries to keep it a secret. Imagine the scandal if people knew about dead naked women scattered around our beaches. Surely, that's not what the tourist board wants to promote, is it? After all, this isn't Thailand.”    The government now had special coast guards patrolling the beaches and dealing with the bodies, so Malaysia was getting increasingly dangerous for mermaids, who were leaving the Strait.    “Too many electronic devices out there. Nowadays they use aqua sound to locate not only the shipwrecks, but also the mermaids. It gives them terrible headaches.”    I sometimes mentioned these problems to Nadeshda when we talked in the evenings. Mostly I did the talking, while she sat curled up on the mattress and listened. I casually referred to the difficulties of hiding under water with all the surveillance.    “Da” she said. Then I mentioned all the divers out there chasing spectacular nature experiences. Must be horrible, I said, to have humans exploring and exploiting the ocean like that. And oil rigs, I said, remembering bits from the news. Or overfishing and pollution. Surely food was getting scarce out there. She shook her head a little and shrugged her shoulders. I respected her privacy.

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I remembered the Old Mans's regret about this unfortunate development for the merfolk, even if their retreat did make the sea a safer place for men. Less experienced sailors like myself could easily be bewitched by dancing mermaids with naked breasts and sweet songs.    “But don't think you're safe on land either,” he warned, “there you have the Selkies. Take away their skin and you'd think they are perfectly normal women. Seals in the water and women on shore. That's a Selkie for you.” I had never seen a seal in my life. They didn't exist in our part of the world, but sometimes accidentally travelled up to our waters all the way from Australia.    Years ago the Old Man had even heard about a colony of Selkies in Thailand. Every full moon they would go on shore on remote islands, shed their seal skin and dance all night with the local fishermen. The more fortunate men managed to hide the Selkies' sealskin and thus keep them as their wives. The less fortunate hurled themselves out of the fishing boats to follow their Selkie lovers.    “Of course, this was before tourists took over.” he explained, “now the islands are too crowded with young people dancing on the beaches every full moon. Ha, they don't even know they're celebrating the Selkies. But apart from the sealskin, boy, Selkies are just the same as mermaids.”    Tourists celebrating full moon parties were just one of the things going in the wrong direction. Everything was changing and he didn't like what he saw. The former respect and natural attraction between man and merfolk had been replaced by hatred and distrust. These days, fishermen were so afraid of temptation, they would catch the creatures and take their revenge for drowning their forefathers.    That was when he mentioned the ritual.    At first he refused to tell me more. It was nothing for my young ears, he said, too exciting for an innocent boy. But eventually he gave in.    When a mermaid was caught and hauled on board, the strongest men held her down while the bravest cut out her tongue with his fishing knife. They used to cut out the whole thing, but these days they only did a symbolic cut and removed just the tip of the tongue. Not so bad. At least that stopped the songs and the spells cast on innocent men working hard to feed wives and children. How were they supposed to concentrate on their work, when they were distracted by lecherous images of tails cracked open?    “Never have sex with a mermaid,” the Old Man thundered, “It's illegal and if caught you'll be punished. It's considered bestiality, boy, same punishment as sodomy. Same same really.” I just stared at him and forgot to close my mouth. 16

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“Oh yes,” he said, “it's possible. If left in the sun the fish scales dry up and dissolve, uncovering beautiful white legs. Then the men take turns getting their revenge until they throw the mutilated girl back into the ocean.” And that was something that taught the bold mermaids a lesson. Hardly any singing had been reported for the last fifty years or so. Still, fears die slowly and rituals too. In the olden days, when the whole thing was sliced off, the mermaid tongues were sold for exorbitant prices on the black market in the back alleys of Chow Kit. Cooked and ground, mixed with herbs and sea slugs, they were used in concoctions bought by singers and politicians in dire need of persuasive voices and smooth talk. Or so the rumours went.    One day, as I was mending the nets on deck, there was commotion and yelling. Something huge was entangled in the net and the men were shouting and pulling to get it up on deck. I stood paralysed and watched. A loud splash and a lot of wriggling. A brownish lump making strange yelps and striving for release. Two back flippers and two thumping front flippers. I hid behind a pile of nets. The men pulled in every direction until it finally emerged, hurt and bleeding from the cutting ropes. It seemed to sigh and give up the struggle as soon as it realized there was no way out. I felt sorry for the beast, as it put its huge head down on the hard deck in defeat and exhaustion.    The men were busy discussing their prize. The zoo, they said, and lots of money. The captain was fetched for the negotiations. Our catch, they said, and mentioned percentages. I'd never seen a seal before and drawn by the gaze, I moved closer. It didn't stir or fret. It wasn't afraid of me. The eyes just kept staring as if asking for help. Big and brown and round, there was something strange about them. They seemed to have a greenish shimmer.    The moment I realized, she blinked. Of course. It felt as if I'd been struck by lightning. At first I couldn't move. Then things happened very quickly and I still don't know where I found the courage. Nobody was looking and for a fraction of a second it was only her and me. I gathered her in my arms. She was heavy. I was not the muscular type but still I managed. I threw her overboard and watched her disappear so quickly I wondered whether she had ever really been there. Turning around, I was met by eight pairs of eyes staring at me. That was my last day on board.    I found a job on shore, cutting up and cleaning fish in the market. Business was booming, you just had to know who to trade with, my new boss told me. He went down to the new big yachts from Russia to sell rare and expensive fish, while I sold the leftovers to the locals. Early morning the smells from the sea still clung to their smooth inert bodies and made me long to be out in the open. A few hours later fishscales covered the ground and the stalls, under their tarpaulins in the 17

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midday sun, were stinking hot. No trace of fresh sea air was left in the reeking kettle of desecrated fish, though I stopped noticing the smell after a while.    I often recognized that greenish tint in the eyes of the fish I took apart. It reminded me of her and weighed me down with sadness and longing. I collected the eyes in a jar of salt water to keep them moist and shimmering. On bad days, I went down to the shore to watch boats sail by and hear waves crash against the cliffs. A peaceful change from my daily life with the boss constantly shouting at me. What did I think I was doing removing the eyes of his fish? He shouted. Nobody wanted to buy eyeless fish and didn't I know these were a special delicacy for his Chinese customers? He obviously didn't understand the first thing about water creatures.    After another two weeks Nadeshda's crying and agitated outbursts became scarcer. She seemed to be adapting to her new life, though she still sat in front of the house and stared towards the Strait, as if looking for her former life. I looked at her eyes and noticed an astonishing lack of moisture, like marbles or glass. Her bruises were healing and turning a fading blue and green. They matched the greenish tint under her pale skin, shimmering like mother of pearl in an almost translucent colour. It was an elusive green that could only be seen out of the corners of the eyes. If gazed at directly the greenish gleam was lost. She carried the ocean inside and I longed to be let in. The Old Man once told me how merfolk have no tears and hence they suffer more. Now I recognized that suffering gaze from our first encounter on the ship.    What could I do to ease her pain? I bought more coconuts, but she seemed to have lost interest. I tried with mussels and lobster, she didn't touch anything. She ate less and less.    Her arms were still kept in a constant embrace across her body, despite the heat. Only two days ago I tried to remove her hands from under her arms, which made her panic and withdraw into the corner. Why did she still try to hide her true identity from me? Hadn't I saved her life twice? Didn't she know she had nothing to fear from me and that I would always take care of her?    Last night I crawled over to her mattress and sat looking at her while she slept. The streetlight was shining through the only window and fell on her finely creased forehead. To think that I had once lived here without her, that once I didn't hurry home every day to find her waiting in my house, just for me. I was overcome with joy, as I was every morning when I woke up and remembered that, only a few steps away, she was waking up too.    I only wanted to check her webbed fingers, but felt so mesmerized by her satiny white skin that I stretched out my hand to touch her. Her 18

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eyes shot open and her arms pushed me away. It shocked me. Surely, there was some code of conduct the Old Man had forgotten to tell me about.    As I came home this afternoon, she wasn't sitting outside the house as usual. The door was wide open, so I rushed into the kitchen and called for her. No answer. No Nadeshda. I looked for a note, a clue, an explanation for her sudden disappearance. This had never happened before. Had she been dissatisfied with my hospitality and care?    The kitchen floor was wet, which alarmed me. Had the sea and all its creatures been here to fetch her? Then I saw the jar in the corner, tilted and broken, my collection of fish eyes spilling out and drying on the floor. I pictured the scene: She had found the jar while looking for food, accidentally dropped it in sheer surprise and was then seized by homesickness. She must have reacted spontaneously.    In the living room I found a pile of clothes left on the deserted mattress. I sat down and caressed her T-shirt with its glittering stones. They spelled Love across the front. It all made sense. She had left me messages and I had to act. I had been a fool and tried to take what wasn't mine yet. Why had I been so blind to all her hints? She would be on her way to the sea now and I would have to follow her.    How do you dress to meet your lover? She came to me uncovered and vulnerable. How can I offer her anything less? I fold my T-shirt and jeans, hesitate in my underwear, then peel them off. I pause again as my blind feet search for a path in the water. Another step and my big toe hits a sharp stone. The pain travels up my spine. Don't look. Don't stop now. My hands are scratched as I steady myself on the raw rocks. Like my feet they search for balance and places to cling to. I'm not afraid. Don't want to be afraid. I know what's waiting out there, so I close my eyes and recall our first encounter. Looking back towards the house as my feet carry me forward, I understand how every event in my life has led me towards this very moment.    As I enter the silky water, I imagine how she walked into the sea; how she hesitated and looked back; how she shuddered with the possibility of having lost me; and how she finally threw herself into the water and disappeared between the waves. I too must make a sacrifice for her, although my excitement is mixed with fear of the unknown. To push such thoughts away I think about her moist silent mouth and dry vocal eyes. And of how brave she was to come to me. I must be brave now too. I have wasted far too long just staring at the sea.    A frothy wave caresses my thigh before it smashes against our rock. All the colours of the ocean glitter underneath its pearly whiteness. I recognize her greenish tint and shimmering skin in the few drops the foam leaves on my arm. I'm in to my navel. Water 19

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splashes against my naked chest. Wet bubbles burst like ripples of laughter, assuring me I'm on the right path. I must dive in and surrender myself to whatever awaits me. A cloud hides the sun and darkens the water. I feel naked and vulnerable as I plunge in. Will she be waiting for me among drowned shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea, or will I end up as foam on the crest of the waves?

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Short Fiction|Prathap Kamath The Painted Faces

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acob Mellows’ “Helen Beauty Salon” was named after the mythical Helen of Troy, renowned for her killing beauty. He was a tall man in his late forties with long flowing salt and pepper hair and a pointed beard. You always saw him in tight jeans and full-sleeved cotton shirt that glossed over his shapely musculature. He had dreamy eyes and the long fingers of a mesmeriser, and these features had contributed in an uncanny way to the phenomenal success of his trade, the beautifying of the face. Or transforming, shall we say! He had his secrets of trade.    Helen Beauty Salon was located near the Portuguese Fort where the Arabian sea howled hitting its head against the boulders set at the shore. It worked in a 19th century villa originally owned by a British man who was engineering the construction of the nearby light house in the 1890s. The villa and its premises were bought by Mellows from its then owner, the great grandson of the white man who had married a local Latin Catholic woman and originated an Anglo Indian family. The historically eloquent site of the Salon had played no mean role in making it the most preferred place for makeup and hairdo. Its premises were big enough to provide parking space for the huge luxury cars in which his clients came.    The Salon had a long semicircular veranda with a low wall on the outer side. Pillars holding the roof were fixed on it at regular distances between them. The guests preferred to sit on this wall and enjoy the view of the sea rather than to sit in the posh chairs set on the veranda. Mellows had made the painters retain the old mossy grimness of the walls and even the cracks thereon. He had airconditioned the interiors where he had his clinic. He had put glasses on the large windows of the house so that the light and the sea came into the view of his clients with the surprising effect of a breaking dawn. They enjoyed losing themselves in the sight of the sea and the tactile sensations his fingers gave them. Two girls assisted him besides Monica who fixed appointments and managed cash and accounts. She was Mellows’ young wife. She sat at the reception like an ivory statue with her eyes lost in the blue sea.    To some of his very wealthy and influential customers, Mellows had a secret alcove in the ancient villa to which only he had access. This alcove was another beauty parlour designed to have the secrecy needed for the application of his mysterious skills that transformed his clients. It too had a window with curtains which, if drawn, ushered in the view of the sea and the lighthouse.    The few clients who wanted him to work on their natures had to 21

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impress him on the need and urgency of his intervention. His infernal skill was to refine the face with a transformation of the very nature of the client. He kneaded their body and mind; reshaped them. He painted their faces concealing the blemishes of their souls. Passing through this process they rose to levels of being that were ecstatic and empowered. For this he charged them amounts that suited his whims and fancies. But the clients were too happy to give him what he asked, for they could afford it and with great happiness. *    When Paris came there in an afternoon Monica had to pluck her eyes from the sea to cast them on him.    “You have no appointment today sir,” she told the stranger.    “I need no appointment. I am the minister’s son. Tell Mellows.”    Monica rose as he approached her. His eyes seemed to bore into hers like red coals. She felt a painful tickling in her abdomen. He had a broad forehead and prominent cheeks. His jaw was well cut and poised on a broad neck and round shoulders. His thick black wavy hair was pruned neatly. His eyes emitted heat waves that singed her, and flew her off to the boiling sea. They were the seductive eyes of a vampire that feigned love to kill.    Before she could fly back to the ground and before she could pick the intercom to inform her husband, Mellows emerged with an expectant sheen in his eyes. He had sensed the arrival of the one in need. He paused in his steps watching the trance in which Paris and Monica were entrapped. A scowl crossed his vulpine face. It brought to his mind the image of falling towers from the distant past.    Mellows ushered Paris into the salon. He led him into the secret alcove and invited him to lie on the reclining couch. As he pulled the curtains back, the lighthouse came into view. The sea was a blue velvet blanket evenly spread on the earth beneath a white burning sun.    Paris reclined absorbing the ambience. The sight of the lighthouse and the sea with the heads of coconut trees slanting towards it on the shore mingled with that of the room and its equipment. He enjoyed a calm that had been unknown to him.    He closed his eyes as Mellows spread a balm on his forehead and rubbed it down to his temples. Mellows whispered in his ears:    “Now tell me Paris . . .”    He said he wanted to fly across the sea with the object of his love. But the object never conceded to his wish. She was repelled by something in his eyes. So his eyes had to be changed.    “Speak to me. Let your words unfold that which hides the love in your eyes,” said Mellows.    “My love meets with no body. It is a disembodied love,” said Paris. 22

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“I am torn by my incapacity to fix my eyes on the one I love. There is none who could stand the heat of my gaze.”    “Since when did you begin to feel this?”    “Ever since I discovered that my father, the minister, was a tireless lecher and my mother had turned into a bitch.”    As Mellows’ fingers rubbed the young man’s temples he opened to him the book of his life. Mellows searched for the pages that would give him the clue to work on his client’s face.        During the fifty-fifth year of his life, while attempting to copulate with his five hunderdth woman, impotence befell the minister. He fell over like an oak tree rotten at the roots. He looked back on his life and saw that there never had been a day in his life ever since he reached puberty when he had not had a woman. He had been known for his prowess over women, and women had played no small role in campaigning him into victory in his political career. He had believed that his sway over the women voters, which had been demographically proved consistently for a quarter of a century in the electoral history of the land, was due to his oomph. The fact that now the most horrible thing had happened to him was beyond his acceptance.     He tried remedies. The magic pill, now celebrated by the sex-aid market, was of no avail. He realized that no drug, however powerful it was, could prop up the one who lacked the minimum power to take off. He consulted various specialists of different orientations. The modern, the indigenous, the tribal, the charlatan, the mystic and the voodooist. Being the man in power, the minister was treated by them with the utmost diligence, for they all believed that the ruler’s impotence would bring famine to the land. But all their endeavour went to nothing as the minster’s staff remained languid and downcast at the crucial time. Finally, after many trials and errors, the apothecaries sadly proclaimed that the minister was maimed for life.    Now what was left for the minister was to keep up pretences. He had to sustain his name as the most virile citizen of his state. And thus began the bizarre episode of his life’s show. He now began to choose nubile girls who were terrified and defenceless before him. He undressed them and practiced the most outlandish sadism on them without ever trying to copulate. He brought other men and made them rape the hapless girls for him to watch.    A moment came when the minister’s frustration reached such a level that his revenge on his fate turned him into a fiend who staged his orgies in his own house to the notice of Paris and his mother. He slapped Paris on his face and kicked him on his stomach when he questioned him on his actions. He had stopped touching his wife ever since he had become deficient. Instead, he tortured her by making her watch the orgies over which he presided.

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Mellows gently caressed the young man’s scalp and willed him into the present. “Hold your eyes closed,” he told Paris. He rubbed an exfoliant on Paris’ face and drew circles with his fingers. He then applied a moisturizer before patting a cotton pad wet with a toner on the face and the eyelids. He then pressed his palm on Paris’ eyes for a time that felt to him like one where he was crossing a calm sea on a ship set to full sail.    “Forgive your father. His show of power is the other side of his impotence. Forgive him by exposing him to the world. Let him suffer less by having no more to hide his truth.” Mellows told him.    “You will have to come here two more times. Observe the change you feel and report to me on your next visit. On the third visit you will not see me,” said Mellows. He speaks like a prophet, thought Paris. On his way back he looked for Monica. Her seat was vacant.    The encounter with Paris had struck a restive chord in Mellows. That night he mounted Monica as soon as she came to bed. He had preferred it that way, to feel like a virulent rider on a young mare crossing the chasm of the twenty five years between them, during the past two years while she had been his wife. He had known that to be the only way in which he could express his love and duty to her. He rode her till she groaned her way to convulsive climaxes. He knew he had no words or caresses of tenderness for her; no actual sharing of anything. They never understood one another, or felt the need to. He saw to it that she met with all her needs including the gratification of her body’s hunger. She spoke no complaints. She had become his wife willingly for she was an orphan. He had offered to marry her as a way of doing good. Only she knew the heat behind his charity. . .    “My eyes now seem to have lost their fiery heat. My love has found a body that does not flinch under my gaze. But she is not warming up to it. My youth will go barren without her, ” Paris said to him on his second visit.    The minister had been exposed and arrested. Paris had provided the police photos and videos of his father’s cruelties to women as evidence. His father had embraced him for saving him from the curse of living a lie.    Mellows read Paris further as he lay with his eyes closed on the couch for the second time. The treatment would end with that session, Mellows knew. He looked at his palms where he had begun to feel a faint smell of the blood that would be spilt. He got the first intimations of doom.    Her husband had ceased loving her for a long time. Even when he had had clandestine affairs with women, he had loved her in the early years of their marriage, until Paris had reached his teens. It was with the advent of grey on her hair that her husband the minister had begun to grow cold. He then began to spot other marks of age on her 24

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body which until then he had not either noticed while making love, or had ignored owing to his love for her. The black circles of insomnia around her eyes, the narrow wrinkles on her face, her loosened chin and neck and the stretch marks on her abdomen, all would become unbearably conspicuous to him now. He would switch on the lights upon undressing her. He insisted on showing her how her appearance drained away his desire. She who had been his queen and had lived like a queen began to feel like a whore whose worth was reckoned with freshness and youth. Each day he revelled in humiliating her under the pretext of wanting to make love.    He would compare her parts with those of his other women. He found theirs to be the ones for which he would even lose his sceptre.    That was when the image of her humbled husband loomed before her. Now she knew how she would emasculate him with his own means.    “I shall show you my worth, for worth lies in demand,” she said to him and since then stopped presenting herself to him. It didn’t take long for the minister’s wife to get lovers. They included even a couple of youthful ministers in his own cabinet. Her lovers soon grew into an army that could ransack the minister’s harem in a jiffy. To the sturdy tyros in love who licked her feet in admiration and gratitude she suggested that behind the bravura of her husband’s well known womanizing is the contorted face of the impotent. She was in no way resistant to the spreading of the news of her own adultery; in a way she encouraged it so as to add to her husband’s abasement.    She noticed the changes in her husband in the way frustration choked him. Cruelty clutched his face like a mask. He abused her in the filthiest language and did everything possible except physical assault to damage her soul, at which all she laughed enjoying the fruits of her efforts. This man has been insulted by his own like in his most prestigious arena of male action, she surmised. He began staging orgies at his home like a Caligula, and forced her to watch expecting that it would cripple her. And things reached a climax when he beat their son who questioned his madness. . .    “So you were a boat tempest-tossed and unanchored in your own seas Paris . . . !” Mellows murmured as he softly pushed the tip of his long fingers along the curve of the young man’s head.    “Forgive your mother, for she was only seeking darkness among the shadows. Kiss her forehead and tell her you love her. She will be cured.”    He painted Paris’ face after applying a concealer on the blemishes that lay in the shape of three fingers across his cheeks. “The face I paint for you will break the barriers between you and your love. She will cross the seas to be with you. Here you go,” said Mellows after brushing Paris’ face for a an hour. Paris held to him his price, a dozen pieces of radiant diamond. * 25 LIJLA Vol.5, No.2 August 2017


Mellows knew that it was coming before he had discovered Monica’s absence or got her letter from under the pillow wet with tears. It had only a single line:    “I have found him who would lay down his life for me.”    He entered the secret alcove on that day that wore the dark face of a wounded soldier and sat in front of the mirror to make himself up for the battle of his life. He had to play the war to get his story to its unexpected conclusion. He remembered the words of Ecclesiastes as he began to paint his face:    “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up . . .”    Mellows looked at the inviting sea as he stood up braced with the face of a lethal Agamemnon. He took out the revolver from the safe and inserted it in his jacket as he strode out of “Helen Beauty Salon.” *

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Poetry|Megan Stolz 15 weeks Your life is marked by silence. Your warm watery world, encompassing, quiet as the ocean just as teeming with promise. You inhabit the spaces between the words when I say, “I’m fine.”

Mother earth Chasmic womb can hold galaxies the size of a single poppy seed. My groans can shake the earth. Empty. Nothing grows here. My tears flood the delta, so fertile, such promise. Blood is only the first plague, drained until death. Mercy. There will be no harvest. Cry out, and even your echoes return unanswered. You are alone.

Lost child i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) - ee cummings

They say that I lost you as if you are simply misplaced. You are rooted to me, sweet one. I will carry you, unbound, inhabiting my very skin. See there — a bud.

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A poppy seed is the same size as a galaxy, a dream, and a human heart I cannot grow fruit in my garden, though I plant and I water and I till — the soil is too calcified, perhaps, the chemistry is off. There’s not enough sunlight to save my sanity, the night is too long. I can’t sleep in my own bed. Maybe this is my problem. All I want is a single flower. I’ll fertilize with my own body when I die, I’ll send rain with a ghostly breath. I’ll shift the earth’s rotation until I’m realigned. We’re all stuffed with cotton, we all lack feeling in our fingertips. Maybe someday we’ll learn to fly.

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Poetry|Shanta Acharya Cook and the Chickpea With acknowledgement to Rumi

A chickpea leaping out of the pot, no more dry and hard, but ready to sprout, soaked overnight, then boiled fiercely, yelled with all its might at the cook: Why are you doing this to me? The cook casting the chickpea back in the pot, as if guiding a whale stranded on the beach, breathless and lost, back into the ocean, replied: When will you stop thinking only about yourself, begin to accept my cooking, careful and constant, as your destiny? How am I torturing you when all I am doing is enriching your bland goodness with spices, salt, garlic, ginger, turmeric and tomatoes, so you can mix with rice and vegetables, and nourish my master’s family? Remember the way you were tended as you drank rain in my master’s garden, doing nothing, feeding on minerals and other nutrients? You have come a long way from a seed planted in the vegetable garden to the dawn of a new life in a cooking pot, to a taste conjured by me specially for you, providing nourishment to humans. Don’t you know we are all returning, our lives enriched by serving, our home where we are going?

(Shanta Acharya, from Imagine: New and Selected Poems) 29

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The Art of Eating Fruits Dig a hole in the eye of the green coconut, turn it upside down and drink all the milk it has to offer – split it open, scrape the kernel, deep inside its belly, then let the tender flesh slide down your gullet. Hold the mango in the palm of your hands, firmly seize the day with the gentleness of passion as you close your eyes, squeezing and sucking a breast. Sitting in the garden without knives, forks or spoons, knead the yielding flesh, lick the sweetness oozing from the fruit. Crack open the pomegranate like a brittle skull; rubies lie hidden there, waiting to be crushed by diamonds sparkling in your mouth. If you prefer anar juice, grind the jewels into a vermilion paste as if preparing for Holi – smear the colours on friends, turn them into modern paintings instead of a canvas with finely chiselled, miniature portraits. Pull back the skin of a banana with nonchalance, bite off greedily its erectness. Have no patience, it might oxidise into a limpid, rusty brown presence. Pitted dates, prunes, figs and grapes are most pleasurable when you crunch through their silken crepe fibres. Play a game of spit-the-seed, suck-the-stone every time you eat pears, plums, nectarines, guavas, apples, apricots – they are best munched with the skin to imbibe their full flavour. The art of eating jackfruit is acquired only by the artiste. Protect hands with surgically oiled gloves of knowledge before you prise it open, diving into its ambergris.

(Shanta Acharya, from Imagine: New and Selected Poems)

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Poetry|Lucy Durneen Here is not where you are, Felipe This morning I wanted to write to you again a letter that is becoming a photograph. I have been trying to picture you on the beach Life Study, Palace Cove, I am calling it. I am struggling with the light even though I told you I like to work against it, to submit to it, especially the anthimeric kind, moving from one state to another It’s harder in words. “Incipient” - this light. I am widening my lens the path to the beach an exhalation, our feet tore a wet gauze of shells. We walked one behind the other, not like new lovers at all, I was ahead always ahead the dog following us, weaving a line of gorse. We rescued her from Galatas that winter, I was speaking to her in Greek. Stamata, Lucia stop I could have been talking to her or me - our shared name – or time, I wanted to stop time, rub it between my fingers, gold as gorse, trapping its dust under my nails. “Too much nature,” Mondrian said of Cornwall. Sometimes I wonder this, if it is too much the beauty. Landscape by itself is meaningless Sometimes you need something ugly if you are to feel anything at all 31

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Being beautiful in a beautiful world is easy, you said I couldn’t disagree. I wondered if you were not holding my hand because you were ashamed, or remembering perhaps, where I first read your poetry, the library on West Road, its redolent vanillin, rosin, camphor the distance between things, the books, our chairs, years impossible not to see the space, like breathing holes in ice. Someone had left a wine glass beside Novel Approaches to Anthropology. I thought your words dark flames, fish among stars, but you pressed your endings home too hard. I told you, step off lightly. You walked out of the room and chose weight. I am lettering you now in chiaroscuro, the black and the white of you on the sand a daguerreotype stippled with noise. Our own body at rest is a thing we can never see for ourselves, you are eluding silver halide, the ink in my pen. I am thinking of Leonard Cohen’s gypsy boy I can say this now It is a kind of time travel, when your desire has forgotten itself and one night wakes up, a sleeping volcano. On the beach my mouth catalogued your muscles, latisimus dorsi like alabaster after Michaelangelo after Rodin whose lover understood the beauty of the fragment the synecdoche of the body in a way that he could not, being whole a man. Camille I am thinking of, only ever a part of his story, a blemish under his fingers, 32

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the cholera of men who are interested in art, maddened at the edges: “There is always something missing that torments me.” That’s how it is. There is always something missing from a scene that I cannot name. You talked about names, the trouble of speaking them aloud, I did not have a name for you, Felipe, so I have borrowed one. Lover of horses, from philos, from hippos a synonym for God. In battle the horses of Achilles wept for men, their human suffering, the wild, bloody transience of the mortal heart. Wild is a thing you are the way gorse is wild or fire Who told me about the horses of Mongolia? They can enter dreams anyway I don't believe it that the only truly wild horses left in the world are found on those steppes, unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. I have watched stallions on Dartmoor the danger in their flanks, parting grass as if they were wind; I have seen you spin fire. You burn inside, Felipe, but your lips are cold. When I look it up, your name, I read this: they can rip you apart, they can do things in bed that no others can. I am holding your name in my mouth, lightly as a hunting dog, its feathered prize tender at its teeth, a round stone frail as sea glass oceánicos I am swallowing your language of heat and dust, I am cutting my throat on its pines 33

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“Your eyes are like two glasses of water on a hot day.” You lick me with two tongues. On the day you left I ran the coast path, a thing pursued, the ocean loud with the song of octopus and squid, of marlin, which is the sound of all animal longing, of heartbreak telegraphed through lonely, deepwater halls. A map tacked to a tree, an insistence of a fixed point in the world: You are here but the arrow marking my position was wrong, a little to the left, a geography misrecorded which means here is not where I was. I thought of the mountains, where you are not, the imprecise beauty of things in the wrong place the forests of your words, the ones you sent in those violet winter hours before dawn “The line needed crossing,” you said, pulling me over it, laying me down on soft nouns, the parched brush of Andalucía I have not seen, inked wild tigers on paper, the sun through pinsapo, metallic shadow, two million years old light like a blade, like a tooth my blood at your fingers Your mouth, pressed to my cunt whispered a gift 34

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alcachofa I felt the word travelling my belly, my blood, the vena cava, the circumnavigation of my sternum like the echo they say travels the length of Grand Central Station as loud when it reached my tongue as when it left yours I am looking at it now in the mirror, el coño spread like an artichoke one finger pressed to its raging leaves I have never looked at it this way before which is to say at all My fingers strangers in a city of dervishes cautious, as if walking a dark street knowing the violence in the shadows I have learned about desire by speaking of it, but what of love, what of all the silent white space in the heart? There was a poet who said all human and broken things depend on perfection. Architects know this too, or rather the reverse, the appeal of the ruin, the way we believe everything to look more beautiful in decay, how the feeling of longing is stronger than that of having; “The artist must be ready,” said Rodin, “to be consumed by the fire of his own creation” Felipe, I wonder what he would sculpt from our broken bed this shipwrecked bed, its petrichor of sex 35

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the scuppered hull, its waterlicked sides all the tiny starfish mouths Catastrophe that follows wonder. “Darling,” you said. “I would write to you of all the beautiful deadly things in the world.” I am drawing you inside me, high as the spring tide, I am breathing sand, which was once glass, which was quartz shellfish the colour of plums, my bruised arms. You said you have two hearts, one to give away all the time to strangers the other has never seen the light of day You said this but I cannot find either not in the stars or by scratching at the floor. I am like a child clutching at the string of a balloon. At Palace Cove you wanted to swim, but it was too cold for swimming we arrived too early, the year still new. Such things I cannot photograph, the April sun, I mean its weariness, brittle as coral the best you can do is an approximation, something standing in for something else the way we mistake love for absence or other discontents. We were dozing when we heard her bark the dog high up on the cliff, quickstepping its tilted spine. The ocean a deep pressure below, a storm inside an eye. Our bodies left fissures in the sand I was running. These are the kind of things we remember years 36

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later, in the arms of other men, or when drinking tea, quietly these thoughts find us at the kitchen table, tired, our hearts temporarily alone, the news murmuring of nuclear war; music finds us this way, like a thief at a window. How you moved with faith, Felipe, how for you there was time. You do not understand how I live in fevered analepsis You do not need to. Time is what I do not have, I am always fearing Conclusion its weight the altars of the mad girls’ love songs, their bodies like new fruit, your mouth throbbing when you press it against the years to come Years like eggs yet to be I long for lighter feet. Breathe you tell me and the universe grows nearly 50 miles nine people died, twenty babies were born a half million chemical reactions seethed through my body such swiftly burning suns - it’s true love is only the surge of dopamine, of norepinephrine solar flares that blaze through space and are gone. Your hair in the wind, your slow climb from the cove, calling her name, which is my name we never did change it - bringer of light, born in the hours before sunrise The bright sky and its tidal light, vibrating. Your arm extended seawards - Ela, Come, Lucia – and for you the dog returned.

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Book Review|Danton R. Remoto

Review of Life Happens by Malachi Edwin Vethamani

Life Happens, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Maya Press, Malaysia, 2017.

Life Happens is the second collection of poems by the prolific poet, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, professor at the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus. The book is divided into five parts: Family, Friends and Acquaintances, Companions, Lovers and Other Strangers, The Departed and The Living.    The poet is adept at writing poems that have concerns that are social, personal, and philosophical. “A Habitation of One’s Own” is composed of short, clipped lines, but it carries with it an epic sweep on Malaysian history and culture, better than longer stories could. At the end, you could feel that the father in the poem is not the literal father of the persona, but he has become Malaysia itself—multiracial and multicultural Malaysia, with its many-layered complexities borne by culture and history.    Likewise, the poet can swing from bald poetry of statements to poems of lyrical grace. There is a deceptive simplicity in the poem, ‘Slumber now, my son,’ which reads like a lullaby one would hum to put a child to sleep, but is in reality an RX for a son in frenetic, urbanizing Malaysia.    Vethamani’s keen sense of history is also seen in the poem ‘New Arrivals,’ where the persona surveys the scene and telescopes on these arrivistes. ‘Now, you arrive/ over land and by air,/ fatigued and clueless./ A piece of paper/ in your hands/ holding hope and despair/ Like so many before you.’ Notice the twinning of hope and despair, which is at the heart of all exiles in a new land—despair at having to leave their old homeland, and hope of creating a new life, and a protean, new self, in the new homeland.    The lyrical and private poems are also deceptively simple. Some of 38

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them deal with the poetic terrain found in the poems of A.E. Housman: the land of youth celebrating life, but looming behind is the face of decay and death. In the poem ‘Still you,’ Professor Vethamani writes about the beauty of youth suddenly gone to seed: ‘Now your/ locks are silvery,/ gait has less spring/ eyes a distant gaze.’ This is the same poetic terrain found in the Japanese haiku, which implies the sadness of beauty, because it does not last. Everything breaks as quickly as the ‘dewdrop world’.    There is also a delightful suite of poems that could very well be impishly titled ‘Suburbia, of thee I sing’. Here, the poet writes about the tranquillity of life in the suburbs, far away from the noise and lunacy of the city that he hates..    But in suburbia, the land is golden and green, the flowers open themselves petal by petal to the sun, and there is a loyal and loving dog named Duke, who is slowly growing old, serving as a mirror to the birth, growth and decay found in nature itself. The poet writes: ‘My heart yearns/ to linger outside/ having found its/ soul mates’. The ‘cement walls’ of the house (the city) is like a prison in the quotidian life one endures in the blur of city life.    One feels the keen sense of longing sharp as a knife in the section called ‘Transient companions’. This section deals with fractured relationships, fissures caused by sadness and longing, what the novelist Carson McCullers said of the heart being ‘a lonely hunter’.    In ‘Half-empty bed’, the following lines glisten like tears: ‘As I inhale/ your last night’s/ presence in/ our half-empty bed,/ I know/ tonight you will not/ sleep alone’.    The poet also uses the new forms of technology and social media to show the alienation between people and the ironic gap between the quickness of communications in the Age of the Internet–and its lack of depth. In the poem ‘I will text you,’ the poet writes: ‘Let me text you/ words of love./ My tongue has hardened/ from disuse’.    The stasis in relationships in the poem ‘Time passes’ is shown by the bedroom clock that keeps on ticking, while the personal lies, seemingly paralysed, in bed. This all reminds me of the late writer Angela Carter, who in one essay described a clock as like the ticking of a bomb.    In the poem ‘Flighty flower’, the poet laments the quickness with which sexual relations can be established in this postmodern age, but they as quickly vanish. ‘The scent now gone/ no lingering fragrance/ no real harm’.    ‘Love’s Lessons’ could well an anthem of those who have loved and lost. It says: ‘I know how much to stretch the heart./ Like a taut rubber band/ it will only yield what it can/ then break with a painful snap’. You could almost hear the snap in this poem, which goes beyond the physical and becomes a primal scream in the metaphysical realm.    Clever and cunning, on the other hand, is the poem ‘Misplaced’, 39

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which deserves to be quoted extensively: ‘I could not remember/ if you kissed me good-night./ And this morning/ I could not remember/ where I had placed my watch.// As you drove away/ I remembered you didn’t kiss me/ and found the watch/ placed in the wrong drawer’.    But Vethamani happily shows he is not just navel-gazing, for his keen eye and sharp ear still sees the sharp contradictions in society. In ‘Happy Labour Day’, the persona sits at Harrods’s Cafe, watching immigrant labourers hard at work under the harsh glare of the sun. And then the persona says: ‘My FB has been receiving/ Happy Labour Day messages./ I press LIKE/ as if it were International Cats’ Day’.    There is also gallows humour when in the poem ‘Not a wake’, when a book launching is compared to a funeral wake and impish insights on the vacuity of sex and not love.    The poem ‘Come to pass’, shows the poet’s philosophical turn of mind, when his musings are transformed into wings of words. Listen: ‘When I’m gone,/ the night will turn to day/ the bird will sing its song// When I’m gone/ the waves will return/ the moon grow full// When I’m gone/ my sorrow will cease/ my heart stilled’.    In the last part of the book, the soul selects his own society, with its Joycean pairing of ‘the living’ with ‘the departed’. These are beautiful and painful poems about the self, society and the soul, and they show Vethamani at the height of his considerable powers as a poet.

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Waiting for Judgement 3

Acrylic, Pen and Ink, Pencil on canvas 72x72 Inch 2016 41

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Waiting for Judgement 4

Acrylic, Pen and Ink, Pencil on canvas 60x48 Inch 2016 42

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Looking for Judgement

Pen and Ink Acrylic on canvas 36x24 Inch 2016 43

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Untitled 113

Mix Medio on canvas 96x72 Inch 2013 44

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Looking for Humanity

Pen/Pencil and Acrylic on paper 30x22 Inch 2015 45

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Kohra the Fog

Pen/Pencil and Ink Acrylic color on canvas 60x48 Inch 2014 46

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Untitled 42

Pen/Pencil and Ink Acrylic color on paper 30x41 Inch 2014 47

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

Untitled 15

Pen and Ink Acrylic color on canvas 24x36 Inch 2015 48

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Visual Art|Supriy Sharma

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Short Fiction|Ernest White II Pull

O

n a Monday morning in September, Dr. Eric Nair, pediatrician at New York Medical Center of Lower Manhattan, walked into the overpriced chain coffee shop on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 96th Street. He stood in line behind the other professional Upperalmost-Spanish-Harlem-East-Siders-with-aspirations-to-move- thirtyor-forty-blocks-south waiting to order his tall skinny blonde with almond milk, his mind on the slowness of the line, the length of his shift that day, and how much— how little, rather—he really wanted to be a pediatrician. Dr. Nair had considered, albeit briefly and with much apprehension as to his parents’ reaction should such a drastic transition actually be carried out, changing from medicine to philosophy or creative writing or something during his post-graduate studies at Columbia. “Enough is enough, Babu,” his mother would hypothetically assert, using Eric’s Malayalam nickname. “We tolerate your homosexuality, but there is no way on earth we will tolerate you consigning yourself to perpetual poverty.”    Dr. Nair’s parents had worked hard—Arjun as a math teacher, Vidya as a chemist—to escape the relative poverty of Kerala thirty years before, bringing tiny little newborn Pamela, Eric’s older sister by two years, with them to the promised land of White Castle and the 7 train. Dr. Nair now worked in the very same hospital building in which he was born, a detail that factored into every not-quite-humble brag about her son to her friends by Mrs. Vidya Nair. Sadly, Mrs. Nair couldn’t exactly brag about her daughter, because poor Pamela, having been sullied by a public school education in the borough of Queens, decided to marry a producer of rap music who also happened to be black; Mrs. Nair protested, almost-convincingly, that it was the rap music and not the blackness that she disapproved of.    But it was blackness that caught Dr. Eric Nair’s eye that Monday morning in the overpriced chain coffee shop, a blackness that was, in reality, very near his own brownness. A rich reddish-brown with a shaved head, thick eyebrows, and pinkish, pillowy lips, sitting against the exposed brick wall at the back of the coffee shop typing on an early-model Dell laptop, eyes downward and shaded by a curtain of lashes. And then the eyes looked at him.    “Eric, tall skinny blonde almond,” called the barista, though Ericwith-a-C picked up a cup marked Erik-with-a-K. And in the next moment, when Eric-with-a-C looked back in the direction of the reddish-brown typist, their gazes connected for less than an instant before the typist looked back down at his laptop. But it was too late, for that instant had been enough of an eternity for Dr. Eric Nair to 50

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understand and know: he had witnessed beauty, and beauty had witnessed him.    Dr. Nair took one last fleeting look at the reddish-brown typist, whose eyes never returned to meet his. And as he turned around to leave, he felt the slight prick of the balloon, of the elation that had lifted his feet from the coffee shop floor for just an instant, and he refused to look again as he headed for the 4 train and the hospital.    But Antonio Woods had looked again. And again. He had seen the striking Indian guy walk into the coffee shop, a guy who could just as easily have been Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan, but Antonio settled on the more numerically probable descriptor. And, for a while, each time he looked down at his laptop, he closed his eyes and saw the shiny, stylishly unkempt black hair, the pillowy lips, and the luminous teeth. Striking. In his bearing, much broader and taller than his actual frame. In his appearance, a boyish, almost-startled face, with eyes dark as infinity and rimmed by long, thick lashes. Striking, Antonio thought, just how much they favored, despite his own very different background—half-Jamaican, half-Dominican, full New Yorker—and his unabashedly curly hair, hair that no longer began at a widow’s peak but between two very pronounced cowlicks and, thus, had been shaved completely since his thirtieth year.    Antonio hadn’t been able to write another sentence since he and the striking Indian guy caught each other’s eyes for that interminable millisecond. And he had been so blinded by the luminous hair, eyes, and teeth of the guy that he refused to look again, if only to retain the image, a familiar picture of the masculine and multi-ethnic brownskinned loveliness for which Uptown and the outer boroughs were known, at once made singular and daunting by this shiny South Asian representative. When Antonio looked up, he only caught the barest flash of his object of enchantment through the plate glass window of the coffee shop as it bounded for the subway.    “Do I go after him?” Antonio thought, just for a moment, before regaining himself and his composure and returning to his manuscript. He was finishing the first third of his second novel, the one he started after his first attempt was deemed “too literary” by the bigname publishing house that had agreed to give his work serious consideration a few years ago. This new novel was about sex, because sex sells, amirite? But the novel was slow-going, as was the sex, recently. Not quite the average millennial, Antonio had never joined Tinder or Grindr or any of the other quick-and-easy hook-up apps. He had a few online profiles, but hadn’t dated seriously since Latavia’s miscarriage.    Antonio and Latavia had dated since their senior year of high school, through his four years studying English and hers studying nursing at CUNY, and throughout the remainder of their 20s. He didn’t 51

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care if she saw the occasional guy on the side for a little extra cash, and she didn’t care if he saw the occasional guy on the side for a little authentic affection; they trusted each other and kept each other’s secrets. Not that his blurred sexuality was exactly a secret—his family accepted, if they didn’t forthrightly approve—but his muscular frame, staid countenance, and recorded history with Latavia coded him as incontestably heterosexual in his terra natal of the South Bronx, no matter how many Chelsea queers clocked him as trade. And, besides, Antonio and Latavia loved each other, enough.    But after the miscarriage came Charles, a lusty young UPS delivery driver, and Latavia fell in love. The end had arrived, she and Antonio concluded logically and without much fuss or passion, and she moved out of their tiny studio apartment off Willis Avenue. Antonio— determined never to return to teaching after a creativity-killing twoyear stint in the public school system, especially now that there would be no little mouth to feed for the foreseeable future—picked up extra shifts at LaGuardia Airport to cover her half of the rent.    Meanwhile, he tried writing his novel in the intervals between departures and arrivals, when his body bristled with endorphins after stacking 120 suitcases in the belly of a Boeing 737 bound for Florida. But, the incessant mechanical drone of the airport ramp, punctuated by the clanging of metal luggage carts and the percussive laughter and cussing of his fellow ramp workers, made summoning the required fictive reverie impossible. And writing at home never seemed to work very well: the combined presence of the Internet and privacy resulted in marathon masturbation sessions while vast passages of novel remained unwritten.    On a Sunday evening in September, after transferring from the famously slow and crowded M60 bus and onto the 6 train headed north, Antonio Woods—physically exhausted and slightly resentful of always having to stand up on the train after work—overheard a bubbly young gentrifier mention to her friend that the overpriced chain coffee shop at Lexington Avenue and 96th Street was an excellent place to get work done: “Mornings are gudd ‘cuz most people are, like, getting their coffees ta-go, and those loser wannabe-writer-types don’t even get outta bed until, like, one o’clock.”    On a Tuesday afternoon in October, Dr. Eric Nair finished his day earlier than usual, having only seen a few patients and enduring merely the silent treatment of several senior doctors, as opposed to the usual slick comments about his height, his youth, or the stereotypical promiscuity of gay men.    Eric had gotten used to the peculiar fluttering sensation in his chest whenever he walked through the front doors of the hospital. It was more than just a sigh of relief at the end of the work day; it was an illumination, as if a headlight shone directly from his heart 52

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onto the road ahead. But it was also different from that other heart sensation Eric had been feeling over the past few weeks, a dull but persistent burning that also came and went, like the fluttering, at times which were once unexpected but were now becoming routine: early mornings, late afternoons, and late nights.    A man of science and logic, Dr. Nair had all his vitals checked after he felt the first burning sensation, sometime in September, while riding to work on the 4 train. A flash of surprise, a millisecond of panic, then confusion. He felt none of the usual signs of heart attack: no tingly arms or shortness of breath. In fact, there was a calmness surrounding the sensation. He looked around at the other passengers, eyes occupied by books and newspapers, their smartphones, or the empty space just beyond their noses. No one seemed to notice the surge of heat and pressure happening within him, happening around his heart as with a lump of coal that would be a diamond.    Eric’s blood pressure: good. Cholesterol levels: low. Electrocardiogram: clean. Echocardiography: clear. He had never experienced the type of heartburn for which he prescribed H-2 blockers or PPIs, but somehow, he knew that it wasn’t acid reflux or anything gastrointestinal. He knew before he finished his last tests that this didn’t feel like heartburn; it felt like heartbreak.    Up to that point, Eric had only had two heartbreaks: the pale and lanky Peter Fassbender, to whom Eric lost his virginity in undergrad, and Dr. Rodger Higgins Klein, charismatic head of surgery at Lower Manhattan who had been poised to leave his shrew-of-a-wife anytimenow for at least the last two years that he and Eric had been messing around. Peter, who still hadn’t completely grown into his outsized hands and feet at 19, typically pal’d around with other twinky white boys, and Eric felt the sparkle of recognition when Peter smiled at him one day after trig. The nerdy, skinny Desi boy from Jackson Heights had finally been noticed, been seen.    And as Peter inhaled the scent of Eric Nair’s slightly stale armpit in a twin bed at John Jay before moving his mouth to more southerly latitudes, Eric imagined traveling up to New Haven to meet Peter’s parents and maybe spending summers in Provincetown. But the next day, after trig, Peter looked right past Eric at Josh Stenzler, who, like Peter, was tall and lanky and played lacrosse and wasn’t quite pale but was still white. Peter continued to unsee Eric for several weeks, no matter how much Eric obsessed over Peter. But one day, after trig, Peter smiled at Eric again.    The seeing and unseeing continued through the remainder of the term, Eric feeling increasingly bothered by Peter’s inability to see him in the presence of his fellow Abercrombie clones. Finally, Peter, lying spent and satisfied in Eric’s dorm room bunk, unceremoniously informed Eric that this would be their last clandestine coupling: he was “going steady” with Josh. Eric had known this for weeks, of course, but 53

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as long as Peter hadn’t spoken the words, then the truth simply wasn’t true. Peter thanked him for “all that Indian spice,” then dressed and left a mute Eric lying naked in bed and staring at the ceiling; he hadn’t even cum.    Lately, climaxing proved to be a rarer and rarer event for young Dr. Eric Nair, at least in the presence of others. In fact, it had been two weeks since he had even logged on to Grindr. Any thrill that had once existed in meeting hot randos for hook-ups in Manhattan had evaporated because not one, not a single one—no matter the penile dimensions, gluteal curvature, or abdominal musculature—seemed as interesting, or as memorable, as the reddish-brown typist, whom Eric hadn’t seen since that Monday in September. Eric had gone back other Mondays around the same time to grab his coffee, but he had never seen the typist again.    Not that he was looking; clearly, the guy wasn’t that interested, especially since he didn’t look back at Eric as he left the coffee shop that day. But that day, and every day since, Dr. Nair could not shake the picture of the typist from his mind. Sure, the exact lines and shapes had blurred a bit in the month that had passed, but the essential characteristics remained: full lips, feathery lashes, silky eyebrows, caramel-ly complexion. But Eric knew the typist wouldn’t be interested in him, some scrawny, petulant, fussy Indian doctor. If anything, he would want a buff, macho dude like himself, if he was even into dudes in the first place.    Dr. Nair was walking to the gym when the heart whirring started, and he thought of the typist. Wondered. Wondered what he was typing. Wondered about his background and what he might do for a living. Wondered if his name matched his face. Wondered how firm his handshake was and what his chest smelled like.    Antonio Woods had masturbated up to three times a day since he was 14 years old. Even during his 12-year relationship with Latavia, the only woman he had ever been with and whose libido matched his enough for them to lead half a heteronormative sex life. Antonio only ever watched gay porn and, until recently, had only ever fantasized about other men—wrestling hunks and assorted, interchangeable porn stars—and Latavia. Now, he kept showing up; the striking Indian guy with the taut, brown body and infinite eyes showed up in everything, in porn-fueled and subconsciously conjured masturbatory sessions alike. He would always appear at the end, in all sorts of ways, and they would both climax, in Antonio’s mind, tightly entwined and kissing passionately, no matter how raunchily the fantasy began. But now, in addition to the often dull, habitual, quasi-enjoyment of ejaculation, Antonio Woods felt a strange and disconcerting pressure in his chest, a low vibration, a heat of sorts, that would intensify as he finished his jack-off session. 54

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Antonio didn’t only feel it while pleasuring himself, however. He would feel it at random moments while loading a plane, or while grilling chicken breasts on his George Foreman. And he would feel it, for a flash, at the same time almost every morning, around 7 or 7:15. By that time, on his work days at the airport, Antonio would be approaching LaGuardia on the M60, arriving a few minutes later for his 8 am start time on the ramp. It was the one time he welcomed the intrusive, familiar feeling; he would immediately wonder if the Striking One was getting coffee at Lex and 96th.    Antonio Woods had gone back to the overpriced chain coffee shop several times in the month since his first trip there, a few times a week, in fact. Not once, however, did he see the striking Indian guy again. Sure, he saw other cute Indian guys and Puerto Rican guys and Jewish guys and Italian guys and black American guys and even a hot WASP or two. He saw hot guys all the time at LaGuardia: some of his colleagues, occasionally a pilot or flight attendant, a few of the TSA agents, plenty of the passengers. But none were as striking. Not in the same way. Even if they were objectively hotter on the societally accepted hotness scale to the point of peak hotness, they were now just academically hot. Theoretically hot. Their hotness was an unquestionable fact, like gravity, and just as unsurprising, just as bland. The whole world had gone gray, with the exception of one unforgettable assemblage of black and pink and white and a glowing, luxuriant brown.    Working at the airport afforded Antonio Woods a few perks: flexible hours, full medical and dental coverage, a 401k, a steady paycheck, and flight benefits with the airline, which he was almost afraid to use. He had wanted to travel with Latavia, who possessed a deeply inconvenient fear of flying. In his two years with the airline, he had gone to London once without her, and to Montreal, where he had a weekend fling with a Colombian flight attendant he met on the plane en route. Once to Santo Domingo with his mother Nereida to see cousins known only through stories from the island. Long weekends with friends in Miami and L.A., of course. But, since the breakup, money was always tight, and the daily pressures of working on the ramp—the grueling physical labor, the broiling heat in summer, the biting cold in winter, the ignorance and childishness of some of his coworkers—tempted him to hop on a plane one-way to somewhere no one would find him. Northwestern Canada perhaps. Or Vanuatu. Someplace far, far away, where he could just write and keep house with a husband who looked vaguely like The Rock. Or something.    Antonio had a few friends at work, some of whom knew about his sexuality and, after an initial flare of disbelief, didn’t care. The ones who didn’t know talked about pussy incessantly and interminably, either bragging about unlikely conquests or pressing Antonio about his assumed successes with the ladies, particularly since they would 55

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see the female gate agents and cashiers and lady passengers smiling at him up in the terminal. They either missed or willfully ignored the reactions he got from men. Considering the level of gossip and nosiness among adults—mostly men—in an ostensibly professional environment, Antonio also never felt the need to share with more than a few of his colleagues the fact of his writing. He had been warned against it by some of the older rampers who had seen envy and its ill effects in action. “Just don’t tell nobody your business,” he had been told. But he had also been told that he was too articulate for the job, that he should put in to become a supervisor or, at the very least, become a ticket agent and get out of the elements. Many of his coworkers had barely finished high school and a few who had been born abroad spoke only the most rudimentary English. Antonio would only change the subject whenever asked about his intellect, his career aspirations, his hobbies, or his love life. And as Antonio’s writing routine gained a traction that it hadn’t had since his first book effort years earlier, his love life seemed hurtling toward a gray nothingness, with the exception of an illusory, unknown quantity with eyelashes that never seemed to end.    Dr. Eric Nair’s dark eyelashes parted quickly as he woke with a start on a Wednesday morning in November. Across the bed, the typist lay looking at him, his luminous eyes dimming in the wake of his growing smile. Eric smiled back as he noticed the typist’s skin radiating a warm reddish-brown wherever it peeked from underneath the white bedsheet.    “Morning, doc,” the typist said in a husky, movie star kind of way. Eric slowly moved his body closer to the typist’s, the white space between their two forms disappearing as they both reached to pull the other vivid brown body closer until their faces and mouths and tongues touched, then Dr. Eric Nair’s dark eyelashes parted quickly as he woke with a start on a Wednesday morning in November. Across the bed, he saw white space, then empty space, then exposed brick. The phantom warmth that kissed him awake had dissipated, leaving him hard and cold and lonely.    After a couple of spectacular failures, one of which involved the absolute inability to maintain an erection unless explicitly thinking about the typist, there had been no more Grindr dates for Dr. Nair, and he had closed all his accounts on the hook-up websites in which he had long since lost interest. At first, he hated and resented this forced celibacy, especially since his previous erotic adventures had been so unfulfilling, and his previous romantic endeavor a complete disaster, the wreckage from which he was still extricating himself at work.    Before the wreck, most of the medical staff had speculated that Dr. Nair and Dr. Klein had had a “thing” since even before there really was a “thing.” When things went from flirty glances in the hallway to 56

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awkward conversations after staff meetings, Eric began referring to Rodger as his sole and exclusive boyfriend. But Dr. Klein—athletic, good-looking, fifty—lived with an even older publishing executive and two dogs. Rodger saw Eric for dinner maybe once a week, sometimes taking him out for mediocre blow jobs at the beach house in the Hamptons that Rodger owned with the publishing executive. The executive supposedly didn’t know about their rendezvous.    But someone at the New York Post knew, someone who apparently didn’t like the hapless publishing executive, so the story about the male Head of Surgery and a young male pediatrician at a prestigious downtown hospital giving each other unauthorized check-ups appeared on Page Six just before Halloween.    Rodger stopped speaking to Eric altogether; he wouldn’t even look in Dr. Nair’s direction in the hallway or at staff meetings, and certainly didn’t respond to any texts or emails. The senior doctors that Eric sometimes worked under said the bare minimum to him in operating and conference rooms. A few of the fratty junior doctors, some of whom were known for using blow and blowing each other in the locker room, called him “fuckboy” behind his back and snickered to each other in his face. Any of the doctors and nurses who looked at him with sympathy did so with quiet, kind gestures: asking if he was okay when they would cross paths in the pediatric wing, an extra pat on the shoulder coming out of an examination room, a friendly text every other week.    Eric Nair’s mother didn’t read Page Six, and it would have been doubtful that she could have identified him as the offending pediatrician in the article, anyway. But he couldn’t talk to his parents about the numbness he felt where what he thought was love for Rodger used to be. He couldn’t talk to them about the silence, the sarcasm, and the screaming that junior doctors—and him especially— had to endure from the senior physicians. He couldn’t talk to them about how all his friends were busy with work and kids, if they were straight, or work and clubs, if they were gay. He wanted a companion he could tell things to, bounce things off of, share things with, be silent with. Somehow, Eric wanted the typist in his life and had absolutely no way of knowing how it would happen, if it would happen, or even if he deserved it.    What Dr. Nair did know was that he was sick of being a doctor.    Antonio Woods had hoped one last time for an accidental meeting in the overpriced coffee shop, or in the subway, or in Times Square, or anywhere. But that cold Wednesday morning in November didn’t yield any more striking Indian guys than any other random morning for the previous three months. Antonio had been dreaming of him every day. In fact, he thought of him every morning when he woke up and every night as he drifted into sleep. And he was beginning to discern a subtle 57

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difference in the intermittent vibrations in his chest. Sometimes, it felt as if he was receiving something—a beam of light, a power, an energy of some sort—coming into his chest. Other times, he felt that same power leave his chest. And he always thought of his coffee shop guy as it happened. Antonio, when he was daydreaming at work or on the bus or back at the coffee shop, would sometimes imagine that beam of light connecting them at the chest, at the heart. But then, he would remind himself that he didn’t even know this guy’s name, let alone anything about the dude’s heart. He still struggled with the idea that he wasn’t, in fact, going insane due to an unhealthy obsession with someone he had never even spoken to or seen more than once.    But Antonio saw him everywhere, or so he thought: on the platform at 125th Street, at the Pioneer Supermarket a few blocks down from his apartment, on TV, in his own bathroom mirror. And Antonio would see the shards of the object of his affection in other men—wispy dark hair on a brown forearm, full lips underneath an aquiline nose, his own yearning eyes. In fact, more than once, Antonio Woods had lain in his own bed naked, stomach to the mattress, ear to the pillow, eyes closed, and imagined his beloved’s body in place of his own.    At the airport, Antonio sat with a few of the new hires who had just finished three weeks of training and were assigned to his gate. He told them about the types of suitcases that usually went to Washington-National (sleek, hardshell, four wheels) versus those that went to Baltimore (raggedy, cloth, broken wheels). He showed them how to stack bags inside the cargo hold in the tightest configuration possible. He showed them which restaurants in the airport gave the biggest employee discounts, and on one lunch break, when a group of them were seated in the terminal food court still wearing their fluorescent safety vests and picking over bourbon chicken, one of the guys asked Antonio whether he was married. “No, I’m not married. But I am connected to someone,” he said, surprised at the words he had uttered without intending to.    “She must be hot. Show me a picture.”    “It’s a he, actually.” Never before had Antonio Woods divulged his sexuality at work to people he had just met.    One of the guys stood up—the one most likely to like dudes himself, if Antonio’s intuition was correct—and said, nervously, that he needed to go do something before they had to head back to the gate for their outbound flight to Chicago. One of the others, a scrawny, scrappy kid named Erik-with-a-K, full of the wide-eyed vitality of enlightened youth, nodded and said, “That’s cool. Let’s see him.”    But Antonio could only describe him: “He looks Indian, like from India, and…”    And just then, Antonio had another vision. A striking, dapper guy in a pale blue polo shirt, arms lean and muscular, skin tone identical to 58

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Antonio’s, walked past one of the windows overlooking the food court en route to the security checkpoint. Immediately, he felt the warmth in his chest, and a surge of energy flow outward from his heart.    “He looks like light, doesn’t he?” Erik asked.    “Yeah,” Antonio said, his eyes watery and his heart full.    Dr. Eric Nair’s heart filled, too, the day he went to that medical conference in Chicago. He had a window seat and had been watching the ground guys loading the last few suitcases into the cargo hold of the airplane. When they finished, two men, their uniforms disheveled, unfolded themselves from wherever the bags had gone and one sat in the driver’s seat of the mobile conveyor belt while the other squatted down to close the cargo door. The shaved head, the eyebrows, the eyes, and the mouth of the one closing the door were unmistakable— they belonged to the typist. Eric’s instinct was to slam his fists on the window until the typist looked up, but what good would it have done, besides having him put off the airplane for causing a disturbance. He didn’t even know the typist’s name. He only knew, as the typist stood up, turned, and walked off the conveyor belt and away from the plane that somehow, beyond all the laws of demonstrable science, they were connected at the heart.    In Chicago, Dr. Nair met a couple of doctors at the conference who confided that they hated their jobs at one point, too, but had come to realize, sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly, that their work was more important than shenanigans among the hospital staff. The point, they said in various ways, was to stay focused on healing people. Everything else—at work, at least—came a distant second. One of the doctors, older but sprightly, ran into Eric in the men’s room on the last day at the conference. They were alone and washing their hands next to each other when the doctor asked, “Do you have someone special in your life, doctor? Wife? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?”    Eric’s mouth fixed itself to say “no,” but he stopped. “Yes, I do.” He looked into the mirror. “Very special.”    “Good,” the doctor said. “That person is a gift, doctor. Try and remember that.”    And just after midnight on a Thursday in December, Dr. Eric Nair was making rounds in the pediatric ward when he came upon a 13-year-old boy who had attempted suicide and had been brought there after thirty hours in the E.R. because all the psychiatric beds for children were occupied. The boy’s name was Tony, and he had taken an entire bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills. Tony silently watched the animated Charlie Brown Christmas special on the television as his mother, an attractive woman faded by fatigue and heartache, sat by the bed watching him.    After the routine pleasantries, Dr. Nair asked Tony to tell him what happened. “They kept calling me ‘faggot,’” Tony said, not looking away 59

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from the TV. His mother cried silently, rubbing her hand up and down Tony’s arm. “Every day. I just wanted it to stop.”    Contrary to everything that the system had beat into his head during medical school and while working at the hospital, Eric allowed the tears to fill his eyes and run down his cheeks. Tony’s mother began to sob when she saw the tears of her child’s doctor. “They called me that, too, Tony.” Dr. Nair swallowed. “They called me a faggot, too.” And he put his hand on Tony’s head and closed his eyes. “I promise, it’ll get better, buddy.” He could hear Tony’s mother praying in Spanish while Charlie Brown’s friends sang “Christmas Time is Here.” “Please, believe me.”    Eric walked out of the room and down the hallway to the bathroom, his chest pulsing with heat. He looked at himself in the mirror, past his tear-stained cheeks and beyond his slightly pink sclerae into the infinity of his pupils and said, “I love you.”    “I love you.”    “I love you,” to the very special someone in his life, and to himself.    Antonio Woods woke up on a Thursday in December remembering that he had heard, had been told, “I love you” in a dream. He couldn’t remember who said it or what the voice sounded like; he only retained the memory and the message.    “I love you,” Antonio said to himself in the bathroom mirror before taking a bottle of Atacand out of the medicine cabinet and popping a pill into his mouth. He had been taking the medicine every day since he was 13 to combat damage to his kidneys after overdosing on his mother’s sleeping pills. He had messed around with another boy at summer camp and was afraid that his father would find out, so he tried to kill himself instead. He never told either of his parents the real reason he swallowed the pills, and his father died not even knowing, or confirming, rather, that his son was gay. Not that it would have mattered; among the older generation, Antonio’s father had been rumored to have played in two yards during his youth as well.    The so-called news of Antonio Woods’ sexuality had washed over the ramp and dissipated into inconsequentiality, with the exception of a few of his so-called adult co-workers who couldn’t bring themselves to greet an openly-avowed homosexual in their midst. He still greeted his colleagues on his way into work, regardless if they returned the sentiment. Soon enough, he just didn’t care anymore. Anyone with a problem had the problem, and Antonio actually began to enjoy going in to work and talking with some of the guys about writing, about traveling, about life. When he was particularly thankful for this newfound sense of balance, he sent his beloved a beam of light from his heart. And he would almost always receive one in return, that warmth in his chest that they still exchanged involuntarily at least twice a day in that hazy interstice between sleep and consciousness. 60

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January 1st fell on a Friday, and Dr. Eric Nair and Antonio Woods both had to work that day. Eric had gone into work with a new project on his mind, a suicide-prevention program aimed at teenagers struggling with their sexuality. He would be meeting with the head of the psychiatric and pediatric wards, as well as with Rodger, who had started speaking to him again whenever their paths crossed, though no apology had ever been exchanged between the two. Dr. Nair’s newest mantra had become giving people the opportunity to be new every day. That included himself.    At the airport, Antonio Woods pulled 80 bags out of the belly of a 757 that arrived from Florida. The luggage tag on one of the suitcases showed that it had traveled from Delhi through London and Miami. Antonio smiled at the thought of the ten-year tourist visa to India he’d just acquired. He was going there for the month of March to write his third novel, after finally finishing the draft of the second just after Christmas. And then he felt it. The warmth. The pull. The magnetism that had only increased over the past five months and was only mitigated by intense focus on his own work, his own development. Antonio’s shift ended in thirty minutes. There was only one place to go.    The very minute his shift was over, Dr. Eric Nair left the hospital in scrubs and white lab coat underneath a black trench and took the 4 train uptown. Never did the Lexington Avenue Express seem so slow as at that moment, stopping intermittently because of “train traffic ahead,” while Eric’s own body seemed to be pulled northward, train delay or not, by the magical yearning that he had finally allowed himself to accept as beautiful and true. There were no more delays after Grand Central, and as the train hurtled past 68th Street, Eric Nair’s eyes began to water and his chest pounded with frenzied anticipation. 77th Street. He knew what was happening, but there still lingered a layer of doubt about his sanity. 86th Street. Did he even deserve this? Was he even worthy? 96th Street. Dr. Nair bounded out of the train, swerved around three or four passengers on the platform, bolted through the turnstyle, and took the stairs two at a time. He ran towards the entrance to the overpriced coffee shop, then stopped just before the corner. Standing there, in a blue airline ramp worker uniform and skull cap, his heavy breaths like smoke in the January air, was his typist, his beauty.    They moved toward each other, panting from the run from opposite subway exits, smiling from the excitement and the understanding that this was just the beginning.

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Short Fiction|Cyril Dabydeen Killing Bob We are pilgrims. Our life is a long walk from earth to heaven,                     -- Vincent Van Gogh

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new countenance or manner in the way he carried himself; the way too he breathed hard, a hissing noise more like it. And the Poet he paid special attention to, as he told his wife. But Evie (Eve, he sometimes called her) balked. Being at the Seminary again, Bob went on about the prospect of all men being good in the search for the golden mean. Universal ethical behaviour, the moral imperative, you bet.   Philosopher Kant, d’you say?    The Poet would not disagree with him, Bob averred, for life was made up of sensations, the essence of all experience. Empiricism, ah. Evie merely said it was also about the divine as she contemplated the metaphysical, not only the rationalist tied to the ephemeral. Phenomenology, with Schopenhauer mixed in, and not Nietzsche about man’s guilt in not overcoming his limitations! Indeed the students at the Seminary argued back, becoming contentious.    Cognitive dissonance, see.    Bob insisted that everyone should know about the poet’s place in the world, and about the power of words. Metaphor, dammit!    But Evie scoffed. Bob scoffed back at her, like a game they were playing. Their love-call! And wine they drank, in their special moments only. Let those at the Seminary be moralists in their own right as they agreed with Bob, not with Evie, who evoked William Blake once more. Now must everyone view the senses as finite reality, if only in their solipsistic moments? Abstract ideas, d’you see?    The students talked on about dualism, alluding to Descartes.    Evie, as interlocutor, stirred once more. Prevaricating, demurring.    With neologisms, too!    Bob allowed his mind to drift back to the poet with emphasis on compassion. Not disillusionment or alienation, you see.    “What is art?” Evie shot back.    Bob said the reason for appreciating art wasn’t easily apprehended; it was only about what or how one really felt about it. More than just aesthetically?    “When does the sublime come into the picture?” Evie baited.    “That, ah,” Bob replied.    Their going back and forth, from the Seminary--Bob’s favourite place–to home again. Nothing more about art per se? 62

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Or ars longa, alluding to Ovid?    Maybe it was what Bob didn’t want to acknowledge as he reverted to his Poet-friend wrapped up in his thoughts and appearing monk-like. Call it verisimilitude, sure.    “No, no,” Harvey the Poet insisted, and indeed the Poet was coming out of the hollows.    Evie forced a laugh.   Now what?    Bob insisted that poetry’s rhythm or cadence is what only mattered. And indeed the Poet was someone with a deep soul, like the proverbial Italian soul, maybe. Not an Indian soul, like a swami’s of ages past who’d been to Gurukul in the Himalayas and invoked a guru from 1500 BC? Where’s the Holy Grail?    Not ask Cesare Borgia in Florence with the European Renaissance in mind? Did novelist Umberto Ecco say that memory is the soul itself—what Aristotle long ago enjoined upon everyone to contemplate? Oh, somewhere a daimon, what Socrates only considered?    But the students scoffed again, in their usual manner.    Everything self-styled, dramatic, as Bob and Evie kept on at it.    Now Harvey the Poet talked about the image, akin to being in a moon-filled night, or, in a trance and moving towards finite reality. A shimmer, d’you say? Metaphor and metonym together.    Bob repeated to the students his idea of contemplating what’s essential, if the importance of things felt existentially. But the students would have none of it because of their inner feelings…tied to Christian faith, what’s derived from Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, one or two sneered once Bob’s back was turned.    But Bob saw confusion in those who sat in the front row of his class. Really close up. Imagery and rhythm combined, like a common cause; and somewhere a new reality was in the making leading to the sublime. He also conjured up Heidegger about man’s lost place in the universe. But the Poet intimated more, though his words were without obvious meaning. Trope, he insisted upon, leading to faith, if sounding like an omen.    Ah, Evie smirked, she did. Women’s power with intuition, she believed in. And would the students come to grips with their true feelings by conceding to symbols, what the rational mind would countermand? Structuralism, somewhere…believe it or not! What’s inherent, see. Once more Bob invoked the Ancients more than Plato, in his own transformative moment.    But for the students it was Christ’s love imparted to his disciples: as one young Seminarian, Nick, talked on obsessively, and about the Resurrection being the only authentic experience.    Evie said that Nick was being carried away by his zeal as a Seminarian. Bob hemmed and hawed. And what if Harvey was contemplating the Poet and Jesus as one and the same? Makers, 63

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builders, they were! And the meaning of the word proeim?    Yes, Christ had been a carpenter, like his father Joseph, as the Seminarians argued about. Evie simply looked away.   How far away? *    The Poet started calling himself Hari...not Harvey any longer—like his true or authentic self; and it was how he felt because of inner faith, as he deemed it. Now who would reflect on Plato not wanting poets in his Republic because of experience not based on truth? Bob argued that each new image conveyed its own special meaning. And what’s closer to the Golden Rule?    The Poet simply suggested that veritas and the sublime were one and the same. Oh yes, Hari remained a deeply troubled soul, like a form of neurosis. Indeed Bob was now on his friend Hari’s side, see.    Evie kept doubting, and denying.    Then, “Are you still with us, Hari?” asked Bob.    “Am I?” Hari was rhetorical only. “Bothered by faith I mean?” “Poets never worry about faith.” “Truth…then?” “It’s only experience that matters.” “With words d’you mean?” “The image being akin to a monument,” Hari said, as Bob had heard him say before and might have embraced phenomenology for a while. But the Poet was unsure because of what’s now being called “subversive.” And was every new thought or idea like that?    Let the Seminarians sneer all they wanted, though one or two muttered something about the science of hermeneutics. Only that!    Evie again chaffed Bob, “You will eventually know.”   “Know?”    “About ultimate truth.”    “Not just a different interpretation of it as Kant said?”   “That...and more.”    Another proposal was in the making, but not tied to the polemical only. Bob referred to Marshall McLuhan to lighten the mood: about art being what you can get away with. Then about mimesis akin to selfmockery, frivolous as it sounded. Bob’s inner quarrel with himself, let it be known, as he quavered and focused on W.B. Yeats.    Evie breathed in hard, berating Bob about “things” being always in a state of flux. Take new galaxies forming in the “dark hole,” for instance. Gravitational waves, don’t you know? Would the Ancients like Aristotle and Plato have had a different view of the world if they’d known the earth actually went around the sun, as Copernicus and Galileo discovered? 64

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“They had their own vision of truth,” Evie said defensively.    “Not what’s empirically driven?”    Ah, sheer metaphor, but limited to one’s self, as Heidegger would have it. And the Seminarians argued among themselves with passion, as always. But Evie again shrugged; and, she and Bob were genuine life-partners: as they relaxed into intimacy. Grin and bear it!    “Must we?” Bob asked.    “The earth keeps going around the sun.”    “Don’t bring cosmology into it, dear.”   “Why not?”    New tonality, as Evie became preoccupied with her own emotional state and started thinking what every Buddhist knew--about mindfulness…leading to Nirvana, see.    “How far back will you go?” Bob asked.    The Seminarians wrestled with their own yearning for faith, as they deliberated on Aquinas and Aristotle. Bob was determined to engage them, and to meet Hari the Poet once again who was becoming more or less a mystic. How the Poet kept brooding as wrinkles formed on his forehead and his skin; and, looking at him was like looking at a veiled black-and-white photograph. A shroud.    A Jesus-figure somewhere in the making? *    Flashbacks to memory and consciousness, as Evie told Bob about once dating an Indian who had such sad Asian eyes...someone she’d met in her student days. Narrative being all.    “But how sad is sad?” Bob asked.   “Nirvana-sad, maybe.”    “With the moral imperative in mind?”    “Not with Ramesh,” Evie said.    “Is that what you called him?”    “Ram...Ramesh, what’s the difference?”    “The Poet knows the difference.”    Hari the Poet stirred from his apparent slumber. And Bob saw a real change in his friend’s expression as he kept brooding, same as poets everywhere brooded, maybe. “Are you okay?” Bob persisted in asking.    Hari nodded, and he only wanted to be himself.    Creation, d`you mind?    Bob agreed to leave his friend alone to wrestle with the personal and the universal in the quest for the sublime, more than what the ancient Greek Longinus might have conceived, and to consider spaces never encountered before. Really that?    The Seminarians grew more restive, as was to be expected.    Evie laughed, in her act of foreplay, she called it. 65

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Bob told her to stop mimicking, like his first and last command.    “Oh?” Then, “What are we to believe, dear?”    “You must know.”   “Really know?”    “What the Poet already knows, Evie.”    Indeed what everyone must see as the foundation of love reflected in the poetic experience...and finding belief--as the most sacred aspect in the creative process, and in life itself. Oh, Christ!    But it was only the Buddhist’s way of thinking and being in the community of souls without the Ego. Indeed Bob began seeing things differently as new thoughts crystallized in his mind, in a miraculous way. An epiphany! Strangely he laughed to himself.    Evie also laughed.    Hari, in a cowl, contemplated the universe as a place deep inside himself. Grooves formed under his eyes.    “You sure?” Bob asked.   “About what?”    “What you...we--are becoming?”    “Where we’re going next d’you mean?”    That night Bob said to Evie, “The Poet’s thinking, well, of escape, maybe from life itself.”    “We can’t allow it!”    “Christ, what can we do?”    Then Bob didn’t see the Poet again, thinking he might have never been real in the first place. Tricks of the mind, or just the senses at work, ah. Evie tried to console Bob who resorted to the Seminary; but now his students seemed afraid to approach him.    “It’s death only,” Bob said, with melancholy.    “No,” came back at him.   “That’s all!”    Finally Bob met Hari again, who was transformed-looking.    Hari began telling him about a dream he’d had, and about his face changing colour due to skin cancer, and pock-marked. But the dream had a brighter side to it. Bob waited to hear more: what the Poet said about disfiguration—not his disambiguation—and, he’d been seeking treatment and was attended to by a female doctor bent on doing rhinoplasty. Yes, a woman who was statuesque, beautiful.   Such an image!    She was six feet tall; but she lowered herself to work on his nose. Objectification, but not sex appeal?    Hari talked on about the new image, as he felt a weakening in his legs. And Bob began feeling the same, like having his own dream. Indeed about the Poet leaving for good because his mind was somewhere else--where the ocean’s waves were taking him…far away. Oceanic Consciousness, it seemed like?    Now let the Seminarians know with their own voices coming from 66

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a deep inner source…akin to being in a desert, or far undersea.    Oh, for Hari nothing else mattered, but being with the statuesque woman akin to a Renaissance art experience in the House of the Medici.   Ahhh. Bob sighed.    The Seminarians applauded because of what they saw was beyond their senses’ apprehension. They expected life...not death.    Unconsciously Evie started to hum Ohm...mmmm, and invoked Dharma/Brahma/Karma–Creator and Sustainer, as the Regenerator of Life. Bob quickly said he now truly understood Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poetry. And then: what the Poet said had come to him after being at Gurukul where he encountered a guru from 1500 BC, and experienced bliss at once!    See, Bob grew nervous. Evie simply said it was what had been intimated from the beginning. And what else would one encounter as ultimate experience? A glimmer...of East or West.    Hari the Poet looked around, as he said something about living, not dying. Bob hiccoughed. Hari muttered on about the senses having sucked the life-breath out of him; and the image and symbol are all in one lifetime only. What Evie acknowledged. The Seminarians applauded. Now did Bob feel lost in his own mindfulness?    Evie looked at the Poet, hoping for an explanation…beyond the self. Now where’s the one named Ramesh if he existed only in dreams and memory? Poetic reality, see. Hari the Poet nodded to himself. Bob felt the experience almost like death, like being in a new place, in a new world: as Evie came closer to him. She did!    The Seminarians came around him too, with their silent applause: the rhythm being all. Nothing more, or less. Once and for all!

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Poetry|Champika Wijayaweera Nights, Now and Then I remember when I was a little girl nights lit by warm blue light in fear, tossing the cover, dragging Tigger behind Mum, I rushed to you to get away from fire breathing dragons, flesh eating giants three headed snakes and many other monsters who were creeping, crawling under my bed. Today as the city lights die one by one darkness scrolls shadows across the room chill of the night numbs me inch by inch and my heart starts pounding in my head I wish I could run to you to get away from two-timed monsters who flip dollar bills to ride, to gallop in my bed.

Living in Wind I confess, I’m a clandestine hatchling; nurture a dream to soar through air go places where no one would ever dare sentiment of buoyancy, the feeling. Break the pull, the law of gravity, unfold wings, flutter and float free over patterned land and seething sea melting geometric hues into eternity. Ride on invisible waves of endless, listen to the echo of sun soaked silence; serenity of solitude, self reliance sheer rhapsody of living boundless. Shed mundane thoughts, live in illusion an ephemeral bliss, a divine hallucination.

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Poetry|John Grey The Ancient Beachcomber How glad are my bones to be so bent, pushing my knees toward my chin quicker than I can live? Believer, thinker, give way to water on rocks, wearing flesh down to flakes, shine to its shadow. And ribs. They used to hold back the heart when it thumped for glory. Now they're rusted as mattress springs. And as for the organs... the ocean sends breakers to retrieve them. Such a drunken, foamy, call to paradise. But I don't resist, let the water rub me clean of me. Well at least the wearisome search is over. And the precipice, for all its demons, is light-filled and warm and sandy and calm. Like these broken shells, driftwood, I don't have to go beyond here. Sure my hand trembles but so does my horizon.

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Poetry|Kashish Madan Down the old Steps I am the old well, the one whose cool darkness you enjoy, but there’s no water to be had here here in the desert, the lavender doesn’t peek out from the sides of the brooks, bubbling and babbling here, the traveller doesn’t stop to sit under the shade of the Peepal tree, where the old woman sits, smoking her daily hookah; there is no one to feed him even dried bread and salt, and the old well had dried up long ago, now and then, the adventurous among us venture quietly down the rusty steps, to breathe in the mossy air, away from the honking cars and luminescent lights

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Book Review|R V Bailey

Review of Imagine: New and Selected Poems by Shanta Acharya

Imagine: New and Selected Poems, Shanta Acharya, HarperCollins Publishers, India, 2017, Pp250. Much I owe to the Lands that grew – More to the lives that fed – But most to Allah Who gave me two Separate sides to my head. (Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Two-sided Man’)

Like Kipling, Acharya is rich in experience, has two sides to her head. This is apparent already in the teasing titles of some of her poetry collections (Looking In, Looking Out; Not This, Not That) and in the title of her CD, Somewhere, Something. Her recent novel, A World Elsewhere, unpicks this phenomenon in prose. Other Acharya titles (e.g., Endowment Asset Management: Investment Strategies in Oxford and Cambridge) suggest an unusually acrobatic intellectual breadth.    Having two (or more) sides to one’s head is a fairly common poetic situation, both exciting and uncomfortable, as heart and head combine. In Acharya’s case, this pairing of the academic/ poetic/ literary world with the world of business and banking suggests an even wider and more challenging range of sensibility, quite apart from the well-documented discomforts of belonging in two continents, two cultures. Like Kipling, Acharya is at home, yet not at home, in either: a woman with at least two sides to her head, her poetry reflects a heightened sensibility, a discomfort which, like the grit in the oyster, results in a very particular kind of poetic pearl. More than any of her other collections, Imagine is an exploration of contingency and discontinuity: of too much belonging and too little. This time the confident simplicity of her title is unqualified.    As well as a careful choice of poems from her previous five 71

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collections, there are twenty-seven new poems, and what follows deals with those, though the whole of this satisfying volume is recommended. Like her earlier work, these new poems explore with characteristic detachment the relationship of the self to others, but they travel even more courageously into the landscape of the imagination. The opening poem (despite its many abstract nouns) is about the delights of a ‘world imagined’ that offers ‘a ladder of escape’.    This celebration of the imagination is entirely appropriate. The imagination isn’t an insubstantial, ‘airy-fairy’ poetical thing: it is centrally important. Of course it’s where the mystic sees his visions. But it’s also the cellar where the torturer dreams up the intricate refinements of his trade. It’s where things begin, and Acharya knows this, and writes about it with ever-increasing skill. The early poems in the ‘new’ section explore the creative impulse. ‘I dream my painting and I paint my dream’ writes Van Gogh, ‘always the outsider / fearful of failure’. Brushstrokes, for him, ‘open a door to eternity’ (“Among The Immortals”). Matisse, in “L’Atelier Rouge”, never tries to think, ‘only feel / and connect’, which seems to speak directly to the poet’s concerns. An open box of crayons offers paradise contained in this world within worlds of yours, teaching me how to lose and find myself in art. Confirmation of both the difficulty of dealing with artistic reality and the significance of the imaginative quest come not only from artists, but from all sides, wittily from the cook’s conversation with the chickpea (“Cook and the chickpea”) and satirically in “What Does It Mean?,” the central urgent question is induced by a retrospective exhibition: Just when You start to think you are touched by God, For the love of God consider yourself a possibilian, there are whispers about money, investments – someone asks: Darling, what does it mean? The question is followed by a scatter of hints – In and out of love… loving in a world of desire…don’t leave me here… Thirty Pieces of Silver… pornographic drawings…    Acharya trusts her readers, offers them all they need to read her poems. She allies herself with others who speak her wisdom, from Ramanujan, collaborator to the distinguished Cambridge mathematician, G. H. Hardy (and like her an uncomfortable immigrant): ‘An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God’ (“Knowing Infinity”) to the ruminations of ‘Ustad 72

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Sahib’ when he was invited to feature on Desert Island Discs (“Dilemma”). Life, my muse, keeps her rainbow windows open, a mirror that shatters itself hearing music.    Her poems encompass the power, the inspiration of all forms of art. “Saxophone Colossus” ‘grips the audience, makes them swoon’; the vivid immediacy of dance ‘turns a woman to fire in “Flamenco”. There is something here for all her readers, including a prose poem about Eurydice, and a long saga about the emperor Ashoka, the beloved of the Gods.    Acharya’s a risk-taker. She explores and celebrates all the noble avenues of the imagination, as well as all its darker suburbs: the hunger for perfection, how to love and find yourself in art, how to take on its immense mysteries. Undaunted to by the vastness of her subject or its essentially fugitive nature, she offers herself as guide to her readers. She ‘keeps her rainbow windows open’ – for the rest of us. Einstein said ‘To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything’. And more than any other poet, that’s what Acharya does.

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Visual Art|Allen Antony

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Short Fiction|Jonathan Brown The Long Walk Just outside Escrick, Yorkshire, 1902    The snow had fallen thick and cloying and trying to get through it was a thankless task. Nature didn’t want us to move. It wanted us to stay indoors and survive while it had its way with the outside world.    But we didn’t survive. Not all of us. My brother, who’d been living with me and the wife Jess for some time now, no longer lived. He was still there in the form of a corpse – a stinking one at that - but his soul had gone. At least I had hoped it’s gone. It wasn’t his body that’d become the source of hostility and anger within my small home but his emotional presence. *    What was to be done with the body had become another of the many arguments between me and the wife. With winter soon to set in for good, if we didn't move him now then we’d be stuck with him ‘til spring.    The family burial plot was by the house, so Jess said we should bury him in the snow until then. She was worried we'd catch the consumption that took him. While I didn’t want his body hanging around outside my window through winter, the long walk into town wasn't much appealing either.    "Make a decision for once in your life," said Jess.    And I did - town was the best for him, and me. I could leave him with the church and collect him for a proper burial in spring – not that I had any intention of burying him in family plot. Not after what had happened.    “Only a mile or so down road to church”, I said, as if going for a gentle stroll, not a slog through the snow dragging the dead weight of my brother behind me. *    He was bound tight and fast to our sleigh. His body wrapped in leather. She insisted on this. It wasn’t the good leather but not our worst. He didn’t feel the cold, so why did he get the good leather. She says it’s to preserve his dignity, but I’d argue that’d gone a long time ago. Dignity was for the rich, not for poor folk like us where kin have to share everything and where loved ones don’t get privacy. 80

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Before he moved we were friends and would walk these paths time and again, to and from the pub, in to town on long summer evenings or simply to catch up with the weekly goings-on.    He always looked up to me. His older brother, his guide. I think he liked my steady life. It’s true, it were a good, solid life. I knew what every day would bring from one season to the next for the next 10 years. He had no such plan. *    I set off in the early morning, though it was hard to pinpoint the exact time. The sky was a thick porridge grey instead of coal black. A low sun somewhere started to poke through every now and then but I couldn’t see it as the wind blew my eyes shut. My hood covered most my face but my eyes poked out. Not that I needed them. When the snow came I wouldn’t be able to see an arm’s length. But I knew this path well. I didn’t need my eyes.    Dragging him behind me, I took my first steps.    Why had things started to go so wrong when he'd moved in? Before, I was set. Jess had her role and I mine and that was that. We were happy to play the roles out without worry or fear. We didn’t argue… much. We were financially comfortable as we had no children. The food was hearty and kept us in good health. What more did we need?    It’s why I was happy to have him stay. He told me that he'd tried to make a name for himself in that city but had come back home.    "I've got a plan...well, plans," he said. "That's the problem, too much going on. Too many plans. I just need some time away from it all to figure out what to do."    A tailor’s apprentice, selling medical supplies, starting a blacksmith business...it went on.    Every night he told us tales of the people in that city and how they were making money. But also how they were poor craftsmen, not like us. They did the minimum to get by and people were happy with that. He thought that if he could apply our hard work and skills then he could make something great. Something that people would not just want but would need.    "But what’d they need? They got everything, surely?," asked Jess.    What this everything was, I personally could never imagine but Jess always seemed interested.    "What did they wear? What are the parties like? Oh, it must be so glamorous."    "Jess, leave the boy alone would you," I said, embarrassed by her girlish attitude around him.    "Ah, it's fine," he said. "She's just interested to know there's a world outside these four walls." 81

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"Ain't nuthin' wrong with these walls. See that there," I said, pointing to beam. "Felled, carved and laid it myself. Nuthin wrong with them walls."    A small laugh rose from both their lips. Nothing was further from mine. *    Just half an hour I managed before the first stop – we’d been going sideways slightly instead of straight down.    I could still see home over my shoulder. A single window barely lit by my fire inside. My fire that was once so warm and welcoming now looked like a warning. Do not enter here. I reached down and checked the corpse, moving him slightly to stop him from sliding off the side of the sled.    The temptation to drop him here and pick him up again when the thaw came was great. But I couldn’t. Despite everything, I couldn't just let go. *    It started even before he'd arrived. When news was sent that he was coming, Jess decided that we should slaughter a chicken.    "It'll be a nice way to celebrate," she said.    I wasn't sure what we were celebrating. He'd visited before. I knew how it would go. Yes, he'd be staying longer but that just meant more of the same.    I was considering putting him to work on the land but thought better of it. By the time I'd trained him again and kept an eye on him, I'd have been better off doing it myself.    I enjoyed the chicken, roast potatoes and cabbage and even the conversation. Hearing about that city made me realise how much I didn't want to go there. At first I thought Jess was agreeing with me. She would laugh when my brother spoke of the conditions they lived in and the way they were treated. But then, he laughed also. It was a big joke to him. The hardships never mattered because he could laugh them off, while the joys and excitement stayed with him.    At the time I didn't spot it, but I started to notice that at every meal the conversation would come back to life in the city. Gone was the welcome silence of dinner. I appreciate a hot meal, so would eat while it was still so. But my brother and Jess would talk until the potatoes had lost their steam.    It'd even get as far as our bedroom, Jess talking about the wonder of the city while I tried to sleep.    One night when he was in town and had decided to stay the night, me and Jess sat having dinner. We'd not sat at the table but round the 82

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fire. I was staring into the logs when Jess spoke.    "I'd love to visit your brother," she said.    I assumed she was speaking theoretically and just smiled and nodded.    "How long it would take to get there? I mean, it can't be more than a day. The work here wouldn't suffer. What do you think?"    "Of course we can't go. You don't realise how finely balanced our lives are. We keep at it, we're fine. Two, three days away and the whole thing comes down," I told her.    She went to speak but I cut her off.    "It's not just the two or three days of missed work - it would take another day or two more to get back up to speed. Then, we'd be down on the month's taking. That'd means less money and less feed and seeds. Then next harvest is down. Do you understand?"    She nodded and started cleaning up. I assumed my brother never heard of the conversation, but it didn't matter as the issue was put to bed. Or so I thought.    A day later, he returned. It only took half a day before Jess had brought the issue up again.    "Would you be able to show me around if I came down to London?" she asked.    I reminded her of our conversation but it appeared that I'd gotten the wrong end of the stick. She informed me that only I was needed to work - there was nothing stopping her from going. The table went quiet. Even my brother, with his wild ideas and modern ways, realised that a line had been crossed. *    The snow was building up again, so I stopped. I cleared it first from my eyes and face then from my shoes and finally from the sled.    Underneath the leather I could feel the shape of him. His wiry arms that had wrapped around me as we wrestled when we were boys. His small yet powerful chest that panted after running through the fields. His head, so filled with ideas and dreams that it never had room for common sense.    As I looked at the body and thought how quickly he left us, it made me regret not asking more questions. Not about his life but about what he was doing in my home. *    The way Jess listened to the stories - she changed when my brother arrived in the house. She was never like this with me. Not even in the early days when we met. I'd always been a straight forward, honest man. I told her what I expected of life and how she 83

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would fit into it. She accepted her role.    But now she was talking about things outside our lives - outside of my ken and control. It made me feel...I'm not sure. Not scared but on edge. That feeling when you know that you've got to do something you dislike but have forgotten what it is.    If Jess had been so interested in his life, why had she not chosen the city over the countryside. Then I had a thought - what if it was him who she was interested in, not the city. She was a good and honest woman - handsome and often the centre of attention in the village, which was why we didn't often visit the local pub. But my brother, on the other hand, had past form with the local women. Some said that's why he left for the city.    And while Jess was smarter than them, my brother had his ways. The only way she would even think such thoughts would be if she had been given a hint or sign that it was suitable, or that he'd played minds games with her.    It took just this first splinter of suspicion to work its way into my mind - a splinter that if not removed would infect the whole. It spread fast, moving past common sense and logic into anger - such indescribable anger. You can paint yourself any story if you've got the basic tools - the right cast, the setting, and motivation.    He'd come back from the city to seduce and steal my wife. He'd turned her head with stories of glamour and riches. Offered her something 'more'. More than what I could give her.    Every day, little things just made their little story more believable.    "More potatoes?" she asks. Not to me, who'd sewn and harvested the meal on our plates, but to him.    He smiles, gives a wink and holds up his plate.    "I'd be a fool to refuse something so lovely," he says as if I - her husband, his brother - weren't in the room.    And so I began looking for something solid, some evidence. For days I tried to catch them at it. Returning from the field unexpectedly, leaving a room and then returning. Looking quickly up from my bowl.    But while I was there, it may well have only been a flirtation. I had to give them time to make their illicit affair concrete. I decided I would go into town for a day. Not only would this give them the chance they needed and wanted to do what they had been planning but it would also would give me time to sort things out - get things ready for his departure.    "Can I join you?" he asked. I was surprised as he hadn't wanted to join me on anything since his return, happy to keep to himself.    "And you Jess?" I asked, thinking she'd jump at the chance to spend time with him outside of the home.    "Not today. Be nice to have the house to myself without you men messing it up."    While this put my plan back, I decided I'd use the time to get 84

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some answers from him directly. So we both set off. It was just over a week ago that we walked this route together. And here we were doing it again – well, I’m walking, he's being pulled. As life, so in death I’ll pull him along.    I tired talking to him, but my pace was too much for him and he was often out of breathe. When we did talk it was about him going back to the city soon.    "I just need a few days to recharge my batteries. It takes it out of you. The smoke. This fresh air is the only thing I miss." he told me as he coughed.    "Not me and Jess?"    "Come on. We've never been close. Do you miss me?"    I walked on. I didn't want to admit that I did miss my little brother, not with the way he was behaving, and was somewhat hurt he didn't realise this.    In the village he disappeared while I did some shopping. When we returned, he was silent. I'd just have to gather the evidence at home, I thought at the time. But before I could gather it, the sickness started to take hold.    It didn't take long - just a few days from the first signs to his passing. I noticed when his hanky was spotted red. He held it to his mouth every second for those few days.    Trudging through the snow, I now realised I hadn't seen it since he died. I stopped and slowly opened the leather. There was his weak, small body. I reached into his pocket and pulled the hankie out. But it wasn't just one - three, four, five hankies came with it. some of them I recognised as mine. One was stained with the last of his blood. The others were also stained but had clearly been washed for the stains were a pale brown, not red.    I'd never known my brother to wash anything in his life. He'd always get someone else to do it.    And then it hit me. Jess. She'd been giving him my hankies and washing them for him. She'd known - probably from the first day. She's good like that; knows when I'm sick before I do.    She'd not been flirting with him, but comforting him in his final days. The trip to London wasn't to shop but to look after him. The potatoes she'd so generously offered were to boost his strength.    And the more I thought of it, the more I realised how unsuited my brother and Jess would be together. I even laughed now at the absurdity of it. I've pulled him along in life and Jess knew it. For all that she had her problems with me, she chose me as much as I chose her. She liked the things in me that aren’t in him.    In fact, it was neither my brother or Jess that was the source of upset in the household – but me. I'd been blind not just to my brother's suffering but to Jess' as well. For all I’ve said I enjoy my solid, stable life, his talk of the cities and the parties and the plans set 85

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something off in me.    At first I didn’t mind because I thought they were ruining him. That although he was enjoying them to start with, he'd regret the day he left and return home. That’s what I thought this was. When he sent his message to say he was coming home I thought his wandering life style was over. But it wasn’t – and I was jealous. I was jealous because he loved it and was making a go of it.    It’s not that I wanted to join him – the me that I was today wouldn’t like it. But I feel that there is a part of me that in the past might have enjoyed it and his arrival shone a light on part of my soul that I’d been keeping in shadows for fear that it would drive me crazy with regret.    But I wasn’t strong enough to do it – to give up the stable life and push for the stars. He was though. I couldn’t do it now – my life is too shaped and moulded by who I’ve become.    But not him. That’s who he is and shame on me for hoping he'd change, for hoping that this life would break him. Shame on me for thinking that he had eyes for my wife and that she was tempted. Shame on me for not telling him this when he was alive. Shame on me for not realiseing that my brother had come home to die and here I was dragging his body away.    The village is only ten more minutes away now. But, we’re not going there are we? That’s not where he belongs. It’s uphill all the way back and the snow’s getting thicker. But he belongs at home. Just like I do now.

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Short Fiction|Malachi Edwin Vethamani Best Man's Kiss

I

thought I heard my doorbell ring. I hoped a kid was not playing. Those of us who cannot afford condominiums had to accept many unsolicited intrusions. Although there had been some surprises. Great when a wrong number turns out to be a great number – but that was rare. The bell rang again. Now really irked by it, I got out of my comfortable chair and went to the door.    I was not expecting anyone and was in no mood for any kind of company. Peering through I peep hole I saw Gina on the other side of the door. What on earth was she doing here? I wondered as I opened the door.    ‘Sorry, Annan. I know I should have called. Hope I’m not disturbing,’ she started.    ‘No, you’re not. But what are you doing here. We do have telephones. Is something wrong?’    ‘That’s really you, you know, Annan. That’s the only times I ever see you. When someone has died or is in a coma.’    ‘I gather this is then a special occasion. There’s no dead body here and neither one of us is in a coma!’ I teased her.    Gina, my little sister, sat on my favourite chair. She did have a way picking the things that were mine. But I have always loved her and was more than willing to let her have them.    ‘So what brings you to this part of town and to my flat, Gina?’ She had not been here for a long long time. And I knew Gina did not really like my neighbourhood, either.    ‘Next Thursday is my fifth wedding anniversary. We’re having a dinner party. So here I am bringing you the invitation in person. You are allowed a date. Bring whoever you want. Be there. We’ve not seen you for ages.’ *    Gina’s visit took my thoughts back to Jason. It was only after my third month with Jason that I had told him about my family. It was often such a waste of time telling your boyfriends your background. Most did not make it past the second date. Some guys can be fun but there was so little to say after the sex. And I really wanted to be with someone I could talk to. Although often I had been accused of talking and talking and talking.    The first time I saw Jason was at Jalil’s party. In a room filled with men. All professionals. Mid-career executives climbing up the social ladder ever so carefully. You only get to Jalil’s parties by invitation. 87

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At least two guys must vouch for your credibility. No one under 21 was invited. Nothing to do with the age of consent. Just hormones.    Jason was standing at one side of a relatively large hall, surrounded by three young men – all very good-looking. They were in some kind of deep discussion. Odd thing at a party on a Saturday night, all the more so in one of Jalil’s parties.    I must have been staring. Jalil touched my elbow and whispered ‘The name’s Jason’.    I turned to Jalil and saw a mischievious grin on his happy face. ‘Want to meet him now or maybe later?’ he asked. Knowing my answer will definitely be later.    And I did meet him later and brought him back to my flat. He stayed the night, whatever was left of it, and we got up for brunch.    I watched Jason much of the evening before I was introduced to him. He was in fine form. He had only been in a serious mood with the three guys I had first seen him with. After a few minutes, their talk took on a lighter tone and soon they went their different ways, speaking to other men.    The first thing I asked Jason was what he had been talking about with the other guys. His face changed. I told him that I did not mean to pry and tried to change the subject. But he insisted on telling me what they had been talking about.    ‘A close friend of ours has died in England. It was AIDS, of course. He was a lovely person. I will miss him. It seems ages ago when I first met him although, it has only been twelve years,’ he began.    I wished I had not opened by big mouth. Here was I interested in the bloke and I was sending him into some sad journey down memory lane, I thought.    ‘Mike, I guess, will always be one of the loves of my life. We met. Fell in love. Then, we just continued to love each other. We found other men to fall in love with but never stopped loving each other.’    I wanted to steer Jason away from his dead friend and bring him back to the present, and me. ‘So where do you work?’ I queried casually. This brought him back and we were soon talking about the gyms we went to and what food we avoided. Good signs, I told myself. *    Six months passed and Jason and I were still dating each other on a regular basis. We soon got into the routine of catching up with each after our workouts. Neither of us was willing to give up his gym for the other’s. I took this as a sign. A sign of what, I was not sure. I felt we still had a distance to go – together. I could not imagine falling in love and, more importantly, staying that way. The magic words still remained unspoken. I was not even sure if he was aware of them. 88

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We were seeing other men. But they were becoming fewer as we spent more time together. The Christmas holidays were drawing close and I would soon be leaving for home in Melaka. My parents had a house in Klebang. It would be no problem inviting Jason home for the Christmas weekend. Many friends had stayed over before. I knew Amma would love to fuss over another male in the house. It would also give Appa and me a welcome break. But more than anything else, deep inside me, I wanted my parents and sister to meet this lovely man I had met and was just about falling in love with.    I tried out the idea with Jason. He thought I was kidding. And was amused with the whole idea – taking a boyfriend home for Christmas and to meet his parents.    ‘Will I be sneaking into your bed after everyone’s gone to bed?’ he asked.    ‘Better still, you get to share my double bed,’ I replied.    He had a shocked look on his face. Then he broke into a smile. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ he queried.    ‘No, there is a double bed in each of the rooms in the house,’ I informed him as a matter of fact.    Jason gave some thought to my proposition. ‘We have no Christmas celebrations in my house this year. My grandmother died a few months ago. I would hate it being home and not having our usual Christmas festivities, especially my mum’s Christmas turkey curry. ‘You’re really inviting me to your home, Balan, aren’t you?’ Jason suddenly sounded serious.    ‘Yes, baby, I am!’ I replied more tenderly than I had intended.    We looked at each other and moved into each other arms. And before we knew it we were locked in a strong embrace and a deep loving kiss. Probably the most passionate of all the kisses in our young love. *    It was great to go home with Jason. I knew my parents would enjoy having another guest for Christmas. We arrived on Christmas Eve. Just about everything was ready. The big old Christmas tree had been pulled out of the garage and redecorated. My sister, Gina, greeted Jason. After the initial formalities, we went to my room and unpacked. Jason soon complained that he had not bought any presents – feeling guilty seeing the huge Christmas tree in the hall. We set off to the only local decent shopping complex in Melaka town – Mahkota Parade. It was built on reclaimed land. If the Portuguese of olden days returned to Melaka today, they would have wondered why their fort, A Formosa. which had once protected their port now stood so far inland!    On our return home, my sister, Gina, who was in her final year at University of Malaya decided to make Jason her resource person for 89

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job opportunities in Kuala Lumpur. He patiently answered her questions, even promising to introduce her to friends who might be able to employ her after her graduation. It pleased my parents that I had brought a friend who could be of help to Gina.    My parents had often asked me to introduce some nice Indian boy to Gina. That, of course, had been a problem for me. Most of the guys I knew would rather be with me than my little sister! Jason and I had decided we would leave for Kuala Lumpur on Boxing Day. As I was having breakfast alone with my mother, she began to quiz me about Jason. I could sense in which direction the questions were going.    ‘Amma, I did not bring Jason here to introduce him to anybody. Gina probably has a boyfriend in the university!’    ‘Balan, he seems like a nice boy. Nothing wrong if he and Gina meet more in KL,’ she added.    I told her that it was up to Gina and Jason. I would not have anything to do with it. Jason had given her his mobile phone number. She knew how to reach him. *    After our annual New Year party at good old Jalil’s place, I invited Jason to move into my flat. He said he’d think about it. I knew then that he would not. I did not bring up the matter again and he did not give me an answer. I took it as another sign – we both wanted our own space. Just like our own gyms. Nothing wrong with that, I told myself.    A few weeks later, Jason told me that Gina had called him. She had invited him out for dinner. I was surprised that she had not invited me along but said nothing. Jason said he would see me after the dinner and give me a detailed account of the evening. I told him I needed no such boring details. We would have better things to do when he got back, I suggested.    I never did find out what they talked about. Jason and I continued our relationship. We were gaining couple status among our friends. It was a warm, comforting feeling. I felt less of the urge to meet new men. I was growing comfortable in my love and Jason did not seem to stray far from me, either.    Late one evening as we lay in bed, Jason said, ‘Don’t you think it would be a splendid idea if I married Gina?’    I was flabbergasted. I said nothing, not wanting to regret saying something hurtful or that I might later regret. Worse still, I did not want to sound like a possessive lover.    ‘It makes complete sense,’ Jason added. ‘We’ll keep it in the family. I’ll still have you and you’ll know that your sister is in good hands. She’s a lovely person and she won’t mind me spending time 90

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with you.’    ‘Jason, you’re gay,’ I reminded him.    ‘Am sure I can also perform with a woman,’ he replied.    ‘Jason, you cannot be serious!’ My voice was hitting the high notes.    ‘Balan, I was just suggesting. I don’t even know if Gina is in love me,’ he tried to console me. ‘It will get my mother off my back too, ‘ he added.    ‘Still the very thought, it frightens me,’ I told him. *    My mother telephoned me to give the wonderful news, as she called it. Jason had proposed to Gina and she had accepted. They were already talking of the wedding day. My mother was checking for an auspicious date. A few minutes later, Jason walked into the flat. From the look on my face he knew that I had already been told. He said he wanted to be the one to tell me. But now he knew that my mother had beaten him to it.    ‘Balan, this will make it all so much more cosier for us. I do like Gina. And I do like the idea of having children. I love you and we can still spend time together. No one will suspect anything.’    That was the first time he actually said he loved me. Yet, some thing went cold within me towards Jason. He wanted everything, me and my sister, for himself. I did not know how he could have us both. Jason and I said little about the wedding from then on. My parents thought it was wonderful that my friend was marrying Gina. At Jason’s request, I agreed to be his best man.    Jason and I continued to sleep with each other. On the night before the wedding, we made love in a frantic fashion which neither could explain.    In the morning, we dressed in my bedroom for the wedding ceremony. Jason looked handsome in his bridegroom suit. Here we were, two men who loved each other. In some countries, we could have been on the way to our own wedding. As I adjusted his tie, a strong pang of love surged through my being. I drew him to my body and held him in an embrace I never held a man before or will ever again. As I kissed, I knew that I would never kiss this man again. *    I did not make it to my sister’s and Jason’s fifth wedding anniversary. Just like I never went for any of their earlier anniversaries. My mother constantly asks why I see so little of my best friend. My sister assumes something has gone sour between Jason and me. I do not care to know what Jason thinks. He wanted more than he 91

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could have. And I was not willing to make a sham of my little sister’s life. I had my own to deal with.

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Poetry|Keith Moul Opera of Gutturals Nearby a truck gears down with audible growl. It spreads over long, flat distances. The driver Considers the growl the entire length of his stop, Whether a red sign in empty reaches resonates. Apparently, this time, yes. He resumes his trip In second gear: protesting with comical, mild Snorts, then hilarious blasts from his blow horn That shiver me at 200 yards. Third, fourth, fifth And up gears go, gaining speed, eating distance, Pleasing him with their melodic shifts. He goes on To assert an inherited independence as his right: His special right immemorial, before recent time, Before stop signs, before paved roads, long before Recalcitrant native populations, an early version Of the rights of men granted in many holy books, Without doubt correct for these modern conditions. All future passings of this spot will spark his music, Every time an homage to the beauty of the red sign, A permanent symbol born of his classic road song. Yet the fact of a required stop annoys him like a child Sent to Coventry, not a proud inheritor of freedom. His regular overland trip stretches him on his wheel, For days after fatiguing days, without any shortcuts Outward or inward bound. This octagonal red sign Piles a wafer-thin straw on already abundant loads. Out of sight, his blow horn resonates on the breeze.

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Poetry|Javed Latoo Wind I have seen you Blowing A blade of grass, A bed of tulips, Tree branches, Flower basket hanging at the front door, Her hair, Even cars and roof tiles. I have seen you Moving Boats at the beachfront, Aeroplanes by A tailwind and headwind, Things caught in a whirlwind. I have heard you Howl during a tempest, Speak through a flute. I have felt your soft touch like A stroke of a feather. Yet your enigmatic face Remains All hidden Like a black hole.

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Poetry|James Croal Jackson Rotor If you drive a car whose combustion confuses fuel for air, the engine will quiver along smooth concrete. At certain speeds, a clanking rotor is similar to the natural cadence of heartbeats in embrace: amplitude becomes a deafening in the stillness of night. Let a rotating machine of mass be mounted on a stiff spring to fix support. The pieces must move vertically in a single degree of freedom even if the rotor is unbalanced, its hypnotic center missing one valve’s intake, forgetting the other’s exhaust.

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Wolves The businessman talked on the phone.            Wolves chattered nearby. They were drawn to his coffee aroma wafting from his cup like kindling.            He was meat in the corner            of the forest. There was chatter of tree frogs and crickets– where you listen does not matter if you look nice in a suit. To wolves, your suede does not sway their eyes that scalpel, the success on your scent they smell as their own.

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Book Review|Sandhya Pai

Carols of Agons and Angsts – Dr. Prathap Kamath’s Tableaux: Poems of Life and Creatures

Tableaux: Poems of life and creatures, Prathap Kamath, Cyberwit.net, Allahabad, 2017.

“The age demanded an image / Of its accelerated grimace / Something for the modern stage. . .” stated Ezra Pound categorically in Hugh Selwyn Mauberly about the direction poetry should take in the modern world. Dr. Prathap Kamath’s second collection of poems Tableaux: Poems of life and creatures which has been published five years after his first collection Ekalavya: a book of poems (2012), captures the accelerated grimace of the present day quotidian realities by drawing our attention to a copulae of images and themes forming a staged tableau in a dense collage. Reading Dr. Prathap Kamath’s poems, one recognizes a talent that is validly contemporaneous and justly polemic and yet retaining its universality and piquant popularity by not forfeiting fully “the obscure reveries of the inward gaze” for being just politically correct: the reason why he is considered one of the promising young poets of India writing now in English.   If Ekalavya had hitched his wagon to the poetic skies, Tableaux helps him find a more solid terrain of rootedness and stability in the realm of poetry. Subtitled ‘Poems of life and creatures’, the book containing 58 poems is divided into two parts titled Ex Nihilo and Anima, the first one dealing with the vignettes of contemporary world of agon and angst, polemics and poetics, while the latter explores the mysterious entelechies of the world of fauna. Human life – its interiority and exteriority – and the world of animals, present the complementary duality of life.    Poetic creation is ever a wonder, its exact point of origin and the manner of its efflorescence baffling even the creator. It seems to come ex nihilo, to the perplexed soul who suddenly sees himself a votary 97

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of words, pouring poetry from “a word-vessel”, emerging “a surfer on glassy seas bearing /a thousand suns in their bellies”. There are several poems on the act of writing poetry in the collection, of being a poet, where he traces the trajectory from the genesis of a poem in a poet (‘The Lizard’) to his metamorphosis in the world of enticements and temptations (‘Tabloid becomes a Poet’) to his failings (‘Water’) and his savage attempts to scrounge for subject matter for poetry (‘Devil at Large’) and his insistence that poets remain on the solid ground of reality (‘Poets don’t allow poems to take an aeroplane’). Even the dog is a poet, in his stillness, “musing only about barking, talking to the sea”. Gone are the days when the poet remained “hidden in the light of thought, singing hymns unbidden”, of blithe, unseen skylarks, but now stands with his paws dug deep into the wet sand, carrying an ache for the vanished boats which have crept underneath his skin, even in his wakeless sleep. Interestingly, the section begins and ends with poems on poets: the opening poem ‘Tabloid Becomes Poet’ setting the tone and the last poem ‘Poets don’t allow poems to take an aeroplane’ making a statement that poets “believe that poetry should stand firmly on firm ground”.    The poet may think that the poems come ex nihilo but there are several which are rooted in the contemporary Indian reality. It seems as if mad India has hurt him into poetry. The new India – of rape victims and rapists, beggars and waifs, squalor of suburbia, mindless accidents, and environmental issues: bursting dams, places denuded of trees in the name of development – sprawls monstrously cancerous in several poems. “Visibility: an Indian Poem” showcases the three month old daughter of a seller of sea-shells on the beach, smiling toothlessly, throwing her limbs to the air. Her mother knows that “the future will hold brine in her cup” and covers her thighs and vagina with a rag. The poet avers: “For visibility is dangerous to them / Who are on the streets and behind / Doors on rusty hinges and shaky walls.” The short poem ‘Carpe Diem: very Indian’ reels in verbal montages of day-to-day tragedies which are fodder for the newspapers: endosulfan victims, children mauled by street-dogs, hanging of rape victims, farmers’ suicides. The poet states: “It is cruel to flaunt your happiness, / in a world scrounging to hide its wounds”. ‘Driven’ and ‘Of Chores and other Things’ distil the sorrow of rape victims. They project the calloused social mindset that accuses and alienates them, driving them to attempted suicide. ‘The Tree’ that the poet has in mind is not the tree bearing trunk, bark, root, and other adjuncts, but one which is “a slogan that stood on railways to be”; which is “a question with an upright spine on highways to be”. . . thus the poet identifies the trees which have been destroyed in the name of mindless development. Often the realities of the world around are presented vis à vis the workings of the inner mind, as in ‘Carpe Diem: very Indian’ and ‘Spiral Dance’ both calling to question, the workings of the conscience. If the 98

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outer world of stark realities is portrayed graphically, the poems depicting a world within present a greater convoluted reality. “On Dying” states that “I” shall regret only one thing, and goes on to unfurl a series of regrets. But amidst these tragedies and regrets are some poems which demonstrate tenderness and nostalgia, respect and affection as in the poems courting Neruda-like titles, “To the very little one walking beside me on the beach road” and “I thank you for the five minutes.”    The second section Anima has several species meandering at will through its pages. Marked for its condensed presentation, the animal poems remind one of the Movement poets, but the poet stamps the members of his poetic ark with his specific touch, as in the case of the ‘Cuckoo’ which reads like a riddle. Paraded methodically in alphabetical order, the ant, the bull, the cat, the cockroach, the cow, the crow, the cuckoo, the dog (making a dual appearance), the duck, the elephant, the eagle, the fish, the kingfisher, the lizard, the snake, the spider, the termites and the tiger – critters ranging from the infinitesimal ants and termites to the gigantic pachyderm have something in them that fascinates the poet. The bull, the poet’s own birth sign, shows the polar ways of his living: “The first with balls / And the second without it”. The tiger is a museum animal, a comic figure denuded of its ferocity. Prathap Kamath’s animal world throws open eschatological questions, ascend symbolic and mystical heights, becomes vehicle of satire and concern, and offers tough conundrums to crack. In these poems, myths are created, preconceptions are dismantled, and realities are plumbed. The elephant is a majestic animal that provides tail hairs to ward off the evil eye; it is the caparisoned chariot to the ‘proxy’ gods; but its “majesty of black curvaceous geometry” gives way to the gruesome spectacle of festering wounds under the rusty chains – the quotidian reality is never far away from the allure of the animal, and it is this element of contemporary concerns that riddle his thoughts that makes his poems significant and haunting. An observant eye which goes on to capture the haecceity of the animal is evident in the poem ‘The Kingfisher’, where “the still blue flame . . . burning on pink claws”, a “practitioner of Tao”, hooks “the fish with no bait other than / the speed of landing and nature”. At times the animal world forms a backdrop to the human world (“The Termites”) and vice versa (“The Cat”). The variety and condensation in Anima is Hopkinsian, the tone is Dickinsonian, and the metaphorical rendering of the animals often Hughes-like. The ultimate effect transcends the influences to create a uniquely ‘Prathapian’ feel, much rooted in the terra firma of commonplace Indian experiences.    Irony, satire, whimsy, nostalgia, tenderness, sorrow, melancholy, morbidity, humour, awe and appreciation parade in variation throughout the collection. The language parades chic and debonair in a top hat in certain places, suddenly appearing desi in a rakish turban 99

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knotted round the head: “whoknowswhat” (‘Tabloid becomes Poet’), “vrooms the animal” (‘Vroom’), “Chi chi” “‘Her man is her god’ we all know” (‘Ceiling fans on long stalks’). To convey the ‘unconveyable’ precise nuance or meaning, he plays with the language in mad abandon: “The tree is a was that has left its abode in the mind” (‘The Tree’) says the poet trying to convey the absence of the tree; similarly, he is envious of the spider’s “world wide web-ability” (‘The Spider’). Coined compounds such as “fang-titillating”, “boulder-shooting” (‘The Dam’), “mind-earth”, “mind-sky” (‘The Tree’), “rain-petal touch”, “my sky-face” “ensign-large fingers” (‘To the very little one. . . ‘), “gleeful walk-ons, dark thought-scowlers” (‘Bibliophilus’) create graphic pictures in the mind of the reader. Clichés are kept in abeyance, and certain statements convey profound truths in the most novel manner as in, “You are a definite article / In my sentences of truth” (‘The Spider’). Images litter the poems variously and abundantly, but leaving a modernist mark in his poems are medical images of diseases, medical procedures and human physiology, rendering a starkness and contemporaneity to his poems. It rests upon the writer to make sense out of the world he inhabits. As the bard of the times, he tries to make vineyards of the innumerable curses that this land is heir to. He has to find his idiom, image and language to convey this contemporary reality that eludes elucidation. But for those to whom poetic impulse is irrepressible, they will find a way to forge a poetic vehicle of their own. And so like Jaroslav Seifert, our poet too cries, “Flare up, flame of words, /and soar, / even if my fingers get burned!” What Prathap Kamath says in his poem ‘That Dog is a Poet’, fits him to a tee: “He’s a poet out and out”. For truly, Poetry becomes Prathap.

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Tree lady

Oil color on canvas with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Blue Masjid

Acrylic on canvas with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Leaf

Oil color on canvas with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Face

Oil color on canvas

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Face

Oil color on canvas with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Face

Oil color with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Leaf

Acrylic on canvas with pen

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Visual Art|Shehanas C K

Arabic design Acrylic

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Short Fiction|Andrew Dicker Sarah, Becky and Rosie    ‘Did your parents like you?’    ‘Yeah. I was really loved when I was a kid’.    ‘Not the same thing. All parents love their kids—but did they actually like you?’    ‘So all that emotional energy they spend making you feel loved is a charade?’    ‘Kids have to feel loved or they go cranky. It’s not the same thing as liking a person who happens to be your child. Just think how horrible you were at school. Why should anyone have liked you, parents included?’    Becky and Sarah sat on a park bench in the sun, smoking. Both were twenty-two, they had been through university together and neither could find a job so now they were on the dole.    ‘I think I was really nice when I was at school. Obedient, conscientious, never in trouble’. Becky dropped her cigarette on the ground and pressed her sneakered foot on it. ‘Not like you. Undisciplined, rebellious, being disruptive, upsetting the teachers’.    Sarah smiled and stubbed her cigarette on the armrest of the bench, leaving a black burn mark.    ‘That’s why everyone liked me. I was bad on purpose because there was no point in being good. It was too dull. Even my parents liked me for it—as long as I got the grades’.    ‘And lots of people hated you because you got away with it just because you were clever’.    ‘Did you hate me?’    ‘A little. I wanted you to be punished, beaten or something. But I don’t suppose it would’ve made any difference. It was the recklessness which appealed to most people—being fearless’.    ‘Once I knew I could get away with it I lost the fear of consequences. Authority had no meaning—it still doesn’t’.    They stood up and ambled across the worn grass of the park, arm in arm. The autumn air was warm and still as the late afternoon merged with the evening. Both looked pale in the sunlight, their faces framed by long, dark hair. Sarah had an oval face, dark eyes and full lips. Her nose was long and straight, giving her a sharp appearance. Becky’s face was round and cheerful. Her eyes were brown and her mouth wide. The skin of her cheeks bore faint scars from teenage acne. They dressed nearly identically in black jeans, V-neck jumpers and colourful sneakers. At school they had not been close friends and neither had known that the other had a place in the same university. 109

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Their surprise at their first meeting as students was the start of a friendship which made them fiercely loyal to each other. Dressing in the same clothes but in different colours had become their dress code. They shared every intimate confidence, so they knew as much about each other as they did about themselves. Their conversation was mostly about themselves, and boys; critical comparisons of their sexual attributes. Neither girl had a steady boyfriend. They preferred promiscuous, casual relationships, for which they were known. Because they had certain things in common, their lean shape, dark hair and the shared dress code, they had become labelled as the ‘sex twins’ by the eager boys who sought their company. The label added license; they chose who they slept with, knowing that commentaries on last night’s sex would be the topic of their intimate gossip later. They liked who they were and cared nothing for the puritanical attitudes of other girls.    After university they returned to their childhood homes and the parental sanctuary which they knew was still there—welcoming, supportive and never judging. That was why Sarah had started the conversation about whether Becky’s parents liked her. Because Sarah’s behaviour at university had been bad enough to have created a reputation about which she was mildly embarrassed, she harboured something like guilt. But her doting parents had been kept in the dark about the excesses of her student life; returning to her childhood home made her feel she did not deserve the familiar luxury and comfort—it felt disingenuous. She need not have worried. Had she failed her degree it might have been different, but Sarah was clever and emerged from the wildness of her student years with a first class degree in psychology. What her parents perceived was their lovely daughter, older and wiser than when she left school, with the best possible degree. To assuage the feelings of guilt, which she thought made her less than deserving of her parents’ generosity, she wanted to know how Becky felt about their prodigal home coming. Becky was clever too and had come home with a first class degree in chemistry. Her behaviour at university had not earned her quite the reputation of her friend but their shared interest in boys, sex and parties had been an unforeseen education for her.    ‘I certainly felt loved when I was a kid,’ mused Becky, ‘I think they like me now; their interest in what I’m supposed to be doing next seems genuine. They treat me like an adult. I guess I wasn’t a very interesting kid, but I was no trouble’.    ‘My Mum liked me as a kid; she didn’t exactly encourage me to be bad, but she was amused by me getting in trouble. She understood I was bored most of the time so I looked for ways to stir things up, partly attention seeking I suppose. My Dad didn’t get involved, but neither did he disapprove. If he hadn’t liked me I guess he would’ve interfered somehow, tried to make me conform. But loving kids 110

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doesn’t seem to be negotiable. Either you do the loving or you’re a bad parent, even if you actually hate your offspring. It’s a bit of a paradox. But going back to the parental fold after Uni’ and all that stuff, getting drunk and shagging blokes, and them still so pleased to see me—it really took me by surprise. I think I was expecting to be put on the street, told to get a job or something’.    ‘It’s a way of keeping you off the streets. They’re probably scared you’ll go on the game’.   ‘I’m not that much of a slag—not like Rosie’. They had met Rosie in the job centre where they had been to claim their meagre benefits. Rosie had been at school with them but had not followed the seamless success enjoyed by Sarah and Becky. She had met a boy who introduced her to drugs and had sunk into a morass of dependency, mainly crack. Now she was an experienced claimant of benefits and had educated the girls into how to go about getting money from the state. They had arranged to meet and catch up with each other’s lives.    Rosie was a troubled girl with a pretty name; she was also pretty in a sexy way—thin as a stick because the drugs had suppressed her appetite. Her skin was pale brown because her dad came from the Middle East. She had high cheek bones, large brown eyes and a long narrow nose, which was usually blocked as a result of snorting cocaine. Her face was framed by wavy, dark hair, raked back and tethered in a bunch at the back of her head. Money to buy drugs was always a problem. She had been forced into criminality, mainly theft, to keep herself supplied. When the money ran out, the dealers knew she was easy prey. Sex, in exchange for drugs, cost nothing apart from her self-respect. It was a deeply degrading sacrifice. As soon as she was vulnerable the unscrupulous dealers circled like vultures tempting her with small bags of white powder. She rapidly learnt that to survive the worst sort of abuse she had to insist on drugs for sex, not sex for drugs; one or two lines before the pay-off lessened the sense of degradation. Once the dealer had finished with her, tossed her a bag of white and left her alone, three or four more lines disguised the awfulness of what she was doing. But unlike the joyful sexual exploits of Sarah and Becky she was not able to choose with whom she had sex and hated the squalor of her life. Each time she snorted a line she needed more and more of the powder to satisfy her craving until it stopped having any effect. Then the turmoil in her head would be swamped by the quagmire of depression which followed as if gravity had suddenly re-exerted itself and forced her back to earth. Suicidal ideas filled her head but a small voice in her brain told her things would get better and kept her alive. Eventually with the help of counsellors, she managed to clean herself up and adopted the life of an ex-user—thin as a rake, living on benefits, doing casual work for cash, and terminally bored. So when she met the girls in the job centre she was enthusiastic to find out about the life which had passed 111

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her by.    They met in the park and found a café where they drank sweet tea in white china mugs. Sarah and Becky volubly related stories of life at university, with shrill enthusiasm for their social excesses. Rosie did not smile much. There was a pervasive sadness about her, tinged with regret or anger. She was wise and experienced about life, but mostly the experience was miserable and dangerous. The melancholy she projected into the cheerful meeting gradually calmed the shrillness of their chatter. Sarah and Becky had smoked and drunk too much but drugs had never been a part of their headlong partying. They wanted to know what it was like to be a junkie.    ‘It costs—everything. It’s a way of life and it’s disgusting’. Rosie’s face was sad and drawn as she looked steadily at the animated faces of her old school mates. ‘Dealers give you drugs if you let them fuck you, but I also got good at nicking stuff. I used to wear a headscarf and cover up all over. It was like a disguise; I could become anonymous. Airports were the best places, always full of bored, fat blokes waiting for something. You learn to recognise the vulnerable ones who aren’t taking care of their stuff. I got really good at nicking wallets. Once I’d nicked one I’d hide in the loo, grab the wads of cash, then leave the wallet somewhere it’d get found. I used to feel sorry for them. The cash didn’t matter to them but without the plastic they were stuffed, and there was nothing I could do with the cards, anyway. But it was never enough, and I’d end up having to screw a dealer— they’re bastards, all of them. The addiction’s evil; it takes over. Crack’s good while you’re doing it, but after I’d get suicidal. A year ago it all got too much, so I tried to get help; that’s not easy either. Eventually I found this place where they kind of talk you out of it; plan ways to cope with the craving. And now I’m stuck on the dole. No one wants to know ex-users. I feel really ashamed to have screwed up so badly. Life’s been shit but at least I’m not a junkie anymore’. Rosie stopped her story and looked at the table, scratching at a stain on the surface. She looked miserable. Becky reached over, put her hand on Rosie’s arm and squeezed. Physical contact felt right and necessary. Their lives had diverged; she needed a way to connect.    ‘Poor you,’ Becky spoke quietly. ‘How can we help? We’ve got to find a way to make you happy again’. She had a distant recollection of Rosie at school, slim and lively, not as tall as most of her peers, giggling a lot. With hindsight, Becky realised, she had disappeared at the time most of the girls were planning their bright university ambitions. That was when the boyfriend had appeared and filled her with drugs.    ‘Happy? In your dreams. Even my parents couldn’t cope with the crack and the dealers. I think they hate me for disappointing them. They kicked me out ages ago. I’m still living in a hostel with a load of smelly junkies’. 112

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‘Now you’re clean won’t they take you back—your parents, I mean? Living in a hostel must be a nightmare’. Sarah looked at Rosie hopefully, thinking about her earlier conversation with Becky.    ‘I haven’t spoken to them for more than a year. I think I’m scared they would say no’.    ‘D’you think they liked you when we were still at school?’    ‘I suppose they did but there’s something really evil about drugs. When they said to get out it was as if I was something dirty, shameful, that they couldn’t face having in the house. It was awful at the time but then the drugs took over and the crack was the only thing that mattered’.    ‘Let’s go and see your folks. If you show up with us they’ll at least be able to see that you’re recovered and have friends who aren’t junkies’.    ‘Oh my god. No, it’s far too scary. What if they say go away?’    ‘They won’t’. Sarah was assertive. ‘Even if they don’t take you in off the doorstep, they’ll come round to it. Do they even know you’ve cleaned up?’    The following day Sarah and Becky picked Rosie up from the hostel and walked her reluctantly to the semi-detached house in a quiet suburban road, where her parents lived. Sarah pressed the bell which played a jaunty tune somewhere inside. A large man with pale brown skin and a shaven head opened the door. He folded his muscular arms across his chest defensively and stared at the girls. Sarah smiled brightly and enthusiastically began:    ‘Sorry to disturb you. We’ve brought Rosie to see you’. The man looked at her unsmilingly and said nothing.    ‘D’you remember Rosie—your daughter?’ Added Becky hopefully, gesturing at Rosie, who had silently turned away.    ‘Bloody junkies. Keep away from here’. The man stepped back and started to close the door.    ‘We’re not bloody junkies, mister’. Sarah was incensed. ‘That’s Rosie, your daughter. You threw her out months ago.’ The door closed in her face. Rosie walked away, tears sliding down her face. The girls caught up with her, one on either side, each with an arm around her thin shoulders. Rosie wiped her tears with the sleeve of her jumper.    ‘Thanks for trying but he’s an ignorant man. I think he feels threatened by drugs being anything to do with his precious household. He was never very nice to my Mum either—kept her at home most of the time’. Becky and Sarah had not experienced alienation before. The warmth and welcome of their own families was a world away from the hostility they encountered on Rosie’s doorstep. They walked her back to the hostel feeling helpless. Rosie refused to let them in, ashamed of the street girls, the unwashed smell of the place and the constant presence of drugs. They arranged a time to meet on the following day. Sarah and Becky wandered aimlessly back to the park, their bench and 113

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a fag. They needed time to reflect; to accept the awfulness of Rosie’s life, invent a strategy, some means of rescuing her. She would become their project; there was little else to do once they had presented themselves at the job centre. Life until now had been exclusively about them, fun and boys. The misery of less fortunate girls had not obscured their optimistic horizons. When they thought about it neither could be sure that their own parents would welcome an ex-user into the security of their warm kitchens and living rooms. The stigma that trailed Rosie seemed indelible and the means of rescuing her from the squalor of the hostel remained obscure. Two cigarettes later they were no closer to a solution to Rosie’s dilemma.    After the girls left her at the hostel Rosie went to her room on the top floor. Ex-users, who the staff considered clean, were allowed an upstairs room, away from the churn of stoned women and predatory dealers. She swore at the women offering drugs on the staircase and landings, locked herself in the small bedroom to keep out unwanted visitors, lay face down on her bed and sobbed; she felt like a pariah. Her father’s uncompromising rejection was not a surprise to her, but she had been touched by the kindness of the girls, and their naïve conviction, that somehow Rosie’s parents would re-absorb her into family life. Kindness had been in short supply for years. So when she felt the warmth and willingness of her old school mates it evoked a raw sense of loss and self-pity; loss of the wasted years in the control of the drugs and pity for the helplessness of addiction. More than anything she longed for somewhere else to live, away from the druginfested environment of the hostel and constantly having to resist the nagging craving. She also knew that however well-meaning her old girlfriends, they were powerless to find a way to assimilate her into their lives; she had become an outcast and detested her life.    When the convulsive sobs abated a little, she sat up on the bed and inspected her tear-stained face in the mirror above the small dressing table, which was the only piece of furniture in the room, apart from a cupboard and the bed. Even when Rosie had been in the depth of her addiction, her face had always pleased her. Her pale, brown complexion had survived the ravages of weight loss. The high cheek bones and big brown eyes were an attractive combination; being thin was what she was used to—her appearance was the one place where a vestige of self-esteem survived. Inside she hated herself. The past few years had been a swamp of stupidity and now she was washed up among the flotsam of the hostel. Thieving the possessions of people in airports—petty criminality to keep herself supplied, was all she was good at. Desperately resorting to prostituting herself to the faceless dealers filled her with disgust and self-loathing. Intimacy with someone who respected her seemed an impossibility. She felt condemned to being alone indefinitely, drowning in self-disgust and hating everything about her life, which no longer felt worth living; nor 114

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did she believe that she deserved to live after the shameful things she had done for the sake of sustaining her habit. The futility of her life seemed a good reason to end it. This was not the first time suicidal thoughts had invaded her head. On each occasion she had locked herself in her room, wondering if it was possible to starve herself to death, until a vigilant member of the hostel staff had rescued her. Someone would come and knock on the door until she let them in, then sit with her on the bed and gently talk about how realistic her idea to end her life really was.    ‘No one can stop you from killing yourself, Rosie, if that’s what you really want. Only you can do that. But I hope you don’t try’. On each occasion the same wise reminder rekindled an iota of self-belief in her head. She would allow herself to be lead to the canteen in the basement of the hostel and be fed sweet tea until the staff member elicited a smile about something. That was where Sarah and Becky found her the day after they had taken her to see her father because she had not shown up where they had agreed to meet. Rosie’s sadness was palpable and her eyes betrayed her earlier tearfulness. The staff member got to his feet:    ‘I’ll leave you together. Rosie’s hit a low spot. She could use some company. Rosie, I’ll be around until this evening. Come and find me if you need another chat’. He left them alone. The girls sat down on either side of her, deliberately enclosing her in the warmth of their company.    ‘Come on Rosie. Let’s get you out of here. It smells.’ Becky stood up. She was right. It smelled of stale food and something sour—the smell of homelessness. They surfaced onto the pavement outside, heading for the park where they had met before. A man in a baseball cap with a hard, street-wise face walked up to Rosie and planted himself in front of her, forcing the girls to stop. He ignored Sarah and Becky but thrust his face at Rosie, dangling a small bag of white powder in his right hand.    ‘’ello Rosie, I got this for yer. Quick shag first—bring yer friends an’ all’.    ‘Leave me alone, arsehole’. Rosie’s voice was harsh and angry. Sarah stepped to one side and shoved the dealer as hard as she could towards the road. He staggered out of their way and laughed before weaving across the road and pocketing his bag of crack.    ‘I’ve had to screw that bastard when I was using. I get this all the time. They don’t give up.’ They walked on, holding onto each other feeling further than ever from rescuing Rosie.    It did not amount to a solution, but the girls decided that getting Rosie out of the hostel every day would lend a structure to her life and a sense of enjoyment which she had not encountered for years. Rosie began to smile more and for the first time since school days found she had something to look forward to. The sense of being looked after 115

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created a warm satisfaction for her. She had been on her own for many months, friendless, assailed by greedy dealers or isolated in her austere hostel room. Now the feeling that she belonged in the world again had a transforming effect on the way she looked on the winter city. No longer was it a freezing hostile place, full of threats and rejection but somewhere to find enjoyment and the companionship of Sarah and Becky. Rosie put her family to the back of her mind; there might be a reconciliation one day but it ceased to matter. The solution which the girls had hoped to find did not materialise, but the combined effects of kindness, persistence in doing what was possible and a determination that things must get better for Rosie, slowly made a difference.    It is axiomatic that life moves on and so it did for the girls. Becky decided she would become a teacher and embarked on more training, most of it in the class room, learning how to teach teenagers ‘A’ level chemistry. Despite believing that her future lay in psychology, Sarah found a job in a public relations company and became a smartly dressed executive. Rosie decided that she should do what she knew about—rescuing young men and women from their dark lives of addiction and despair. Her harsh experience of survival made her expert in the art of persuasion and, like the pied-piper, she enticed junkies away from the lowlands they inhabited to a sunnier, more optimistic place. Gradually life adopted meaning again. The family reconciliation did not happen. Rosie reflected that her childhood had not been unhappy; her mother had been over-weight and sad, oppressed by her chauvinistic father, but she had accepted the dull atmosphere of home—it was all she had known. She realised that she did not really like her parents and there was no reason to get to know them again, anyway.

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Short Fiction|Asad Alvi The Window

I

t was the first time, in many months, that the window was rolled down. Waseem’s skinny elbows peeped outside the car. Leaning out this way was not a usual thing for him, obviously, and this time of the year made it all the more unusual, for the wind was loud, the air wet with January rain. Save for the dull evening sun, there was no source of light; the sun, too, had a dim glow, soft and crisp. Not a scorching sun, a low, warm sun. Like a child’s eyes.    Had Feroza sat beside him, she would have stopped him. She would have tugged at his tee-shirt and pulled him in, for she feared a rickshaw, a car, something, anything could rush past and claim his arm, like a knife through a vegetable. A violent breaking. She was a doctor, and naturally, had witnessed such cases; patients walking into the hospital room, arm-less patients. Because his elbow was a little too out. Not that he had not similar fears, no, his own heart was a myriad of fears, all sorts of them. Fears from past nights, unforgettable nights, park-trips, school walks; fears from war-tales, secret-wishes, secret-moments.    What had then, caused him to do the most unordinary thing this evening? Something which could have, at the very least, had his fears compounded, let alone confronted?    The car picked its way through the dwindling traffic, and Alam the driver, took the narrow street, speeding away. The faster it ran, the harder wind fell upon his face, forcing his eyes shut, like a blindfold. Now, there he was, leaning out of the window, as if his entire self had been thrust out by force. Like shreds from a torn plastic bag, tangled in a fence. Debris on a windy day. And though his eyes were shut, his ear were not. Somewhere, a siren was wailing. The sound grew louder, and louder, until it rushed past him, and his arms shook, and goose bumps left his skin.    Of course, he felt the sudden urge to pull his arms back in, but once the rushing, gushing sound faded, he again fixed them in a frame on the window, and rested his face on it, eyes closed. A motorcycle sped past next, and he almost opened his eyes; a sense of cheating his own self overcame him. So, he shut them back up, quickly. For a moment he felt like Feroza. He was, after all, her son. He tried to imagine what it would feel if his arm were to run against the body of a bus, or to collide with a bicycle. What quantity of pain, exactly, would press through him? As bad as a child, he questioned himself; as worse as a child of seven, nine maybe, surrounded by a batch of young boys?    Waseem remembers. He remembers walking to school through the foothills of Murree, and the chinars swaying in the morning drizzle. He 117

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remembers the sound of the words at St. Lawrence’s, their indifferent lilt, mouths moving. And the sound of sticks and stones on his way back to the hostel. Both hurt, equally, perhaps words more than sticks and stones. Because one forgets what the body takes, and how much, but forgetfulness of the heart, have we heard of such a thing?    There have been days when he has tried to leave Murree behind. He was seven, when he first arrived there. Six, when the war came and claimed their lives, and Khaled, his father left with the army troops to Kargil. When Feroza stood with a broken heart on a railway station that rainy day, and sent Waseem away. She cringed towards the barred train window, her face tilted up to meet Waseem's.    'Soon.' She had said.    A week later, Waseem was standing in the courtyard of the boy's hostels at St. Lawrence’s. They were huddled in the somber shade of chinar trees, the big boys, and when one of them saw Waseem, he elbowed the boy next to him. Book-laden and too afraid to move, Waseem slowly started walking the other way, but they swaggered up to him, quickly.    That was the first time Waseem heard the Urdu phrase 'Teri Maa Ki' which meant 'Your Mother's...' and something, anything could follow. Any word could be written alongside, in humor, or vulgarity. Your Mother's Breasts. Your Mother's Sugar-hole. Your Mother's fuck. Waseem got used to the words at St. Lawrence’s, though he never uttered them. Always they would catch his sight, the big boys, and splinter towards him. He would only stand there, jammed, as they would encircle him, and start shoving him around. Hammering his nose, punches, rain from all sides.    Now, after all these years, Waseem is afraid of the sound of thunder. And when clouds roll in, and it patters, and boys from the neighborhood speak of joy in fertile rains, and paper-ships take sail in tea-colored puddles, he stays indoors. And at night, when he lies in bed, when a mosquito invades the room and crawls across his arm, he feels as though the mosquito was something larger than usual, something dangerous. Something that can hurt in hidden, lethal ways.    Now, on the window, Waseem heard the sound of horns. And as they maneuvered past the vehicles, his arms began to shake, again. Though his eyes were still shut, he had that abrupt sense that he knew this street, you know, like a blindfolded child during hide and seek is aware of the corners of his house. He had driven through the city for almost a decade, since he could remember; he knew its corners, its array of smells, smell of the dust, those sorts of things.    His eyes flung open: he saw the street’s shades and colors, its familiar faces And it dawned on him that this was the place where they had shifted to when the war had ended. When the war had ended, when Waseem had turned sixteen, when St. Lawrence’s had finally ended, and Khaled, returned. 118

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He remembers how Khaled's hands clenched around the steering wheel. Clenched and unclenched. He drove in silence from the railway station to the house, and it was this very car. Only the beige seat covers have now reduced to rust, and the engine sometimes makes strange, rattling noises. After a few weeks had passed, Waseem walked past Khaled's study and overheard him speaking to Feroza. He pressed his ear to the door.    'It's been two months, and he doesn't do anything but read books and take long walks in the garden.'    'So?' said Feroza, arranging chrysanthemums in a vase.    'The other day I asked him if he wanted to go to the club with me. You know what he said? That he would rather stay back and write.'    'What are you saying, Khaled?'    'I wasn't like that.'    'He's a child.’ Feroza laughed, lifting the edges of her sari to wipe the sweat on her neck. ‘Not your coloring book.'    'I don't think so.' Khaled said, taking a drag on his cigarette. 'I wasn't like that, and neither were any of the boys I grew up with.'    'So. He's not violent. That's just it.'    'War has taught me feelings deeper than violence. They’d wake us at the earliest ray of dawn at Kargil, and we would wash ourselves with cold water. We went to the fields and watched bloodshed all day. We took scars, Feroza.'    Then frustration came over his face and he scorned, 'All he does is write poetry.'    'Sometimes I think you are the most indifferent man, ever.'    'That's not what I mean, Feroza, and you know it,' Khaled leaned closer, clasping his hands in a tight lock, 'There is something in the boy, some sort of a tenderer feeling... Something lacking... No... To think of it makes me sick.'    The car went through north-west from there and through the marketplace. A fruit market. With the hurry and scurry of fruit vendors, and baskets housing cornucopias hanging from bare pillars. Crates of oranges, grapes, lined the street. Ajay, Waseem remembers, loved fruits. He remembers the fruity incense of his own room from that night, the ripening of his heart.    They first met at the park, where often, Waseem would retire and watch the sundown, concentrating on different sounds. Of crickets inside the grass, and chirps from hidden nests. That day, Waseem did not realize that Ajay had stealthily walked over and sat beside him. He tilted his head, and found the man smiling. They began a conversation. He told Ajay Khaled's war tales, about St. Lawrence’s, and about his return.    Ajay lived on the other side of the city, though Waseem knew not exactly where. He had never been on the other side. He was older than Waseem, much older. But his face had a playful look, an almost 119

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boyish charm. Their meetings at the park became more frequent, and soon, Waseem found himself waiting there, every day.    As Ajay would walk up to him, their eyes would meet each other, and Waseem would wonder throughout that day, the way Ajay had looked at him. The look which suggested more than looking. It suggesting seeing. The way we can kiss, without lips. When the knowledge slid through Waseem, like the end of a sharp knife, when each new day brought a new sign of himself, he began to feel afraid. Beneath the low dome in the park, one evening, they rested their backs, and he said:    'It scares me, this awareness of needs.'    'Listen.’ Said Ajay, ‘We don't have to pretend they are not there.'    They made a promise.    He sat there in the dark, that night, a lambent boy looking out at an empty garden. He drew his knees up and hugged them. He could not believe it, this cheap inevitability of things. He stood up and walked at the end of a shut-out world, at the end of the garden, to the gate. He opened it to let Ajay in. Feroza and Khaled’s voice reverberated through the house like an ancient rhythm. They swiftly walked back up, though careful not to awaken anyone, as though they were running late for something. As though their lives depended on getting to the room.    Ajay, Waseem remembers, had tan skin and long hair then. Inside the room, orange fluorescent light from the bulb flickered on a blue night, and Ajay moved towards Waseem. Where, the mood of the last few days took definite form, like salt eventually dissolves in water. Now, Ajay removed his clothes, revealing the muscles underneath, hard and ochre. The color of earth.    Waseem was staring at the man, and he felt the weight inside his own trousers rise. He was staring at beauty, and he had never seen beauty. He had heard the big boys, the lilt of Khaled's voice, but not beauty. He had seen Feroza arranging chrysanthemums in a vase, and dew drops falling onto the jade leaves at St. Lawrence’s, but, not beauty. And now all of these vacancies, these wounds readily fill, hour by hour, touch by touch, cavity by cavity.    Waseem, in Urdu, means beautiful, or capable of being beautiful. In that moment, Waseem realized that we can never shirk our identities away, these specks of beauty, any more than we can abandon our names; perhaps, our destinies are contained in them. So, there it was, beauty, a realization that would cling to him, like his name. That, or to roam hopeless, unnamed.    They say, licking the tip of one's breasts can cause them to swell in ecstasy, grow, become more prominent. This was what happened, afterwards. Each time they met, Ajay would enter him and his tongue would run across his chest in ecstasy. And soon, they were larger than they were supposed to be. Like a plant that was not supposed to grow 120

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a little taller. Or rain that was not meant to fall more. Sometimes, while Waseem would change, Feroza would walk in and look at them with a strange look. At first, she thought it was some sort of a disease that was building up in him, but when Waseem insisted it was nothing, she left the matter alone.    These days, Waseem is conscious of who sees him. Of who is aware of this bulge behind his shirt, this growth. This plant gone wrong. This rain fallen more than it was supposed to. Of who is aware.    They did not meet again, for a long time, and when they did run into each other in the park, they talked about other matters. After some days, Waseem found Ajay with a young boy sitting against the low dome of the park, humming an old Pakistani song to the vacuous air. He approached them, taking two steps at a time.    'Where have you been?'    That evening, Ajay told Waseem that they could not meet until he was willing to lend him some money. He needed some money, he said.    'I don't have anything to give.' Waseem assured.    'Are you sure?'    'I am sure.' Waseem replied, recognizing the change that rang in Ajay's tone.    'Then think again, Waseem. What if your parents found out about us?' said Ajay, with a beguiling smile. 'They couldn't take it.'    'What do you mean about us?'   'Our nature.'    Waseem spent days convincing himself that Ajay would not be able to trace the way to his house. After all, he had travelled there through the night. In that area, almost all the streets looked the same and through the dark of the evening, one would scarcely be able to distinguish one from the other; the same narrow strips of bushing separated the lanes, the same row of light-poles, and affixed, wooden benches. Waseem could have threatened him in the same manner, if he knew how to threaten at all. But, he did not know exactly where Ajay lived.    It had been his house, his room, their secret-meeting place, that den of beauty.    In those days, the room went all animations. The floor of the room came alive, as if it were a person, stirring from sleep. The floor upon which they had rested and talked up until dawn, when lightening licks the skies. For a few nights, Waseem mustered up the strength to lie upon the floor, tracing his finger against the marbled pattern, and horror swelling up in him, still. It bothered him, the floor, for the solidity of it, of its capacity to claim your touch and never return it, to keep it with itself like a selfish promise. It bothered him that in the near future, people, a new family moving in perhaps, or even Feroza, would be able to walk all over the floor, be able to trace his smell, and Ajay’s, hunt the memory of that night down, relive it perhaps. The 121

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floor, white with some anguishing significance of his presence, a reflection of his, a tracing. And he felt very, very afraid indeed, from this capacity of objects to give one away; such that people say, ‘This is him. He has been here. Let us talk about him.’    So, Waseem spent his days assuring himself nothing would happen. But it did. Ajay knocked upon the door one morning, and Feroza thrust her head outside the window, inquiring 'Who is it?'    'Ajay. Waseem's friend.'    'Friend... But you are too old for his age?' Feroza asked, perplexed, 'What sorts of friends?'    'You ask him.'    Saying this, he quickly ran to the head of the street, disappearing around the corner, and his shadow, too, jutting down in a curve, ceased. To never ever return. Feroza drew her head inside and waited. Then she walked to the sofa, and sat there, staring into the empty air. She never said a thing to Khaled, or anyone, not even to Waseem. One thing changed though: the way she had looked at Waseem's face in the past, and the way she would look at it in the future. The peculiar manner with which she would look at him would change the facts and folds of it, the precise angle of her lids, narrow and absurd. And therein, some star would die in the corner of a universe, some boat capsizing, some water would displace itself from a jar, some shift in feelings, like the ink of the newspaper beneath Feroza’s flower vase in Khaled’s study, right before his eyes, wet and seeping. And slow.    Now, on the window, Waseem remembers the fruity incense of his night, and he feels as if someone is looking at him, you know, that kind of sense that dawns on you when someone speaks of ghoststories in the room you grew up living in. And then, all of a sudden, you will begin to see things differently. You will begin to believe someone is underneath the bed, or someone is behind you, someone invisible, always following. Merchants, beggars, carpet-sellers, fruitvendors, all fly past, and yet there could be someone, watching.    The car comes to a momentary pause and then receives more gas, speeding up. Children squander away on the streets, and an old shoe-maker shouts into the air, 'Shoe! Get it repaired here! Shoe!' And Waseem hears Ajay whispering: 'You. I see you. I have seen you. I will see you. One day.'    You will call these fears ridiculous. But what is ridiculous, inadequate? An unnecessary fight, too loud a scream maybe, or a wild thing - but the heart of a human being?    Had Feroza sat beside him, she would have stopped him. She had witnessed such cases; patients walking into the hospital room, armless patients. Because, his elbow was a little too out. Not that he had not similar fears, no, his own heart was a myriad of fears, all sorts of them. Fears of secret-wishes, secret-moments, of a body part grown a little too much. And rain fallen a little more. 122

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What had, then, caused him to do the most unusual thing this morning, something which could, at the very least, compound his fears, let alone confront them? Part of him, like Feroza, wanted to shove his head inside, and close the window. He did not know why he had leaned out in the first place. But it was a sudden, a very sudden, a minute thing. The other half of him, the half that has to do with desire and conjuring beauty, it wanted to peep into the other side of the window, and keep looking.    So, it was him that morning, for one minute, not caring if Ajay, or Feroza, or anyone else was out there, buying fruits, or getting a shoe mended. If anyone would catch a glance of him. It didn't matter, he told himself. And he veered his elbows outer than usual, fixing them in a frame, resting his face on it, closing his eyes. And perhaps for the first time, Waseem saw his life clearly, very clearly. And he understood the seemingly ludicrous one-time importance of this one-time act: that through the window, he perhaps wished to run through time and memory, to defy their authorities. To be free again.    Because, after all, to what extent can you claim to be someone you are not? In the end, it wears you down.

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Photopoems|Steve Armitage (Photos) and

Caron Freeborn (Poems)

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Photopoems|Steve Armitage (Photos) and

Caron Freeborn (Poems)

Daddy’s bird My daddy had an aviary. The birds were bright enough – he said – though true, their songs sounded the same five notes. One day, he left their cage door open. Twenty-four tongues bleated still, mutton dressed in feathers, but one bird – blue, small, fey – saw its chance and flew away. It might have died. Our next-door’s cat eyed it with wary covetousness. But equally, it might have lived. We’ll never know, given how one small blue-grey bird looks much the same as another. I hadn’t set my sights on Dad in quarter of a century. Dyed my hair that livid blue; made heavy, ground-down work of our bereft and bald analogy; found a duck’s prosthetic beak to pet until it pecked me black and blew away my flight. That’s me plucked. Now, I cruise entrapment stalls, hard boozing still for love or revelation. Urine stinks two centuries old. I drink it in with my pissed, big, glad-handing God, and with his lover.

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Photopoems|Steve Armitage (Photos) and

Caron Freeborn (Poems)

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Photopoems|Steve Armitage (Photos) and

Caron Freeborn (Poems)

Things that are dead (an album) My own death died. They told me I would live I’ll never get over it. They say you’d put a dog down wouldn’t do it to a dog it’d be kinder too damn dog tired. Despair isn’t hellbound in a dog. Then, how do you make a tribute for a man who took his life pursued by the police? He liked to blow fresh tissues in the air and turn them into parachutes for weeds to make my children laugh. (My children who can’t live, who live with their disease.) There’s so much dead crap to get rid of: bags of perished love and cold congested sex, fire that freeze-dried. I sling out boredom too though we all know that accumulates soon as your back is turned. I’m dead to my living now. There’s stuff good enough for jumble but not much. Most soggy with discarded earthly hope, and no one wants that. There’s him, of course. But he no longer breathes. My Cousin Terry died. I barely knew him. He loved the novels of Georgette Heyer and once told me he knew all about the Renaissance through her work. Shrouded my living baby in smoke while his ten-years-older wife wore her Parka at my dad’s warm funeral, even at the part where everyone was drunk. He’s just someone I tell now as though a flat character in one of the novels he so admired. So I’m looking at the pictures of my life, waiting for carrion pigeons to peck out desire’s eyes which my angel, damp with dead metaphor, abandons. 127

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Poetry|Abol Froushan Strangers on a Train Sliding down on her eye line Falling from when she blinks And Getting caught in a dimple Then Kissing her rhyming lips I spent a long holiday with By the sea In a bed Then a bar Alas all this happened in a conversation I didn't have with between Victoria and St. James's In the Standing room before her seat On the District Line When she was leaving I thanked her for a lifetime o that I had with

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Empty Buy me an empty self I asked in a dream Like the ting in the I Ching The ceremonial vessel With its legs upturned To clear out the old stuff Of a default future The Vessel as a thing of the sea To steer, to navigate As a Naav in Persian or a Nef in French Upside down It makes the Nave The space in a church To worship from Ship for war is a Naav worshippers in a warship Turned upside down Upside down You turn me Goes the song And I sing of an empty self Like an empty vessel to sail Battling the turbulent seas To a different shore

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Amnesiac The spring in my step spewed blossoms onto the side walk and the breeze played havoc on your hair Full of mouth I spilled words And then A pair of eyes behind the wheel The traffic stood watch at the murder of raindrops by the windscreens But wiped and ready to see you bang the door and cross So I drove round As the clock on Time Square turned a decade and the season repeated itself like an amnesiac

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Poetry|Kevin Cowdall The Shooting Star As a child, I would often gaze through my bedroom window in wide-eyed awe at a shooting star arching over the chimney-tops on a cloudless, starry, night, a fiery tail glowing in its wake. And I would close my eyes oh, so tight, and make a wish. Then, in those long gone days, they seemed quite common though, and perhaps, even now, they still are, but I am older, and childhood stops; no time now for such trivial delight, simple pleasures we no longer take. So I close my eyes oh, so tight, and make a wish.

The Predatory Hawk Hovering on a hint of breeze, the predatory hawk hangs with a practised ease high in a cloudless sky, scanning all that lies below with a keen, unblinking eye. A slight tilt of the head, a sudden dip of a wing, then swooping, talons spread, down on unsuspecting prey. A lazy flap of the wings, and gone, upon its way.

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The Sheltering Serpent A shadow within the shadows, sheltering from the incessant heat of a blistering mid-day sun under the mantle of an overgrown shrub. Loosely coiled, listless, unseen by any humans who have to venture out, it disregards those who pass it by with an unblinking indifference. Only when a panting dog draws near does it react, head and tail rising, coils tightening; but the dog lopes by, seeking only a cooling relief indoors. It relaxes once more, coils spreading, head settling, in to languid repose. A shadow within the shadows, sheltering from the incessant heat.

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Short Fiction (Translation)|V M Devadas Translator: Jose Varghese

Babel If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without climbing it, it would have been permitted.    - Franz Kafka

“Listen Polleyachan, you’ve got to hurry up and be here soon, at the Mission Hospital; don’t tell me you are busy. A worker had a cardiac arrest. I had to make a scene at the office to bring him here. A few hassles here in the hospital too...and we need to pay the bills. You call me once you reach in front of the Casualty.”    Gauridas disconnected the phone before anything could be said in return. The details of the call flashed on the phone for a while and it was then that Polleyachan saw that there were already three missed calls and a message to call back – all of them while he was having a quick morning shower. He felt very bad that he failed to rise up earlier today, as he got ready in a jiffy to go out.    He grabbed the rosary that he forgot to wear in all the hurry, then the motorbike’s key, and the weekly account statement which he is supposed to give the Trust Accountant of the Archdiocese. He stuffed all these in his pocket and combed his hair with fingers as he locked the door. Since he hadn’t taken the bike out in the past few days, he had to kick the starter down several times. As it moved out of the Engineering College campus and reached the main road, Polleyachan was wondering what the ‘scene at the office’ and ‘hassles in the hospital’ were.    Gauri got acquainted with Polleyachan during the construction of the huge library building at the Engineering College of the Archdiocese. It was when an AICTE inspection pointed out the insufficiency of the existing library space that the Trust under the Archdiocese decided to construct a new library with all the required facilities. Gauri was the Site Supervisor of the construction company. And the church appointed Polleyachan as the supervisor from their part. In normal circumstances, two people in their positions should have had a lot of arguments and fights. But it’s already been three months since the work commenced, and it’s almost finished now - there had not been any harsh words between the two so far, except for the unavoidable doubt clearances from both parts.    Gauri is a relatively junior employee in the construction company. He has just three years’ experience there. When the other buildings of the college were built by the company, he was in his training period there. He would have come to the site once in a while then, but he 133

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doesn’t remember seeing Polleyachan during those times. He was already working in the supervising team at the shopping mall construction twelve kilometres away from the college in the heart of the city when he got a transfer as the site supervisor of the library building. A young man like him would have felt bad about leaving a huge project to move to another site, but Gauri gave his consent as soon as he got the instruction from the management. He was longing to leave from the work atmosphere in which supervisors would verbally abuse the labourers, even making obscene remarks about their mothers and sisters, and would beat them up cruelly just in order to meet the contract deadlines. Gauri was developing a resigned attitude, faster than how the skins of the Bihari, Bengali, Rajastani and Oriya migrant labourers got rougher by time.    Gauridas felt reassured that it was a good to move from the earlier site when he could closely associate with Polleyachan. His responsibility was to represent the company. Polleyachan was the one who took care of all the work there, and he even had a rapport with the labourers and the ability to control and finish the work within the deadlines without much noise or verbal fights. For Gauri, that ability was a bit awe-inspiring.    Gauri used to think that ‘Polleyachan’ was just another name that’s quite usual in Kerala, like Matthachan, Potthachan, Varkeychan, Kunjachan and so on. But he realised only later that the ‘achan’ (‘father’ in Malayalam) suffix to his friend’s name stood for his vocation as a priest. Gauri couldn’t control his laughter when he saw Polleyachan in a cassock for the first time during a function at the college in which their Bishop was a guest. He even laughed nonstop for one or two minutes. He had never seen Fr.Polley in that attire in the Trust meetings or the construction work. Fr.Polley used to wear black trousers and white or light yellow shirts on such occasions. Sometimes he would wear kurtas of the same colours as well. There were just a few local people who didn’t find anything special in the cassock, while all the migrant labourers were amused just like Gauri. He couldn’t help asking,    “So, Polleyachan is really a priest in a church?”    “Hey no, man. I am a fake priest.”    “Oh, no! I wasn’t trying to tease you. We are all really surprised to see you in this attire.”    “See, if you go a little way downwards from our market, there’s a small church in which the Holy Mass is offered only on Sundays. Apart from this supervision I do, I am the vicar of that church as well. You got it clear now, eh?”    “Oh, but still my Father...”    “But still, what?”    “Nothing. Just saying Praise the Lord!”    “Ah, amen. The rest of small talk later. Go ahead with your work at 134

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the site. I will just show my face to the Bishop and come there soon.”    Though the priest went off saying this, Gauri was flummoxed as the smile faded from his lips. He hadn’t been interacting with Polleyachan the way one should with a priest. He hadn’t kept any respectful distance. He had shared risqué jokes with Polleyachan, about the male laborers mating hurriedly after lunch, in the corners of buildings under construction, behind cement sacks, in the shadows of huge machines – these are people who have stayed away from their hometowns and families for months, trapped in work that comes in turns in construction sites. It took Gauri some time to overcome the embarrassment and anxiety to see in a priest’s attire someone who had silently nodded and smiled at all these earlier.    It’s after this that Gauri started observing Polleyachan closely. Though he used to communicate a lot with all kinds of people in his work place, Gauri could see then that Polleyachan had some special characteristics. First among them was his tendency to ask the kind of questions that none among the work supervisors would bother to ask. Polleyachan would keep asking about the hardships of the construction workers from other states. He would keep asking in the midst of busy work about their salary, whether they come alone or with family, how often they go to their homeland, how their accommodation and food is, whether employment rules are applied in their cases, whether any organisations interfere with their issues, whether they get any company perks other than what those contractors who go to the villages to pay per head-count in order to bring them here, whether the company takes care of medical treatment if they have any accidents, and so on. Though Gauri hadn’t said anything that affects the company’s interests earlier, he had begun to speak openly when he became close to Polleyachan. He had to share with Polleyachan his own revelation that life wasn’t all that good for those workers who came to Kerala in search of a permanent job that provides timely food and a reasonably good salary so that they could overcome the bad living conditions back home . There were labour mafias working for companies spreading their nets across small villages for workers on contract basis. The workers were not only illiterate but even inefficient to report on their ailments effectively to others, if they fell sick in the strange land to which they have migrated. They had to put up with the arrogance and flimsy excuses of companies that wouldn’t observe proper work schedules or terms and conditions. They couldn’t even think of strikes or arguments about work conditions, and were destined to lead a life at the receiving end of foul words and beatings. Before he could finish his rant about what really burns within the labour camps made of tin and tarpaulin, Polleyachan interrupted, “Is there no change to any of these even now?”    Gauri didn’t comprehend why Polleyachan asked that. He is like that at times. He would ask questions without expecting an answer. If 135

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you ask him something in return, he would just walk away with a naughty smile. He would stop talking in mid-conversation and walk away hurriedly on the way to the Men’s Hostel, running fingers through his greying beard with one hand and throwing and catching the keys of his bike and the store room with the other. It’s o that Gauri mumbles ‘pseudo-priest!’ to himself, jokingly.    After putting his bike on its stand, Polleyachan walked to the Casualty to meet Gauri there. He kept running his fingers through his beard and kept throwing and catching the bunch of keys to imitate himself even then, though the naughty smile was missing. When he saw Polleyachan, Gauri ran towards him, breaking the hospital-corridor silence with heavy footsteps. Even before the priest could finish his question about what really happened, Gauri started talking animatedly.    “Father, I was just getting ready to come to the college site when the girl from the admin department of our company called. She told me that a worker in the shopping mall site had chest pain. Since it’s not my site, I asked her whether there aren’t supervisors to deal with it there. She said it didn’t seem they were going to do the necessary, and asked me to be there if possible, and hung up the phone. By the time I got to the site, things were already a total mess. No one took care of the worker with chest pain or released a vehicle to take him to the hospital. Two Bihari workers from his village hired an autorickshaw and took him to the nearby clinic. When I got to know about all this at the site, I hurried to the clinic on my bike. It’s there that I got to know that it was not a mere chest pain but a heart attack. When I saw these workers there with no money in hand and with no idea of what was really going on…Father, to tell you the truth… what came to my mind was my mother who died of a heart attack, the first one itself.”    It’s when Gauri mentioned ‘these workers’ and pointed at them that Polleyachan noticed the two men in soiled work clothes, all sapped out. .    “I didn’t think of anything else then. I called a site supervisor and demanded a vehicle to be released. Though he gave some flimsy excuses at first, he budged when I threw some foul language at him and kept insisting.    It’s with a tablet under his tongue, prescribed by the doctor at the clinic, that he reached till here. In the midst of all this these people called to the site and asked for some money. Even though the supervisor called the office and requested for some money, he got nothing. No one even bothered to come here or see what’s happening. If that girl from the admin hadn't informed me of this, everything would have been over in the clinic itself.”    “And where is he now?”    “He was in the Casualty when I called you. He wasn't getting any attention even here. When I made a scene, they conducted some tests and moved him to the ICU. They said that he would need an urgent 136

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surgery, and that we need to pay for that in advance. When I got to know that this hospital and your college is run by the same management, I felt like calling you at once. I know I am bothering you, but you have to help.”    The local joke about the church and the priest being two separate entities came to Polleyachan's mind, even amidst the discomfort he had with the hospital situation.    “I will call the office and find some way to resolve the money issue. If they are adamant that they won't give anything, I have some other plan in my mind. I can also try to scare the labour contractor. Let’s see whether something comes out of it. If there is still some more money needed, I can spend it from my pocket. I am not looking for hospital charity. I just need some space to arrange everything. It's not fair if they say that we have to pay the entire amount right now. You have to find a way out of this for me.”    Polleyachan gave a reassuring pat on Gauri's shoulder and walked towards the administrative block. There were two men in the corridor, leaning on the wall with their hands clasped over their thighs, but they didn’t move an inch as he passed them. Even when Polleyachan came back after a consultation with the priest who is the Director in charge of the hospital to somehow convince him of the situation, the two Biharis kept standing there in the same position. Gauridas was not seen anywhere there. Achan asked through gestures where he was. One of them pointed towards the ICU which was a bit far from where they stood. Achan saw Gauridas leaning on the wall, imitating the posture of the construction workers.    “What news Father? Any progress?”    “I have told them everything in detail. We have to pay the whole amount only in four orfive days. But…they say we have to pay at least half the amount by this afternoon.’    “That's fine. They have some weekly Chit Fund in the labour camp. The one who is ill also has an account in that. I made these guys call up at the camp, and they have agreed to make some adjustments to get some money from his account because this is an emergency. And they have also agreed to have a bucket fundraising.”    “Okay. What's your next program now?”    “I will be here itself. I am not going to the work at college today. Don’t worry, the work there will not be disrupted. I have just called up at the office. They’ve send someone called Senthil to replace me today. He has already come to the site once or twice.”    “There was no need for that. It's only a matter of a day or two.”    “It's not because of that Father. The company won't allow them to work without a supervisor…that's why.”    “Ok. Let it go like that then.”    “So,are you going back, Father?”    “If there is nothing else I can do here now…” 137

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“What you have done so far itself is great enough. Thank you so much, Father!”    “Keep all the formality with yourself man! I haven't eaten anything so far. I couldn't even take my medicine for blood pressure in the morning. It seems I am going to have some gastric trouble. Why don't we just have at least a cup of tea?”    While walking to the canteen with Gauri, Polleyachan’s bunch of keys clanked, breaking the rule of silence in the hospital.    After ordering strong tea for both, they found a table in a less crowded space in the cafeteria.    “Haven’t you told me earlier that you are a non-believer?”    “Yes, do you doubt that Father?”    “Hey…no doubts. Have you ever wished it was better to be a believer?”    “There hadn’t been any reason for that till now. And the things happening around seem to prove that there is no God too, right?”    “That might be true. But it could be those same experiences that turn out be the reasons for some to become believers. That’s the weird thing.”    Gauri felt it was his usual habit of asking unrelated questions out of the blue and then moving away from the topic in between. But Polleyachan didn’t stop this time. He kept talking.    “An old friend of mine…a very close friend to be precise…he was a supervisor in a construction company like you. I’m talking about an experience he recounted. It happened twenty years back. He must have been twenty-two years old then, An age when one has the desire to travel around the whole of India. So, he left his hometown, boarded a train. It was a time when big buildings were being constructed in North India. Once he worked for a while in the north, he got transferred to a site in Maharashtra. The work was going on in a desolate area, a bit far from Bombay. It was the norm there those days that a lot of workers from other states landed at the construction sites there, just like the situation we have here these days.”    “Cut the long story short, Father. After drinking this tea, I’ve got to smoke a cigarette and go back quickly to the ICU.”    “The story is not all that long, anyway. The piling work of a big building was going on. Due to the carelessness of the person who was operating the excavator, its boom hit the head of one of the workers. His head broke and blood spurted out – his body lay on the ground, getting distorted in spasms. Workers and supervisors ran to the spot, hearing the scream and commotion. But there was no way something could be done. The hospital was far away. The facilities at the work site existed only in papers. What to say… by the time the people who gathered met the manager and conveyed the news, the man died… before anything could be done in his favour.”    The bearer kept the tea glasses on the table with a loud thump 138

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and went back. If you see Gauri looking intently at the storyteller who kept on talking as he sipped tea and ran his fingers through his beard, it would seem that he has changed his mind about getting the story finished fast.    “And then? There was no legal case, or any complaints?”    “No way! Nothing happened. No one knew anything other than the names of the dead man and his village. If they took his body out of the company, it would be a hassle. They needed the post-mortem report and a doctor’s certificate for that. If they needed to find out his home address and take his body there, it would take a few days. The site manager scolded and abused the workers who volunteered to take his body to his village. They backed off when they heard that they would have to do it at their own risk, forsake the wages for the days they lose that way, and that there won’t be any assurance that they would have a job to get back to when they come back. Things happened pretty fast after that. His body was dragged down the big pit dug for piling and they had a quick and quiet burial of it.”    “None among the workers or supervisors objected?”    “The company offered double salary to all its workers and special allowance to the supervisors. And they scared off those who still raised their voices. Everything ended there.”    “And your friend…what about him?”    “He took the allowance, ran away from there and reached home. He kept dreaming of the blood-soaked body, its head split open, moving in violent spasms. He lost his sleep over these recurring images in his dreams. Thinking repeatedly over the dead man dumped in the bottomless pit, he became an insomniac, unable to even close his eyes. Then he started mumbling, and then speaking loudly things that didn’t make any sense. In short, he went mad. He who didn't believe in God earlier started praying whenever he was in his right senses. Before this news spread in his locality, his family took him to a small rehabilitation centre run by our community, far from his place. That’s how I got to know about him.”    Though the cashier called out and asked them if they needed anything more, they understood that it was a signal to empty their places for those who were waiting for seats. Polleyachan and Gauri paid the bill and walked out of the cafeteria.    “Haven’t you seen him after that, Father?”    “I see him occasionally. He’s somewhat normal now. But he gets in trouble now and then. He keeps living like that –with his faith, prayers, and madness. It seems he hasn’t married yet.”    - Silence –    “But the reason why I told you all this is for something else. He has a collection of paper cuttings – a file that contains all the news about the accidents and the suffering of construction workers.”    “Real news on these incidents don’t come out so often, Father. 139

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Even among those that come, only half would be true.”    “That could be the case. Even then…there are some bits of information in his file. Workers who had serious accidents at work, and leading a life that’s worse than death. Those who commit suicide because they couldn’t stand the cruelty and abuse of their supervisors or couldn’t escape it and find a way back home. Those who are suspected for crimes or shunned for no special reason and beaten to death by the local people. Those who roam around helplessly with illnesses that exist or not … there are so many single-column news items like that.    Polleyachan took Gauri on his bike and dropped him at a small shop next to the hospital wall. He didn’t forget to give Gauri the regular useless advice to quit smoking. Since the way to the Trust office was crowded, Polleyachan drove slowly, with utmost care. By the time he finished his usual chit-chat with the accountant and the audit work, and came out of the office, the temperature rose too high outside. As he rode his bike and sweat dripped down his head inside the helmet, Polleyachan kept shaking his head in irritation. By the time he reached the college, it was almost noon time. Senthil, the new supervisor kept eyeing the beautiful college girls returning from the computer lab to their classes, even as he gave directions to the workers. He behaved himself when he saw Polleyachan. After parking his bike on the pathway, Polleyachan hung his helmet on it handlebar and walked ahead. Since he didn’t take his breakfast or medicine before the hurried ride to the hospital and back, he felt dizzy as the afternoon heat fell on his head. He walked towards the site, wondering whether his steps swayed a bit.    Senthil, who is from Nagercoil, stood on the ground and lifted his head towards the workers standing on various levels of the building on scaffolds and concrete, as he gave them commands in a language that was Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi intermingled. These languages reached those various levels in the form of instructions. All those workers – from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa – kept on doing the work after processing these instructions in their respective languages. Those who are at the topmost level are attempting to fix the big letters made of cement to give the building its name. In a misty vision as if a film of yellow fell over his eyes, Polleyachan sees the long name, ‘Bibliothèque’ shrink to ‘Babel’ in a lightning flash. The whole building becomes a huge crowd of people. Some climb on the shoulders of those who stand in a big circle holding hands, and some others climb on their shoulders and then some more on the shoulders of those who climbed first, and some more on their shoulders…the circular form of people keeps growing like that, going high upwards. In an excitement to reach higher and higher, the crowd roars. The moment a man climbs over to a height that seems impossible, an excavator’s hand comes buzzing, hiding the sun behind it, and hits 140

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right on his forehead. In a scream ensuing the head split open, the human tower scatters. Right at the centre of those who move away in fear, a body falls from the highest heaven.    By the time Senthil saw Polleyachan standing fatigued with his hands over his head and ran towards him, the priest had fallen down. When the people who gathered around in the commotion took Polleyachan on their shoulders and shifted him to the office building, he was passing the distance, through memory, of the self-betraying transformation from the cross that’s the refuge of the messiah’s missionaries to the reverse form of a headless cross that’s the drawing tool of an architect. The bunch of keys that would jangle on such occasions fell from his loosening clasp.

Translated from Malayalam by Jose Varghese 141

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Short Fiction|Andrew Lee-Hart Samson One

I

was hungry as I went to see the Rabbi. Warsaw’s streets were grey and there was a smell of rain and damp, I shivered as I huddled as deeply as I could into my thin coat.    “Oh give us peace oh Lord.” I thought, “and take this hunger from me”, I added although this was rather a selfish thought with all that was going on. Poland in 1937 was not a good place to be, particularly if you were Jewish, with anti-Jewish riots and anti-Jewish laws and the Germans just across the border. And all I did, and all the other followers of Rav Moshe did, was fast and try to stay awake. Meanwhile, in my head there was always music; fragments of symphonies, dances, songs both Jewish and Polish, death marches, all crowding into my mind wanting to be performed. The sounds swirled around. I was a student of French literature but music was my true love and I spent most of my time playing the piano and writing down the melodies in my head. I was able to use my musicianship to teach the piano to local children and thus enhance the meagre amount of money which was all that my parents could send me. Rav Moshe lived above a haberdashery shop which his wife ran with her sister. There was always a beautiful smell of perfume and incense as I walked in and pushed aside the curtain. I had noticed the smell six months ago when I first went to meet him. My fellow student Isaac from the “Ghettos’ benches” at the university told me of this great teacher who told his followers that the Messiah was imminent and who offered hope. I went more out of curiosity than any idea that he would be anything more than another charlatan, but to my surprise I found him to be wise and kind, and perhaps I needed a father figure. And soon I was going to see him most days of the week; whenever I needed encouragement or somewhere I could sit in peace. That first time, when I was ushered into his presence, I found him to be a surprisingly young man; early thirties at a guess so only ten years or so older than me. I remember him looking at me on that first afternoon; his clothes bright but old and those eyes turquoise and with a twinkle but which pierced deep into my soul.    “And so Samson, have you come to defeat the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass?” he asked me and then chuckled. I flexed my muscles surreptitiously in case I was called upon to give battle. If only 142

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life were so simple; if only our enemies could be defeated with the swing of a jawbone.    Other young people came in over the course of that first evening; men and women, mostly young, and there were a couple of gentiles as well, looking rather furtive and shy, and we all talked quietly whilst Rav. Moshe sat in a corner looking on and smiling. And then he spoke, telling of the persecution that we were suffering, but how it was only temporary and how the Messiah would arrive to defeat our enemies if only we had faith, and did what was necessary.    “Cast aside your bodily appetites” he told us, “your spirit is imprisoned by your want of food and sleep, your need for drink and for the carnal. We are spiritual beings. Fight against this and your saviour will come.” And a whiff of holiness came from him as he spoke; pale and anguished as he clearly was.    We then read from the prophet Jeremiah and ended the evening singing a psalm, and I went home thinking that my life would never be quite the same again, and for those six months it was strange and different, I had hope and I had a friend who I looked up to and admired. Other than my friend Isaac, I rarely saw any of the Rabbi’s other followers outside his home, just occasionally in the library or in the streets near to the university, and I wondered if they felt liberated or just hungry and tired.    Perhaps if I had had a lover I would not have been so eager to follow Rav Moshe, but Debra had left Poland a few months before, she had fled to America with her family, seeing the way that the wind was changing in Poland and the threat from Germany. After she was gone I was happy to embrace the life of an ascetic and pin my hopes on the arrival of a Messiah who would deliver his people. The world, our world was falling apart and anything that offered hope had to be worth trying. So I walked the streets of Warsaw, looking at the looted shops and the fearfulness of my people whilst trying to stay upright, faint from lack of food and sleep.    At times it was easy; I could stay up all night writing music and reading the poetry of the French troubadours and Villon, or walking the dark streets until daylight tentatively appeared and people started to wake. I imagined all the followers of the Rav Moshe united in ushering in a new age, praying as our stomachs craved food and our minds sleep. My parents lived out in the wilds on their farm so they did not know what their son was up to and were probably too busy to care.    At other times I struggled, falling asleep in lectures and spending 143

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my time obsessing about food; staring into the windows of bakeries and smelling bread and cake. I started to let myself go; I neglected my appearance, forgetting to wash and letting my hair grow long and not bothering to shave, perhaps like my namesake my strength was in my locks, but I had no Delilah to tempt me to have them shorn.    Rav Moshe told us that he only ate two slices of black bread a day, and slept one hour in the afternoon before staying awake all night praying and writing, but then he had had years of practicing, getting right with God. But most days I could subsist on a large breakfast going through the rest of the day with only cigarettes to keep me company, and I was down to three or four hours’ sleep a night.    My friend Isaac talked of going to England. His parents shop had been daubed with a “J” and then the following evening all the windows had been smashed. A cousin of his in a small village in the east had been badly beaten and left for dead. Politically, after the years of hope following the liberation of Poland from the Germans and Russians, things were not going well for us, there was now a right-wing government bringing in increasingly anti-Jewish laws and there were riots and the fear of a German invasion.    “You are giving up aren’t you?” I asked Isaac, as we sat in my room, the smoke from our cheap cigarettes blurring everything, “this is our country, and perhaps the rabbi is right, perhaps the messiah is at hand.”    Isaac shrugged; I had always thought of him as a bit of a dilettante; always smartly dressed and regularly following a new philosophy or craze. I had noticed that he had not been to see the rabbi as frequently as he had once done, and now he and his family were fleeing. My lack of food was making me less tolerant than once I had been.    “If we give up, the goyim will have won.”    “They always do Samson.” He told me “you cannot live on fairy tales from the Bible”.    I sat in silence, and my stomach rumbled quietly.    That night I walked around Lazienki Park; beautiful during the day, by the evening it became a haven for prostitutes. I remembered Debra; our nights together, and I wondered if I would ever be kissed again by someone who loved me passionately, would give themselves to me without reserve. But she had left me; Debra so brave and strong, had departed with her family and all their belongings. She had written to me and said she loved me and wanted me with her. But I knew I would never see her again. My last memory of her, was of her laughing in my tiny kitchen. I cannot remember what it was about, just how she was lost in her mirth and the way she looked at me with 144

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love in her eyes. I doubted that anybody would ever look at me like that again.    I was so lost in my thoughts that I did not hear the policemen until they were upon us, coming from all sides hitting people here and there, and dragging away some of the women. I felt too faint to run, but for some reason nobody seemed to notice me, as if I had become insubstantial and invisible. I stood amongst the trees watching the police do their work and then when they had gone, leaving blood and possessions on the ground, I carried on walking.    The smell of women’s perfume and sweat remained in the park; since I had met the rabbi my senses had become stronger, and particularly my sense of smell. Sometimes walking through the city during the day I was overwhelmed by the different aromas that surrounded me. Open windows revealed the scent of food, sweat and sometimes sex. I was like a cat; lithe as I strode through the city; a different smell on every side.    Encouraged by Rav Moshe, I had started to go regularly to the synagogue again, something I had neglected since coming to the city. I attended one close to where I lived and one of the oldest in the city. I knew that my parents would be pleased as they had worried that I would become less devout once I moved to Warsaw.    That sabbath I prayed as the daily portion of the Torah was read out. The Hebrew words seem to lose their meaning; I could feel their holiness but it was as if their sound was more important than what the words actually meant. As I listened I felt as if I were going into a trance and everything around me felt unreal, as if it were fading away.    As the cantor continued to recite from the Torah I felt my spirit leave my body and float free. I looked down upon the people below me, their heads bowed as they prayed in this ancient synagogue; these men, mostly old, looked poor and pushed down by the cares of daily life, more weary even than I was. And then on the other side of the Mechitza the women in their homely clothes praying and some talking to each other as the world around them turned into chaos. And then I drifted higher, above Warsaw and saw the many gardens of our city and the lakes and then there was the whole of Poland spread out before me; out in the country my parents were also praying, exhausted from another never-ending week of toil, like many others in the shtetls and villages. And surrounding my country the dark mass of our enemies waiting to destroy us all; Jew and gentile, rich and poor, or perhaps they were just waiting for us to turn upon each other, and do their job for them. 145

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The following night Isaac and I trudged back from visiting Rav Moshe; for the first time our leader had looked tired and ill. He had talked about the end of everything. In the past there had offered hope but now he seemed bleak, even his clothes seemed less colourful and there was no twinkle in his eyes. He had hugged me as we left, and I felt moisture, and realised that he was quietly weeping, and I felt indescribably sad.    It was dark as Isaac and I walked back towards our respective homes, most of the gas lamps were broken and Warsaw was a city of shadows, and for some reason I shivered. We were both quiet and sad, both infected by the mood of our leader and guide. Isaac was usually more optimistic than me, but tonight he seemed even more gloomy. I puffed on a cigarette and watched the tiny wisp of smoke engulfed by the mist.    I slowly became aware of the sound of running coming closer; a single pair of steps getting faster, every so often slowing down and then finding an increased amount of energy; the sound echoed round about us. Isaac had started to talk about leaving for England; he was going with his family next week, he hoped to resume his studies in London and had been learning English in preparation. The footsteps ran past us, a young man silent apart from the clack of his shoes on the paving stones, and I had a brief glimpse of his eyes scared but determined as he pushed past us.    And then behind us came a group of men in some kind of uniform and armed with staves and knives. They crashed into us and for a moment we were both caught helpless in the flickering light of one of the few lamps that were working. I heard the word “Yids” and they were upon us. Immediately I was hit hard upon the head and fell to the ground stunned, and lay helpless, all my bravery and strength gone as blows rained down upon me, and again I felt outside of myself, watching myself set upon by these thugs. And then Isaac was on top of me protecting me from the blows, which never seemed to stop, along with the sound of wood and fists landing on my friend’s body.    I could feel something wet on my face and realised that it was Isaac’s blood. And then our assailants were gone, and everything was silent. After a moment I gathered my strength and rolled Isaac off me and he lay still. I checked frantically for a pulse, I slapped him wanting him to cry out. But then I saw all the blood all over his neat shirt and jacket, and his pale face and his eyes staring up at me. I bent over him and gently kissed him on the lips, Isaac my friend.

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Two    I stood facing the school orchestra aware of all their eyes trained upon me, waiting for me to lift my baton, whilst behind me sat their families, alongside the great and good of St. Albans. Before the interval we had performed Dvorak’s Symphony from the New World to loud applause, but now we were going to play something less familiar and more ambitious, a premiere of Scenes from a Shtetl by Samson Leader, me, their music teacher.    The hall was old and rather grand with stained glass windows all on rather militaristic themes; St. George and the dragon, Gideon defeating the Midianites, that sort of thing and, appropriately, on one wall were lists of pupils who had died in various wars; the Great War, the Boer War and other colonial adventures and now there was a new plaque commemorating those who had perished in the last war, the paint almost still wet. The hall was full and smelt of polish as well as of the rich and comfortable of the provinces. There was a history here but also the future. Once I had arrived in England with Isaac’s family I had looked for a job. Isaac’s family were kind and said that I could live with them in the small flat they had rented but I swiftly found rooms and a piano and became a piano teacher and found other work where I could. For a year I enjoyed myself; yes I missed Isaac and was devastated by his death and I was worried about my parents but I was young and I felt myself invincible. And despite the fear of war there was more freedom about London and I did not feel that sense of being watched and of being in danger.    I did not forget Rab Moshe; I had gone to see him once more before I left Poland.    “You can stay” he told me, “we are strong, you are Samson the mighty warrior. If we stand together, Jew and gentile, we can overcome this wickedness. Perhaps that is the sign of the coming of the Messiah.”    But I shook my head, I just had the urge to leave and forget everything, the memory of my closest friend lying dead in my arms would not go, and Isaac’s family had begged me to go with them and escape such evil. Rav Moshe shook his head and then hugged me. I felt that I had disappointed him and betrayed him. And when the world discovered what had been done to my family and my people I realised that I had done.    Once in England I stopped attending the synagogue and became just another young man without tradition or history. And then Poland 147

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was invaded and England declared war and I realised that I had forgotten about the Messiah and so I started to fast again and prayed, and found a synagogue to attend. And then, as soon as I could, I joined up.    I fought in Italy and saw friends and enemies die. Amidst the death and boredom, in my head I composed music, hearing it all the time drowning out the sounds of war; bombs, screams and endless talk. I heard the orchestra and the choir; tunes from my youth; dances, laments and the songs my mother sang as she prepared for the Sabbath. With this music in my head I did not need to eat; in fact earthly things just distracted me.    The piece, written on manuscript paper, stayed with me once I came back to England at the end of the war. It remained forgotten in a suitcase with photographs of my family and friends who had been destroyed by the modern-day Philistines, and various other bits and pieces from my past life. I looked for work and made friends. I started to teaching music; first at a small school in London but then at a more prestigious public school in St. Albans where I stayed. The pupils were polite and eager to learn and I was given free range with the school orchestra and choir. My end of year concerts became highly regarded and started to be reviewed in the various local newspapers.    The school had boarders and I lived in the school in very plush rooms, eating my meals with the staff and students. At first I had forgotten the nameless piece I had worked on obsessively during the war but looking through my suitcase one evening I found it and thereafter spent my time when not involved with school and the orchestra I led in the city, working on it; playing tunes on the piano and violin and imagining the voices and the music, and it became Scenes from a Shtetl.    This was the seventh school’s concert I had organised, and for the first time I was nervous; as well as giving my hard work I was giving something of myself. I looked at the orchestra one last time and behind them the choir all poised for the performance, and then I raised my baton. The orchestra was good; many of them I had worked with since I began teaching at the school and I had them well drilled. Equally the small choir, who I had worked with strenuously, would be a match for any group of professional singers, but this was a difficult piece of music and nothing like anything that they had worked on before.    The first movement began with a dance I remembered from my youth, played on the violins and cello, and as it got into its stride other 148

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instruments joined in and it became intertwined with another slower, more stately melody and the two played against each other before joining together and becoming one, and then a third more militaristic march came in and the three pieces separated and then joined once more, to finish together; the two dances in time to an army marching into the unknown.    The middle movement was based on a lament and mixed with a lullaby which I remembered my mother singing to me when I was very small. And then the choir came in; the young boys with unbearably beautiful voices singing the song my mother used to hum whilst preparing the food on Friday afternoon before sunset. The orchestra playing a minimal accompaniment at first but then rushing them on to something more frantic before the movement ended with another simple lullaby sung by the choir over a plaintive clarinet.    And then the third movement; the violins playing a dance, something I remembered hearing at a wedding, and then the rest of the orchestra joined in and the choir, bringing back in melodies from the first two movements. There was a vibrancy about the music and an optimism, but as the dance drew to its end the drums came in; the kettledrums and the snare; at first quietly, unobtrusively as if part of the dance, and then they became louder and soon drowned out the dance and the children’s voices, until there was just the sound of drums and then one loud crash and Scenes from a Shtetl was at an end.    I looked at the orchestra and then the choir. They looked flushed as the piece ended. It had been demanding and complicated but they had done well; they perhaps did not realise its significance, were just relieved that it was over and they had the holidays to look forward to and for many of the students in front of me there was university or employment to come. In the future would they remember this concert? Talk about it, or would it just blur with the rest of their memories of school?    I turned and faced the audience as they clapped; I had expected more than this; either rapturous applause or shocked silence, but this was polite but nothing more. The reaction to the Dvorak earlier had been far more enthusiastic. There was a slight air of embarrassment about it, a feeling which continued after I talked to parents and other member of the audience afterwards.    I spoke to the Dean of the Cathedral, who was a strong supporter of the school, and attended all our events.    “That second piece, I am not familiar with it?” Underneath the 149

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the rather churchy tones was the hint of a Merseyside accent which he could not quite hide.    “Oh something I remembered from my youth.” I told him.    “Quite catchy, an eastern feel. Perhaps a bit modern for us out in the sticks.” He laughed and moved away to talk to the headmaster.    As I stood in the hall watching the pupils, who shortly before had worked together producing beautiful music, separate beings now, receiving congratulations from their parents, I got to thinking of Rav Moshe; what had happened to him? Had he too fled to England or America? Or had he met his end in the gas chambers his Messiah no nearer? No matter how welcoming people were in England I was still an alien; I had heard myself being referred to as “The Jew” on a few occasions, or even “that foreign gentleman”. Perhaps I should have stayed amongst the mystics and the madmen; praying to a God who had washed his hands of us and left us to be mocked and then slaughtered in our millions. I did not belong here, and never would. Three    “You have got to eat” the carer tells me, “this is no good Mr Leader.” At least it is the kind one; Charlotte I think her name is. Not like some of the other ones, Sonia in particular, who is rude and at times abusive.    “I am okay, thank you.” I tell her politely and then I push away the plate. Rav Moshe would have been pleased with me. Even as I come towards the end of my life I still remember his teaching, and it has become more relevant. I truly do not need food nor sleep as I wait for salvation and rescue.    I have been in the Abbeyfield Care Home for almost a year now. I had always tried to be independent; I like my own company and knew that I could look after myself. But my neighbour, Mrs Smythe, who was always interfering, became “worried” about me, did not think that I could cope on my own and therefore reported me to social services, a very bossy social worker visited me and decided that my neighbour was right and thus I found myself here.    For some reason I never married; I had a lady friend for awhile whilst I was a teacher at the boarding school, but we never talked about marriage or children, or at least I cannot remember doing so. I am not even sure what happened to her, presumably she disappeared like so many people do. Funny I remember Debra back in Poland far better than I do her, I cannot even remember her name, well not at the moment, although it might come back to me later. After I retired from the school I stayed in St. Albans, bought a small house and 150

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moved my few possessions in, after all I had no family living and I had made a few friends in the city.    In my retirement I taught the piano and violin to various local children and continued with my other musical activities. I even got involved with the cathedral, which I had avoided for a long time; something about Christian triumphalism bothers me, but much of the music in St. Albans is centred around it. It seemed curiously alien with all the stained-glass windows and statues of Jesus, weak and alone on the cross.    And slowly I became without friends, they all seemed to drift away or die, and now I have no visitors and just the occasional letter from old pupils and what is left of Isaac’s family, who have always remembered me. The care home is not great; perhaps if I had family they would have pushed for something better. Some of the staff are kind, but they all want me to join in with the activities and socialise with the other residents. So many times I have been interrupted listening to music in my room, or reading, and made to join in some awful nonsense as if I were a senile old fool.    Sonia is the worst. I was showering the first morning after I first arrived and she came in without knocking.    “Rather tiny isn’t it” she pointed at my penis, not that she would pass muster naked I am quite sure; red faced and over-weight. “Come on you need to get a move on, breakfast is being served.” I ignored her and carried on with my ablutions. She waited a while, and then pushed me hard, “come on you Yid, I haven’t time for you lot.” And then she spat into the shower, viciously.    I spoke to one of the other staff about Sonia; I don’t know her name but she wears a different uniform and doesn’t appear to do much work, so I assumed she must be important, but she got cross with me, and spoke to me as if I were a child.    “Now don’t you go making trouble for Sonia, Mr Leader” she told me sharply. “It is just her way and she is a fine member of staff.”    I did not bother after that. I suppose I could have complained to someone higher up, but how would I get access to paper and pen? How would I post the letter when everything is controlled and overseen?    Sonia was presumably told about my complaint because she got nastier, often punching me when we were alone; usually in the groin or in the stomach. She would not say anything whilst doing it, concentrating all her efforts on hurting me. Once another carer walked 151

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in as she slapped my face, but she just hurriedly left and Sonia carried on as if we had not been interrupted. Whilst she hit me all I had was my Scenes from the Shtetl playing in my head. My piece of music had never been performed again and nobody had ever asked about it, but in my head it was never far away; the violin, the children’s singing and then in the end the banging of the kettle drums destroying everything that had come before.    The dining hall always smelt of food whatever the time of the day; it was as if the endless dinners had permeated into the walls. There were pictures hung up, bland landscapes and seascapes, not made to be looked at properly, just something to break up the dull wall paper. In the centre of the hall were two pillars which dominated the room, sometimes I thought they were holding up the whole building; the roof and everything else pushing down upon them, stopping the whole place falling apart. They must have been strong.    “Doctor Thomas is going to have to talk to you” Charlotte tells me. “You need to eat, and the night staff say they can hear music in your room late at night.”    I shrug; night is the only time that I can listen to music without being interrupted or I can read and pray, or just remember. Not sure why my life is being so controlled, but I feel powerless at the hands of these people. I know that I will be dead soon, and perhaps I just need to endure this until I die.    Doctor Thomas is a young man, too young to be a doctor really but he seems friendly enough. He came to see me and told me about nutrition and getting enough sleep, I just look at him. I could tell him about Sonia and a couple of the others, but in the end however kind he and some of the others seem they look after each other. He puts me on a “high protein” diet.    “So you like music?” he asks me.    “Yes, I was a music teacher over at the boarding school. I cannot play anymore, my fingers are too tired.”    “I like some of that classical stuff” he says, “the Four Seasons”, all that, “Phantom of the Opera.”    I smile in dismissal.    Later I slowly walk into the dining hall Sonia at my shoulder pushing me and hissing.    “You had better eat, always causing trouble.”    She pauses to take breath. I hold onto one of the pillars to stay upright. I feel shattered, I always do when rushed. She moves me on and pushes me into my seat; there is a nutritional drink besides my plate which is overloaded with meat and potatoes. The smell makes 152

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me feel faint and nauseated.    Time must have gone on, because she is at my side. Perhaps I was praying.    “You have not eaten a thing.” She shouts, for once careless of those around her. She sticks a fork in the mess of the dinner and tries to shove some of it into my mouth. All around me the elderly gentiles chomp on their food doing as they are told. I push my arm backwards into her fat midriff, as hard as I can, it is soft and rather disgusting.    “You bastard Yid” she shouts as she falls backwards.    I stand up and push my way to the pillars, I feel strong and happy that I have managed to fight back. I stand betwixt the two pillars, they are the right distance apart, and I look at the residents and staff, most of whom have realised that something is going on.    I pray for strength and in front of me I can see Rav Moshe looking directly at me with those turquoise eyes, and he is smiling slightly, encouragingly. I summon up all my powers and push with all my strength. Sonia and the other staff just stand as I strain, sniggering slightly. For awhile nothing happens and I realise that I will fail and end up a stupid old man, pathetic and weak, but I keep pushing and praying. And suddenly I feel a wave of strength and power come into me; I am young once again and have power and I push once more. And at last there is a crack and a shudder and then a loud tearing sound from the bowels of the building. And with an almighty crash both pillars fall apart from each other and crash to the floor, bringing the roof of the temple down with them, leaving nothing but dust and ash which drifts upwards into the blue sky above our heads.

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Poetry|Mark Mayes Idiot at the Wheel Who made the pot? said the idiot. I did, said the potter. I am the most respected potter in the region. I am a master craftsman. I am an artist in clay. Kings, and others almost as important, commission me. I made an urn for the ashes of the Princess, after her unfortunate accident. Who made the clay? said the idiot. Who made the clay? What idiotic questions you ask. It is merely raw material. It was gathered for me by servants, said the artist in clay. It is delivered to the door of my studio. You did not make the clay? repeated the idiot, sucking on a length of sugar cane. No, of course not, idiot. Why am I wasting my time with you? You should be put away somewhere, somewhere dark and hidden. The idiot turned to go, then turned again, like a pot upon a slowing wheel, a little unsteady under the harsh words of the craftsman. Now the idiot spoke with a voice that grew in strength: 154

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Nor the water did you make? Nor the stone of your wheel? Nor your own hands that shaped the clay? Nor the metal of your inscribing tools? Nor the fire in your oven? Nor the eyes of those who look upon your work? Nor their hands that feel the curve of that jug, from the belly to the lip? Nor your moist breath that keeps you from cracking like any empty vessel? By the time the idiot had finished the craftsman was upon his knees, weeping into the hardened sand of the street.

The Linnet and the Crow And the crow grew jealous of the linnet’s song, as she sang on the tree-top evening long. The linnet’s song pleased all around, but the jealous crow cared not for the sound. For the sound made mock of the crow’s harsh cry, so the crow decided that the song must die. That the song must die or else the singer. Then the crow itself might be the song bringer. And all would find joy in the crow’s rough tune. The sun would bow down and so would the moon. But the linnet sang on without a care. She could not scent a murder in the soft blue air. So the crow swooped down as the notes swooped up and they made the crow swerve and they made him stop. Crow stopped in the air and fell like a stone, for the beauty had pierced his heart to the bone. That was long ago and the tree is now still, and nothing is left of a crow that fell.

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Poetry|Peter W. Chaltas Stephen Arrives The show begins and Stephen comes on stage He is our new age comedian and sage. He is heralded out in the cardboard face of a cartoon dog And he comes rolling out on the floor all packed and sealed In a cardboard box right out of a cardboard dog's jaws. We open the box and we then unfold him. He's on a triangular frame and he faces us when we hold him up to talk And the triangular frame's handle points down. And we face him head to head, and he is all head, with a thin body of bone covered by thin tubes of flesh and dressed in black and blue. He stands there, in three dimensional form, and the box that he came in, folds down, and collapses into a very flat two dimensions. His name in Greek is “Stavros” which means "cross" -but not just any cross: He is Dali's outstretched three dimensional canvas and surreal cross and Einstein's too, that folds inwards on itself from three to four and five including light, space, and time. And I ask this of my brother once again: "Are you ok living out of the Doctor's house that is next door to our torn down childhood home? ” The home where we dreamed, and where we looked, and lived before, that overlooked the backyard garden, that we thought we knew so well, for all the games that we played there, right next to death's door. And that garden was bordered as well by a backyard garden of a good neighbour. Does he still live there still I wonder? His once immaculate and verdant yard is now a simple mess, with weeds and overgrowth of entropy. 156

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And the music begins, and Stephen just stares, as we wait for wisdom of his staccato mechanistic voice; but instead, he smiles and starts to dance in a circular path of celestial planet's movement. How can such a man can move with the wheels of such celestial grace and ease, and with the smile that is on his face ? The gift that Steven gives us is celestial vision of the stars, redefining humankind, as we swing through the tree tops, And move closer to our heaven, Or simply lie in gutters looking up at evening stars.

The Masters Hand My mother said: "My life is a mountain hanging from a tissue." Evidence of the Master's hand.

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Poetry|Richard Fein Anti-Lettuce Polemic Beware subversive left-over lettuce, grand roughage of the alimentary tract gaseous producer of badly timed farts, that create an up-your-nose embarrassment. as the other end sputters in a very low base The green stuff on the plate seems to be always just there after the burger and fries are ravenously gobbled up. With that dead forest still on the dish the waiter might not hustle the leafy floppiness away to try to tempt you with sweet diabetic disasters. That officious food monger might just leave you in peace with that uneaten belly bloating rabbit food filling both plate and stomach with nothing that a real man or woman would want to eat. But the archetypal wilted salad still loiters on the plate. as the impatient waiter eyes your table while calculating his next probable tip. Hot dogs are as of yet free of those British bangers, for what red blooded American would devour sausages on a bed of green soggy stuff? Besides, onions have already staked their sharp Frankfurter claim amid mustard and oblong buns. The more lettuce stuffed in your mouth the less all American processed meat devoured as those appetite saboteurs bulge our bellies and so McDonald's might go broke as Big Mac burgers roll downhill to bankruptcy That's right, lettuce is unAmerican. It will turn our economy into a soggy indigestible mush. So do your patriotic duty and take out your plastic knives and scrape your plate clean of those subversive 'leafings.' And while singing Yankee Doodle, root out these vegan traitors by the roots and save your patriotic hungers for red meat, gravy, and potatoes.

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Reveille Common wisdom holds that first birdsong is at first light. It's dawn somewhere but not here. Yet through my open window a first birdsong greets me—— but it's midnight. Shrill notes rob me of more sleep. Am I the only one hearing this dark hour birdsong in the pitch black night? Can't get back to sleep so I lie awake listening even though morning is still far away and there is so much more nighttime yet to dream.

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Book Review|Jose Varghese

The Nothing (2017) by Hanif Kurieshi

The Nothing, Hanif Kureishi, Faber&Faber, London, 2017.

If Alfred Hitchcock were still alive and challenged to outdo his film noir oeuvre with a new work that’s more menacing than ever, he would have been tempted to adapt Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Nothing (Faber&Faber, 2017). Its narration could be the toughest on any medium, and could have produced great result in the one Hitchcock worked on. It’s from the point of view of a man literally trapped in his room, his mobility restricted to crawling, at best, from his bed to a wheelchair and back. Though his body disintegrates steadily, his perceptions are not as restricted as you might think. Adverse physical circumstances fail to conquer this alpha male’s indomitable artistic will that takes on a vengeful route to reclaim his love.   Rear Window (1954) had already given Hitchcock all the luxury of dealing with voyeurism, but The Nothing would have given him more to explore in a different manner. The short novel is as much about the life seen through the window/mirror/lens frames as it is about your own eyes - where they belong, where their perceptions reach, and what exactly they look for, and get.    The story takes place between two points of grave realization that are well contained in the remarkable first and last sentences. The first refers to the protagonist Waldo’s concern for the noises in his own house at night that indicate the loss of what he considers the most precious achievement of his life, the love his wife has/d for him,    “One night, when I am old, sick, right out of semen, and don't need things to get any worse, I hear the noises again.    I am sure they are making love in Zenab's bedroom which is next to mine.”    And the last is about what many of us would fight for life to stay 160

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away from,    “… Dying's not so bad. You should try it sometime.”    Waldo is a film-maker who had tasted all the success one could dream of. It just turns out that his thoughts in this particular phase favours something else over the artistic talent he is blessed with and praised for:    “If you've once been attractive, desirable and charismatic, with a good body, you never forget it. Intelligence and effort can be no compensation for ugliness. Beauty is the only thing, it can't be bought, and the beautiful are the truly entitled.”    He is burdened by the presence of Eddie, the ambitious/ pretentious younger man in the life of his even younger wife Zenab, fondly called Zee. Zenab is burdened by the prospect of spending the good years of her life bedsitting for her slow-dying husband who is content that his tongue can still move a bit and that could be a contribution to their marital bliss. And Eddie is burdened by life in general that he has no other way of getting around it than being a con man, pretending a love affair with Zenab and doing a film project on Waldo’s works in retrospect all the while.    You might notice that this has all the ingredients for not just a tightly woven film noir narration but also a sizzling Hanif Kureishi plot inhabited by edgy characters who deviate into self-deprecating playfulness and epiphanic bouts of depression at every turn.    What works the best in the novel is Waldo’s restricted point of view. The readers are kept in the dark on a few pieces of information that Waldo is aware of, but there is the convincing focus on his emotional turmoil than the mastermind that keeps ticking behind that façade. A careful reader might appreciate how this saves the novel from cheap twists, though those who look for something profound, in physical terms, to happen in the end might be a bit disappointed. The revenge is more symbolic in nature, addressing a set of moral concerns that are seemingly lacking in Waldo’s thought process. It might be a hard task to find compassion or a sense of justice in the selfish, bitter, possessive mind of Waldo, but it’s worth the trouble if you could.    Whenever Kureishi gets a work published, the whole world seems worried more about what the author has ‘taken’ out of his real life than what he has worked so hard to ‘create’. This seems to be the norm especially after Intimacy (Faber&Faber, 1998), for obvious reasons. For those who are still interested in all that, The Nothing has everything. Eddie the con man can be the real one who stole the author’s life savings, and Waldo could be a self-projection of the author himself having a revenge in a world of imagination. But Kureishi has already addressed this issue in his thoughtful long essay published as Theft: My Con Man (Faber&Faber, 2014) and also included in Love+Hate (Faber&Faber, 2015). Perhaps it would be better to look more at the 161

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development of ideas that connect Kureishi’s body of work than the real incidents that are connected to the books. After all, it’s real life experiences that are often the inspiration/trigger for all works of art and literature and hadn’t it been our concern all these years to see how life and art inspire each other?    The extra angle of the ambivalent relationship between Waldo and Eddie in The Nothing could be perceived as an extension of what is dealt with in Theft: My Con Man. There could be an uncanny resemblance between the duo and the V.S Naipaul-like character Mamoon and his biographer Harry of The Last Word (Faber&Faber,2014) as well. Despite the role reversals and power shifts among the characters, all of them could belong to the same fictional realm of Kureishi. “Self-plagiarism is style”, says Hitchcock.    A recent work that explored an even more claustrophobic narrative sphere was Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (Jonathan Cape, 2016). A reworking of Hamlet with a foetus as the protagonist, it achieved a lot in exploring the Oedipal angst to a range even higher than Shakespeare could have consciously thought of. Add to it the Freudian precepts that could perhaps be extended to the prenatal stage. Nutshell had an intriguing plot set in contemporary London as well. However, McEwan had to compromise a lot on the linguistic expressiveness of the narrative from a foetus’s perception, demanding a suspension of disbelief in most parts. The Nothing has no such challenge, as it is from an adult perspective that could afford clean sentences that sparkle. The idea of Waldo going beyond his restricted real perceptions with the help of the camera in his hand, mirrors, ipad, and candid cameras contributes a lot to the plausibility of the plot.   The Nothing might not end up being a remarkably popular single work as The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), but it forms an integral part of Kureishi’s latter set of significant works that speak a lot to us if they are taken together. They might even help us make some sense of the changing world, and the moral chaos that are already upon us. In his recent BBC Newsnight discussion with Stephen Smith, Kureishi said, “One of the things I’ve noticed that has happened in the culture recently is that the criminals are not really any more on the margins. The criminality has moved, as it works at the centre.”   Go grab The Nothing if a sex-obsessed old man as a protagonist, sandwiched between his irresistible wife and a con man, doesn’t offend you as much as this criminality at the centre.

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Visual Art|Nishad K S

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Short Fiction|Bijaya Biswal The Side-Effect Of Living “Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?” - Albert Camus

Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?    It seems of the same order to me. It’s been months now that I stand at the terrace, looking at the ground below and wonder if it must take a very long fall. A very long time spent in the air to rethink if the problems were fixable, a very long period of helplessly jerking your arms seeking help with nothing to hold on to, and a quiet last second when you hit the ground and everything blacks out and you finally find out if there was a God at all. You fool yourself into living another day with tiny excuses. Vesting hopes on the last leaf of the tree outside your window till it’s fall, only to come back from college and see that the storm took the tree down with itself. Reaching out for a piece of poetry, or a cigarette butt, another cup of coffee or another romance but the thing about them is, at one point they all come to an end, leaving you sniffing for more and it’s just a vicious cycle that goes round and round. Like days and nights which mean nothing for someone, who does not sleep. Like the ceiling fan which gives me company while I stay awake, and like my aching heart which beats like it’s a backward countdown every single day but does not dare to stop and ends up counting all over again. I think they call suicide an act of cowardice, because they know no one is bold enough to succeed in it at their first time. We can see it in the signs it leaves behind. The scars of a thousand shallow cuts before a deep one. Too many public breakdowns and family embarrassments before your mother can boldly accept something has to be wrong. A lot of worthless questions by the therapist before it is too late to start with the right ones. Too many occasions of having denied sex to the boyfriend before he takes you out one day and with welled up eyes asks you, if there is someone else. Your hands intertwined in his, tremble like a broken heart and you nod your head and swallow some of your words and say “Yes there is. And it is me.”Both of you hold each other and cry for the rest of the night.    You do not think of long term plans, you live life like a patient of fourth stage cancer. No renewal of the library pass. No accordance with the diet plans. And the constant inability to reciprocate love since up-keeping of relationships is now a temporary matter. The aftermath of impulsive screaming at your old parents and banging the door at their faces, or ignoring your partner’s phone call for weeks even if that includes their birthday, is that you end up sitting in a dark store room locked-in alone. You pull your legs towards your body and bury 171

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your face between your knees. And think, the only thing worse than being in love with a person, is being in love with a mere shadow. You shrink into a little insect in the darkness, crushed under the weight of your own heavy heart. You think of how Kafka wrote a story they taught you in school, where Gregor Samsa turned into a frightening giant bug and you could feel yourself transforming just along those lines. The void has almost overpowered you when you hear a little knock on the door, a faint voice asking if you could join for dinner, and it pulls you back to the realization, that there is still some world left out there. There have been instances of you waking up in the middle of the night and crying loudly, howling while rolling on the floor. Your friends think you had a break-up, neighbours think its drugs and you parents think it’s the fault in their upbringing. No one ever diagnoses the right cause, including you yourself.    When I had stopped attending classes completely and was about to get unregistered, my boyfriend came over. It’s weird how these lovers find their ways back to you all the time, no matter where you hide yourself. And offer you homemade sandwiches or cappuccinos in your worst times and act, as if nothing ever happened. It is the most special feeling in the world. It is also the loneliest feeling in the world. I know how love can be the solution to everything but depression was not one of those things. You can only hug their bodies but not their souls. In the end, the responsibilities of people can only be taken by their own selves. And I do not know if he could read my mind, but he extended a piece of paper towards me which had some dates and schedules and asked if I would like to travel. I said no, I hate travelling. I love enclosed spaces and I simply hate those trains where people sit so close to your faces, you have no option but to start a conversation. He said it was not THAT kind of travel.I could see he did not use words bordering on mockery like "soul-searching" but what else could it be, when someone suggests you to go for a week long solo-trek. For the forthcoming days, I banged my hands against the walls of my room because did this mean I had reached the verge of needing a "break"? I went days only surviving on coffee as if it is the kind of fuel which can keep my body working and I went days without speaking to anyone in the family. But after two weeks like these, I looked into the mirror. It was like staring at a stranger. The weight loss, the balding head, the wrinkled face. I needed sunlight on my skin and fresh air to purge me from the premature process of decaying even before I was dead. I decided I needed to go for that trek.    When we were seated in the bus, preparing for an overnight journey to the place where we would begin walking, I tried (read they tried first, and I just tried back)to converse with the other people involved. There was the guy with the camera creeping everyone out by making them the subject of his portraits and there was this guy with a guitar(attractive) who could easily pull off an Eddie Veddar and there 172

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were a few working women who had a lot of inside jokes to giggle about and there were these two trek leaders , athletic and extroverted owing to the nature of the work who made introduction very easy for all of us.I was drowsy enough to fall into a deep sleep when I heard some men behind me talking about homeopathy and spirituality and it convinced me that I should not have come here. I cursed my boyfriend who thought this was a "good plan" and was convinced now that a guy who reads Malcolm Gladwell should never be trusted with instincts. But I was here already, among strangers whom I could talk to however I want and never have to deal with again, and outside the window were an army of trees waving me goodbye under a sky so filled with twilight it was like dawn throughout the night, and ahead was a journey which will teach me a lot about the strength of my legs and the strength of my mind. Was it really that bad?    The next morning the trek started. We walked through a forest, crushing dried leaves and cradled between narrow streams under canopies, and the winter breeze passed so quietly by your neck it was like nature whispering its secret recipes. I could not get enough of the purple wild flowers, the orchestra of frogs croaking and bee hives buzzing, the shreds of sunlight that could reach me through the leaves and especially, the abundance of a strange countryside silence. There was some kind of intimacy in walking through an inaccessible part of the world, knowing that you are thousands of miles away from those drunken car drivers crashing into each other and humans ripping themselves apart due to difference in opinions and with nothing for miles that could provoke your lust, your gluttony, your capitalistic ambitions and no one around who has the power to hurt you, except strangers, living directionless lives just like yours and hence seeking shelter amidst the same woods as you. Every time we halted, I washed my face in the chilly stream and looked at the world below the peak where the blushful mountains pulled the fog over their naked bodies like blankets, where the horizon was a zigzag series of peaks and not a crumbling skyline, where you could be sure of not being bombed out at any random moment or being assaulted over a social media comment. I breathed in, held my breath a little and breathed out as if letting it change something inside me, as if it could take out the dead parts of me and make space for me to grow them anew. I looked at the whole group, sitting under a tree and laughing as if they have all known each other for a long while, but who needs to know each other at all to talk since we have all been living the same bloody lives, with a forgotten beginning, an unbearable present and an unfathomable future.    In the mornings we trekked and in the evenings we sat wrapped in shawls around a bonfire and talked about each other’s lives. The camera guy shared that once during his regular street photography 173

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assignments, he captured a group of rag-pickers playing cards and eating berries on the other side of the pavement where stood the Hard Rock Cafe. He loved how they were laughing and feeding each other from their shares, after which he went into the cafe for a beer and found rich, rotten straight faces sitting alone and smoking, staring like lifeless cover page icons of business magazines. All so well clad in fur and leather, but all too poor to even afford sleep. It was like these white collared folks, and not the working classes on the pavement, who were real slaves. The guitarist spoke about this song by Steven Wilson which was based on a man who loses his sister in childhood and later in life comes across a raven which sings just like her. He cages it to hear it sing but it never does and hence, when he opens the cage and lets it free one day, he also feels himself freed from the grip of his past. The trek leaders were talking about their full time jobs as software engineers which sucked their souls out of them and one of the women told about how she covers her children despite being a single parent and working as a waitress. The nights passed swiftly like good dreams but the bonfire would never go out, glowing like a will-o’the-wisp as if waiting for us to return.    Its strange, how even after walking for seventy kilometers, your fatigued muscles could still gather strength for more. The breathing became difficult, the last peak was not yet visible, the ankles were strained out of overwork but you walked as if it were nothing but your duty, as if it came naturally to you and stopping would be understating human abilities as a whole. You look at the height which you are sure is unconquerable and the next thing you know is you are already at its peak, panting heavily, tying your shoe laces and looking through your pessimistic vision again at the next impossible-to-scale height which is going to be your next surprise to yourself. But trekking is not about physical endurance only. It is much more about mental and emotional endurance. It is a lot of patting your own back, looking at your wounded toes and pulling up the socks again, shouting motivating victory slogans every time you are about to give up and rest. At one point you do not appreciate even the beauty of the valley of flowers around you anymore, you grow into a competitive beast and groan in the pain but somehow wriggle through it as if you were raised a fighter. Now you know why journeys were so overrated and destinations so underrated.    And then it is that moment, the highest peak, the end of the trek, when you look down and see whatever you have managed to cross. It was long, rough and very huge but you are tougher and much larger. You sit down on one of the edges of the cliff, dangling your legs in the air, close your eyes and shout at the top of your lungs. No one hears you , no one acknowledges you for your courage or resilience, no audience stands up to applaud for you but this time you do not care about it. It is this moment that you understand why your success 174

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cannot be measured from the feedback of others. Your group somehow reaches the top just behind you, and all break down on the ground, relieving themselves of the weight on their shoulders and all talk in unison about the beauty of isolation. If there is any experience that can make you feel the closest to the freedom you were born with, before taxes and rents grappled you and pushed your head into the system, it is here, simply sitting on the top of the world and watching it at peace.    When the trek ended and everyone was getting off their respective bus stops, I watched them with a quiet smile on my face while noting down their faces to my memories. These were the ones who cowitnessed the best time of my whole life. Back at home people seemed to be preparing since days to welcome me. The well-laid beds and the well-made cuisines, the fairy light decorations and wind-chimes, the floral window curtains and a little Labrador puppy. My life seemed to have turned upside down, and the most surprising thing was my boyfriend had aborted reading Gladwell and had finally started shifting to Kahneman. So many changes, and all I had to give in return was a week of taking off from routine. I spent the next few days resting since I could not feel my calves anymore. Mother served burritos and pudding at my bedside, boyfriend read out to me the editorials I missed from the NewYorker, father went to the extent of taking work leave, and therapist was just not being returned calls anymore.    Things had been changing.    Outside my window, a new tree had come up and was growing leaves rather than shedding them, maybe it was the approaching spring. I made sitting beside my window, a poor man’s urban replacement for sitting at the top of the world. And when I looked at myself in the mirror, I at least did not feel offended anymore. College was resumed, so was long distance running, and movie dates and social media accounts. I could feel how monotony, no matter how despicable, sets the rhythm to our lives and disrupting the order of that, brings absolutely everything to a freeze. So I just started to fit into my daily routines, and tried my best to hold on. And the best part, whenever I go to the terrace I do not think of the fall anymore. I just sit on the edge, legs dangling and sometimes, start crying.

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Poetry|Amrutha Raj She You should have let her fall When her tiny limbs were not too frail To take another stance, To fall again with no fear Only to get back up. Instead, You put warning signs that say: “Fall not, for you’ll never rise”. Now she wavers between love and law One that insists falling And the other that prohibits. You should have let her choose When her brother got the privilege To be right or wrong, To do a trial and error. She didn’t lack rationale or vision: Her thoughts did go beyond pink and purple. But you assigned roles, rules and even clothes Thinking she would err, A fatal error, if let to choose. Now she wears your decisions Walks your precisions And chokes on confrontations. You should have let her be imperfect And find beauty in the intangible. Talk a little free, Laugh a little loud, Forget to stick to routines, Laze around like a child, Sing and dance like a queen of her own kingdom, Know the world that’s hers too for exploration. Now she curses the life that’s a curse to the world. You might not know this but… She is her body, her mind, her soul, Her identity. She is her love, her desire, her sacrifice, Her dignity. She is her weakness, her power, her wisdom, 176

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Her profundity. She is her talent, her hard work, her passion, Her destiny. She is her reason, her will, her perception, Her humanity. She is a self - whether you let her be or not.

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Poetry|Matthew James Friday Waving Cat When we left China my wife wanted a Waving Cat to summon good fortune for our new adventures. We bought it in Hong Kong, in the Temple Street night market on a damp, foggy evening, rain dribbling off plastic awnings. We found her purring in golden plastic, surrounded by twins of every size, all softly waving, left paw clawing the air, dripping with condensation. Ours had a solar panel under her feet snapping up lucky photons, eight minutes old, destined to make an arm move, convince highly evolved apes that luck is a thing that be can be captured, shipped and set up as a shrine. Now the cat sits on a window sill, pumping German air all day, slowly calming into the evening, waving, giving, reminding us of two years of Asian adventures: sci-fi mega-cities, ancient rice terraces, karst hills, vast temples, unexpected friendships, marriage, moving.

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Short Fiction|George Mario Angel A Wooden Bell What you are reading is the beginning of a journey undertaken by a brother (Ad) and a sister (Soeur) with the sister's husband (Tush). They are travelling to visit a relative (Beten) who is dying, and who has written to say he must speak to the brother before he dies. The narration progresses the same way they live their lives, exploring their sensations and instincts. Ad (the brother) has an added burden of self-consciousness and self-control, which he comes to think over time changes him from being an animal to being a monster. He narrates this chapter. Later, we meet other “animals” and “monsters”, and even a “monster-killer”. I wanted the tone of a medieval bestiary. I find that in many ways the so-called third world today, or at least Colombia, is very similar in its belief structures to Europe in the Middle Ages. The confrontation between self-consciousness and the mystery of violence, brought on by nature or perpetrated by other humans, creates extreme, almost visionary responses.

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he ferry began to move. It left the reeds and we slipped into nothingness. As I stood on it and watched the torch-lit figures of the polemen, I thought of Soeur and what I knew now. Animals have no sins. She sat at the ferryboat’s edge looking not out but into something that I could not see. She was my sister and I had learned something about her that day that I had never known. I wondered what mischief she had in store for us.    As it slid along with us, the light from the torch flame brought forth a dimmed reflection from the lake’s slick blackness, a lacquer light, and as the silence continued and we approached the center and the depths of the lake, this risen light came to seem more and more the face of an angel who, however indistinctly manifest to those of us above, was able to spread a luminous membrane across the shallows of the lake, and so protect us from the deep and massive leviathans that uncoiled and pushed toward us the possibility the shadow held, the possibility of being swallowed.    Now, above the depths, the polemen became oarsmen, and the extended blades were like the petals making up a lotus flower in its aimless drifting. Around it, the lake seemed to widen or lengthen into the darkness but never both at the same time, like the space made by touching thumb to thumb and index finger to index finger. Any attempt at measurement was useless. We were nowhere, and Tush sniffed at the air nervously, disconcerted at the disappearance of destinations. Time became musical, dissolving into concentration as stillness, lightness, and exactitude in the face of so much darkness. The oars lifted, brightened momentarily, and then tucked effortlessly back into the dark stir. 179

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The woods we would come to eventually on the other side of the shoreless lake would be equally featureless. So much so that the boatmen had painted red vertical strokes on the trunks of the trees nearest the landing to distinguish it from the sameness around it. Soon we would see the reeds that extended out from the shore and then slowly those single red strokes, seemingly floating above the green reeds in the umbra. When we would finally come upon them, we would see that they were painted on bark the color of ash and dirt mixed, on thin trunks so close to one another as to give the impression of impenetrability, or at least of sealing in anyone who entered. We knew this was what we were drifting toward, and the thought perhaps accounted for the stretch of gleaming habitation we experienced on the center of the lake’s face. Amid one vastness and slipping imperceptibly toward another, the light of our torches became a gathering. We knew what was coming, we had been this far before. 2    “I made her promise that we would return home. I told her I wouldn’t set out if she didn’t promise.” The morning had been an indirect radiance, the sun an elsewhere near. I had nestled into my own dimmed blue dozing within, a hiding, a not-yet, since my edges blazed with the movement we were about to undertake. Yet Tush’s words reached me beneath a filigree of finches. It was his way this, to move relentlessly toward paradise, even if it meant travelling in a circle.    The clouds scudded, soft, composed, tucked like swans’ wings upon, but somehow not within, the blue.    I was no longer watching the morning sky open, and my eyes felt as hard and as empty as stones. Somehow the heat of Tush’s bright words filled them, and I would have liked to keep them, the eyes of that moment. I would have liked to sew the sky into a sack for them. 3    I had not known how hard Tush’s small clean words were to achieve. But I saw it in the afternoon, as soon as we entered the wood that surrounds the lake. I saw it in and around Soeur almost right away.    We had been crossing the woods in a light bell rain for some time, and were about to step out into a small glen to take advantage of a brief respite when of a sudden there was no way to get to it. The trees leaned together, suddenly closer, conspiratorial as bamboo. There was a greenness in the air. The afternoon glinted like spring rain gone warm in leaf spoons. Like a wood spider, the light sent down its legs between the damp trees. All that separated this from that, the only 180

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membrane, was a bell mist. A large beetle traced circles about it, and for a moment it appeared. Had the green bell’s clapper flown off?    And then we heard Soeur’s laughter. How it tunked upon the wood, tink-tunked against the moist bark, like a moth sloppily threading fence slats toward a lit window. The trees moved like a nest of fox spirits, and we could not see Soeur anywhere. Foxes, foxes coming between the bases of the trunks of the trees. The shadows filled with foxes. This laughter of Soeur’s that the wind chased after told me too much. She revealed herself by hiding, as all inexperience does. Tips of tails. Reddishness. Sniffing.    We found Soeur curled asleep near the center of the glen we had not reached yet, the trace of a smile almost cursive upon her face. Her clothes were completely dry, as if she had never been with us finally. A white mote, suspended in the green, she was without ornament against a deep April.    The sky was bluing. I again wanted to hide. A giant camellia tree presided over the glen. Its fallen flower heads strewn about Soeur, its sky-filling tangle all ways pushing inward, fording into some water where good deeds dissolved would not be lost, some soul-floating water, blued. The camellia branches, a roaring tapestry, skied all ways within. I felt my body lying encased in the bark boat’s tremble of its trunk, drifting in. But the camellia knew nothing of hide and seek, burrow and rise. These were Soeur’s games filling my head in the glen. Tush asked no questions but swept her up as if she were no more than a bundle of kindling, never breaking stride. Believe this tree, I said to him. He quenched Soeur’s first tremors of waking, and she slept on in his arms for a while yet. Her simple figure was a single syllable floating along through the ringing air. Watching, I tried to become me. Animals can nestle in the unlikeliest of places. In glistening strands within the connections of her web, a spider had written the word mama in perfect Palmer.    Under the trees, shadow, empty, empty. Everything seen is passing. Memory bruises fruit. Shame ferments in twitches soundless and wet, heaped dark away but never left. I rustled along carrying me. Sweet and generous, like the taste of yams, Tush carried Soeur steadily toward the mud of the lake’s edge.    I wandered after, then before. Onto the raft’s boards and now nearing the lake’s far edge upon it. 4    Buzzing began again and time returned. Reeds crosshatched the near distance green. Nearer still, wisps of lake mist clung to the surface of the water that was now leaf-dappled. Slowly, almost lapping in among the reeds, we were enclosed again and I saw Soeur’s eyes glisten beneath the torches. Further to shore was the sporadic bristling 181

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of marshes washed by our weak rippling.    In an inlet, a white egret stood still, long before movement.    We passed through bands of shadow that still separated us from the landing. From the inside, these bands shaded toward purples and greens. Soeur kneeled near the water at the raft’s front edge, and as I looked to see what she was doing, her outlines became blurred and her movements indistinct. I saw Tush move patiently toward her. She was something spontaneous, a dancer in dried riverbeds, something one brought lanterns to.    The air splintered ahead. A tree toppled on the far shore, became pheasants and flew off. Beneath the rustling and flapping were white flowers, a garland for the sound. These same flowers edged the shore we had left and surely their seeds had availed themselves of bird boats to ferry them across. A breeze lifted and came across the darkness swirling toward and about Soeur as if it were in love with her.    As the raft slipped up onto something and they dropped the ramp and tied up, I thought that Tush had been smart to make her promise. Because a promise is a simple thing, touch between children. There was a bitter taste to the air, something spoiled in it, and sharp, that greeted our first steps onto the black oily ground again. I looked at the scarlet strokes we had navigated by and that seemed luminous and brutal close up. It had been Soeur’s promise that had gotten us off the black water and across the reeds and marshes. It had been the promise that had spread the bright angel’s wings.    I thought about this fire promise as we passed through the red gate and into the wood.

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Poetry|Brian Johnstone National Trust The dust that’s vacuumed up from fabric, brushed from ornaments and artefacts is all that’s left, a consolation prize for pasts on which the sun (they said) would never set. What’s fading here is empire, nothing less, fading in these sagging sofas, threadbare chairs roped off to keep the public’s weariness from any chance of rest. Fading even as the dust sheets carefully are spread at summer’s end, the curtains all are drawn against the light, and gauze across the Hoover’s mouth arrests, for one more season, a certain slow decay.

First published in Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry (Luath Press, 2016)

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Poetry|Ravi Shanker Death of an Inflammable Woman She was found still emitting smoke. Her smudgy edges were yellow from the last lick of flame. Along with the limbs, the heart that was wrenched out still kept pumping scalding blood. Drained inflammable spirit hung around her like a shroud. To the detective scrapping burnt skin from the molten asphalt, she said Please love me. To the ambulance driver transporting her cooked flesh to the mortuary, she said Please love me. To the pathologist who was trying to put together a coherent dish, she said Please love me. To the crematorium operator who pushed her dough into the oven, she said Please love me. To the river which carried her left over to her home land, she said Please love me. Suicide bombers don’t leave suicide notes. They leave the smell of incinerated carbon roasted dna and a charred dream.

“Every woman is a suicide bomber.” - Anon.

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List of Contributors Abol Froushan Abol Froushan is an Anglo Persian poet, translator and critic, currently living and working in London. He has a PhD from Imperial College of London. Abol is the Iran Editor of Poetry International Web, and the chair of Exiled Writers Ink, UK. Two selections of Abol’s poetry have been published: A Language against Language (English) 2008 by EWI and the bilingual volume, I need your desert for my sneeze (in Persian & English) in 2009 by PoetryPub. Other publications include English translations of Ali Abdolrezaei: No one says yes twice, (2012) by London Skool. Abol Froushan writes poetry of phenomenal presence and fresh vision, recording the sudden and re-examining archetypes and universals in microscopic detail. Allen Antony Allen Antony is a student, who has currently completed his postgraduate studies in English Literature from Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He is an amateur photographer who attempts to focus on the ordinary aspects observed around. He tries to find infinite beauty in the seemingly simplest and trivial. The art of photography to him, is an expression of one’s perception. His interest lies in capturing the minute aspects of nature with its scenic beauty. He believes that the aesthetics of photography does not categorise pictures into good or bad since each picture is someone’s feeling and the way one perceive life and the beauty of things around. Amrutha Raj Amrutha Raj is a student of M. A. English Literature at Sree Sankara College, Kalady, Kerala. Inspired by poets like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda, she tries to explore the dynamics of human emotions through poetry and poetic composition. The poet is an ardent lover of nature, music and art in general.

Andrew Dicker Andrew Dicker has written short fiction for the past three years as a retirement project following a long career in medicine. Having enjoyed writing papers and articles professionally he decided to learn about creative writing with the Open University. He selfpublished two volumes of short stories in 2016, The Seduction of Celia (Austin Macaulay) and Overlapping Lives (Matador). He lives in Buckinghamshire, UK. Andrew Lee-Hart Andrew was born many years ago in Yorkshire, England, but now lives in 185

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Birkenhead across the River Mersey from Liverpool. Andrew has been writing stories for most of his life; several have appeared on websites and in print magazines.

Asad Alvi Asad Alvi is a poet and translator based out of Karachi. His work has appeared in a collection of short stories by the Oxford University Press, The International Gallerie, We Will Be Shelter: An Anthology of Contemporary Feminist Poetry (ed. by Andrea Gibson), and the Columbia School of Arts' Journal of Literature. Recently, he served as a contributor at the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford University to ‘Uprooted: An Anthology on Gender and Illness’. In 2016, he became the youngest recipient of the Nasreen Anjum Bhatti Poetry. Prize, and was a featured artist at the 2017 Pune Biennale in India. Alvi’s debut book, 'The Rebel Poetess: The Life and Works of Sara Shagufta' is forthcoming in 2018 by Speaking Tiger, India. He has taught creative writing at The Ardeshir Cowasjee Centre for Writing in Karachi, and Quixote's Cove in Nepal, and currently works as a curator of literary programs at The Second Floor (T2F). Bijaya Biswal Bijaya Biswal is a student of Medicine who hails from a small town in Odisha. She is a lover of theatre, politics, economics and history. She mostly writes about depression, suicide, relationships and the human experience in general.

Brian Johnstone Brian Johnstone is a poet whose work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, America and internationally. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (2014) and The Book of Belongings (2009), both Arc Publications. His poems have been translated into over ten languages; in 2009 Terra Incognita, a chapbook in Italian translation, was published by L’Officina (Vicenza). In 2015 his work will appear on The Poetry Archive website. A founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, he has appeared at numerous international poetry festivals, from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK. http://brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk/ Caron Freeborn Caron Freeborn was a novelist until gradually she became a poet instead. Her first full poetry collection was Georges Perec is my hero (2015), which included photographs by Steve Armitage. She is currently working with Armitage on a project about their old home town, Basildon, documenting a new town in decay. 186

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With the forthcoming Presenting...The Fabulous O’Learys (Holland House), Freeborn also makes a return to prose fiction.

Champika Wijayaweera Champika Wijayaweera was born, raised and educated in Sri Lanka. She currently works and writes in Hampshire, UK. She is working on her first novel. Her website is champi-jw.com

Cyril Dabydeen Cyril Dabydeen’s recent books include God’s Spider/poetry (Peepal Tree Press, UK), My Multi-Ethnic Friends and Other Stories (Guernica Editions, Toronto), and the anthology Beyond Sangre Grande: Caribbean Writing Today (Tsar/ Mawenzi House, Toronto). Previous books include: Jogging in Havana (1992), Black Jesus and Other Stories (1996), Berbice Crossing (1997), My Brahmin Days (2000), North of the Equator (2001), Play a Song Somebody: New and Selected Short Stories (2003), Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (2005), and the novel, Drums of My Flesh, 2007 ( nominated for the IMPAC/ Dublin Prize, and winner of the International Guyana Prize for best novel). Cyril’s work has appeared in over 60 literary mags and anthologies, including the Oxford, Penguin and Heienemann Books of Caribbean Verse and Fiction. He has done over 300 readings internationally. He twice adjudicated for the Governor General’s Award (Poetry) and the USA Neustadt Prize for Literature (UOklahoma), et al. He is a former Poet Laureate of Ottawa (1984-87). He teaches Creative Writing at the UofOttawa. He was born in Guyana, S. America.

Danton R. Remoto Danton R. Remoto is professor at Ateneo de Manila University, The Philippines. He has published 20 books, including a novel called Riverrun. He has won all the major literary awards in the Philippines, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines Literature Prize, Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, National Commission on Culture and the Arts Award, Philippines Free Press, and Philippine Graphic Literary Awards. He has also won prizes in poetry and short story in literary contests held in Scotland and the United States. He has been published in Hong Kong, France, Japan, Spain, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ernest White II Ernest White II is a storyteller and explorer. He is the creator of multicultural travel portal Fly Brother, a contributing writer at literary travel journal 187

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Panorama, a former assistant editor at Time Out São Paulo, and founding editor of digital men’s magazine Abernathy. A Florida native, Ernest's obsessions include Indian curry, São Paulo, and Rita Hayworth.

George Mario Angel George Angel was born in 1964 of Colombian parents in San Francisco, California, where he lived his first thirty years. He studied literature at the University of California and was later awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction from Stanford University. He has published fiction, poetry, and essays in English as George Angel in literary magazines, the chapbook Globo (1996, Will Hall), and received the Nilon Award from Fiction Collective 2 for his book The Fifth Season (FCII, 1996). Since 1995, he has lived in Medellin, Colombia, where as Mario Angel Quintero he has published the books of poetry in Spanish, Mapa de lo claro (Editorial Párpado, 1996), Muestra (Editorial Párpado,1998), Tentenelaire (Editorial Párpado,2006), and El desvanecimiento del alma en camino al limbo (Los Lares,2009) as well as a book of plays in Spanish, Cómo morir en un solar ajeno (Transeunte, 2009). His visual art has been shown and repeatedly used as book illustration. He has been the director and playwright of the theater company Párpado Teatro since 2003. He also makes music with the groups Underflavour and Sell the Elephant. Hanif Kureishi Hanif Kureishi was born in Kent and read philosophy at King’s College, London. In 1981 he won the George Devine Award for his plays Outskirts and Borderline and the following year became writer in residence at the Royal Court Theatre, London. His 1984 screenplay for the film My Beautiful Laundrette was nominated for an Oscar. He also wrote the screenplays of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987) and London Kills Me (1991). His short story ‘My Son the Fanatic’ was adapted as a film in 1998. Kureishi’s screenplays for The Mother in 2003 and Venus (2006) were both directed by Roger Michell. A screenplay adapted from Kureishi's novel The Black Album was published in 2009. The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel and was produced as a four-part drama for the BBC in 1993. His second novel was The Black Album (1995). The next, Intimacy (1998), was adapted as a film in 2001, winning the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film festival. Gabriel’s Gift was published in 2001, Something to Tell You in 2008, The Last Word in 2014 and The Nothing in 2017. His first collection of short stories, Love in a Blue Time, appeared in 1997, followed by Midnight All Day (1999) and The Body (2002). These all appear in his Collected Stories (2010), together with eight new stories. His collection of stories and essays Love + Hate was published by Faber & Faber in 2015. He has also written non-fiction, including the essay collections Dreaming and Scheming: Reflections on Writing and Politics (2002) and The Word and the Bomb (2005). The memoir My Ear at his Heart: Reading my Father appeared in 2004. Hanif Kureishi was awarded the C.B.E. for his services to literature, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres in France. His works have been translated into 36 languages. 188

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James Croal Jackson James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. He has won the William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest and has been a finalist for the Princemere Poetry Prize. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or at jimjakk.com.

Javed Latoo Dr. Javed Latoo is a senior medical practitioner and a medical editor based in the UK. In his spare time, Dr. Latoo writes poetry. His poems have been published in various literary magazines as well as in medical journals. His first collection of poems is Gushing Fountain: A Collection of Poems (2015). He also has co-edited and contributed to a poetry collection Bird on a Wire (2016) in the National Health Services (NHS) UK. John Grey John Grey is Australian born short storywriter, poet, playwright, musician, Providence RI resident since late seventies. Has been published in numerous magazines including Weird Tales, Christian Science Monitor, Greensboro Poetry Review, Poem, Agni, Poet Lore and Journal Of The American Medical Association as well as the horror anthology “What Fears Become” and the science fiction anthology “Futuredaze.” Has had plays produced in Los Angeles and off-off Broadway in New York. Winner of Rhysling Award for short genre poetry in 1999. Jonathan Brown Jonathan Brown is an award-winning writer of short films, short stories, radio plays and theatre. His most recent short story was published by mardibook in their Kindle book Jam. He works as a journalist and also runs his own short story project in which writers attempt to predict England’s future through their short stories. Jose Varghese Refer Kashish Madan Kashish Madan was born in Faridabad, India. She completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Lady Sri Ram College for Women, Delhi University and recently finished her M.A. in English literature from Durham University.

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Keith Moul Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. Finishing Line Press released a chap called The Future as a Picnic Lunch in 2015. Aldrich Press published Naked Among Possibilities in 2016; Finishing Line Press has just released (1/17) Investment in Idolatry. Coming later in 2017 from Aldrich Press is Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. The poems attached are all from a new work about prairie life. Kevin Cowdall Kevin Cowdall was born in Liverpool, England; where he still lives and works. He developed an interest in writing at an early age and his first published poem appeared, appropriately, in the influential UK publication, ‘First Time’. In all, over 150 poems have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies, and on web sites, in the UK and across Europe, Australia, Canada, and the USA, and broadcast on local and regional BBC Radio. He has released three previous poetry collections; ‘The Reflective Image’, ‘Monochrome Leaves’ and ‘A Walk in the Park’. His 2016 collection, ‘Assorted Bric-a-brac’ (bringing together the best from these previous collections with a selection of more recent poems), has been very well received and had excellent reviews and is available from the Kindle Store on Amazon. His new collection, ‘Natural Inclinations’, comprises 50 poems with a common theme of various elements of Nature / the natural world. Kevin is also the author of the novella, ‘Paper Gods and Iron Men’, available from the Kindle Store on Amazon. Kira Dreyer Messell Kira Dreyer Messell is a Danish writer currently living in Berlin, Germany. She has taught languages, literature and history in both Berlin and Kuala Lumpur, where she spent five years. Kira holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Edinburgh. Her stories have been published in Red Rose Review, Empty Oaks Magazine, The Fat Damsel, Desi Writers Lounge Papercuts, Slink Chunk Press and Anak Sastra. Lucy Durneen Lucy Durneen is a writer, lecturer and Assistant Editor of the literary journal Short Fiction, based in the South-West of England. Her first collection of short stories, Wild Gestures, has just been published by Adelaide-based press MidnightSun, and is shortlisted for Best Short Story Collection in the UK Saboteur Awards. Other stories and poetry have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Letters Page, The Stockholm Review of Literature and Hotel Amerika amongst other places, while her creative non-fiction has been published in World Literature Today, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

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Malachi Edwin Vethamani Malachi Edwin Vethamani is a Malaysian-born Indian poet, writer, critic and professor. His first volume of poems is entitled ‘Complicated Lives’ (Maya Press, Kuala Lumpur: 2016). In 2017, he published ‘Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems’ (Maya Press, Petaling Jaya) covers a period of 60 years. He edited a volume of poems for young adults entitled ‘Insights: Malaysian Poems’ (Maya Press, Petaling Jaya: 2003). His works have appeared in Anak Sastra, Southeast Asian Review of English, Asiatic, Asian Centre Anthology of Malaysian Poetry in English, SKOOB Pacifica Anthology No. 1: Southeast Asia Writes Back! and Literary Page, New Straits Times. Mark Mayes Mark Mayes has published stories and poems in magazines and anthologies including: Unthology (#5 and #9),True To Life (Ruskin Anthology), The Waterlog (Two Rivers Press), The Interpreter’s House, After Nyne; Ink, Sweat, and Tears; The Shop, Staple, The Reader, Other Poetry, and Fire. His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio and he has been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize. He also writes songs, some of which may be found here: https://soundcloud.com/ pumpstreetsongs Matthew James Friday Matthew James Friday has had poems and short stories published in the following worldwide magazines and literary journals: A Handful of Stones, Bolts of Silk, The Brasilia Review (Brazil), Cadenza, Cake Magazine, Carillon, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), Dreamcatcher, Earth Love, Eastlit (East Asia), Erbacce, Envoi, Finger Dance Festival, Gloom Cupboard, IS&T (Ink, Sweat & Tears), The Journal, The New Writer, Orbis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sonic Boom, Third Wednesday (USA), Of Nepalese Clay (Nepal), Pens on Fire, Pulsar Poetry, Rear View Poetry, Red Ink, South Bank Poetry Magazine, We Are a Website New Literary Journal (Singapore) and Writing Magazine.

Megan Stolz Megan Stolz is a writer and copy editor in Washington, DC. Her poetry has appeared in The Fourth River, Noble/Gas Qtrly, Cumberland River Review, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Baltimore and a BA form Hollins University. She tweets semi-regularly @ megan_stolz.

Nishad K S A native Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Nishad is primarily and landscape and nature photographer. Having picked up his first camera a decade ago, he has been seriously pursuing photography for the last two years. He says his 191

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photography has been heavily influenced by the tropical charm of God's Own Country, Kerala. He loves travelling to explore and capture the exquisite and pristine beauty of mother nature. In his own words "My artistic vision always searches for the surreal world and use cameras to create the same". Professionally, Nishad is an IT operations senior manager. You can find more of his works in https://500px.com/nishadks . Peter W. Chaltas Peter W. Chaltas is an entrepreneurial poet and has been writing poetry since the age of 16 when his father passed away. He was educated at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, and majored in Literature and Philosophy. In his fifties, he became an online twitter poet. His work has since been published in online publications, as well as on Pwchaltas. com. Over the years, he has written 14 collections relating to art, poetry, creativity, love, loss, death, and nature. These unpublished poems were meditations and therapy written for himself. He is now publishing his works, and reciting in public. Prathap Kamath Prathap Kamath (born 1966) lives at Kollam in Kerala teaching English at Sree Narayana College under the University of Kerala. He has had his doctorate from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. He has been publishing poetry in English and short stories in English and Malayalam in various print journals and online magazines for the last twenty-five years. His first collection of poems Ekalavya:a book of poems was published in 2012 and his collection of fiction Blood Rain and Other Stories in 2014. R V Bailey R. V. Bailey was born and brought up in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, educated at Cambridge and Oxford, and lives in Gloucestershire in the UK. For most of her life she has been an academic, ending her professional career as Deputy Dean of Humanities at the University of the West of England. She was the extra voice in the late U. A. Fanthorpe’s poetry readings; together they read throughout the UK and overseas, jointly led poetry courses and adjudicated poetry competitions. She regularly reviews poetry and has reviewed many of Acharya’s previous collections. An established poet herself, R.V. Bailey’s fifth collection, A Scrappy Little Harvest, was published in 2016. Ravi Shanker Ravi Shanker (writing as Ra Sh) lives in and works from the small township of Chittur in Palakkad, Kerala, South India. His poems in English have been published in Kindle Magazine, Bhashaposhini, Gulmohurmagazine, Journal of Arts and Aesthetics, Baroda Pamphlet, poetry 24blog Magazine , Criterion Journal , Art in Society International Web Mag, DuanesPoetree web mag, Glomag and High On Poems. An Anthology titled `A Strange Place Other Than Earlobes’ (containing 15 of his poems) was published in March, 2015. 192

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His poems have been translated to German, French and Norwegian. Apart from writing original poems in English, he is also involved in translating poems/articles/scripts from Malayalam and Tamil to English and vice versa. The first collection of his poems `Architecture of Flesh’ was published in December, 2015. Richard Fein Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A Chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals such as Boiler Journal, Cordite, Cortland Review, Off Course, Reed, Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Adirondack Review, Green Silk Journal, Mississippi Review, Paris/Atlantic, Canadian Dimension, and others. Sandhya Pai Dr. Sandhya Pai is the head of the PG Department of English at St Joseph's College for Women, Alappuzha. She holds a doctorate in Oriental studies and her research interests include Cultural Studies, Gender and New Media Studies. A bilingual translator, she has translated poems for the Indian Literature and Malayalam Literature Survey.

Shanta Acharya Shanta Acharya, born and educated in Cuttack, Odisha, won a scholarship to Oxford, where she was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. A recipient of the Violet Vaughan Morgan Fellowship, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a visiting scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University before joining Morgan Stanley in London. She worked in the asset management industry and has written extensively on the subject. The author of ten books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. Founder of Poetry in the House, Shanta hosted a series of monthly poetry readings at Lauderdale House in London from 1996 to 2015. In addition to her philanthropic activities, she served twice on the board of trustees of the Poetry Society in the UK. Shehanas C K Shehanas C.K. is an Indian Artist formally Educated in art and crafts in Mahe. She holds a B.A Degree in English from Periyar University and a FourYears Diploma in Art (painting and Crafts) from Barathiyar Palkali Koodam, Pondicherry University. Her paintings have been selected for the International Eminent Modern Art exhibition in Vietnam. Solo show in 2017 Chithrakala Parishath Art Gallery at Chombala. 3 Days National Art Camp 2017. Her collections of paintings are already sold in Delhi, Japan, Denmark, America, 193

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Australia, Bahrain etc and so on. Her art work was featured as the cover image of the August 2016 issue of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. More of her works were featured in the journal’s Visual Arts section. She is a mehandi and dress designer as well, with client from various part of the world. She can be contacted through the strands. Steve Armitage Steve Armitage points a camera, and sometimes it works. Although some have appeared on mainstream book covers, most of his photographs are a way of telling the surprising stories of neglected things. He approaches the work with Freeborn not as one part illustrating the other, but as a relationship of seeing.

Supriy Sharma Supriy Sharma is from Jaipur Rajasthan. He loves the colors, soil and tradition of Rajasthan and cherishes its peaceful environment. He cannot stay away from all these things which are deeply rooted in his soul. For him, 'creation is the mirror for the eye to see itself.’ He believes in the old mythology of his place, appreciates today’s high technology within some limits and is always curious to know about the possibilities of future technology and life. That’s why he draws some mystical images with his beautiful and interesting symbols which sprout from his inner feelings. He finds Rajasthan a very beautiful and interesting place to live in and enjoy peace in life. V M Devadas V.M. Devadas was born in Wadakkancherry, Kerala, India. He works in an I.T. company in Chennai. He is the recipient of the Geeta Hiranyan Endowment Award of Kerala Sahitya Akademy, Malayala Manorama Novel Carnival Award, Nooranad Haneef Memorial Award, Chandrika Katha Puraskaram, Ettumanoor Kavya Vedi Puraskaram, Cochin International Short Film Festival of India's Best Screenplay Award for 2015 and Anakanam Sahithya Puraskaram. Dildo: Aaru Maranangalude Pulp Fiction Patapusthakam (2009), Pannivetta (2010), and Cheppum Panthum (2017) are his novels and MaranaSahaayi (2011), SalabhaJeevitham (2014) and Avanavan Thuruthu (2016) are his short story collections.

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Editorial Board Chief Editor Jose Varghese Jose Varghese is a bilingual writer/editor/translator from India. He is the founder and chief editor of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts and Strands Publishers. He is the author of the books “Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems” and “Silent Woman and Other Stories”. His poems and short stories have appeared in journals/anthologies like The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013 (UK), Unthology (UK), 10RED (UK), The River Muse (USA), Chandrabhaga (India), Kavya Bharati (India), Postcolonial Text (Canada), Muse India (India), Re-Markings (India), Dusun (Malaysia) and The Four Quarters Magazine (India). He was the winner of The River Muse 2013 Spring Poetry Contest, USA, a runner up in the Salt Flash Fiction Prize 2013, UK, a second prize winner in the Wordweavers Flash Fiction Prize 2012 and his poem was commended in Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize 2014. He has done research in Post-Colonial Fiction and is currently working on his first novel. He writes for Thresholds: The International Short Story Forum, Chichester University, UK and was a participating writer at Hyderabad Literary Festival 2012 and the 2014 Vienna International Conference on the Short Story in English.

Associate Editor Aravind R Nair Aravind R Nair teaches graduate and postgraduate classes in English Literature at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He did his masters at the University of Hyderabad and has an M.Phil from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. An odd assortment; he counts himself an avid fan of sf, anime, alt rock and Egyptology. He steers clear of ‘serious’ literature. However, he feels that the occasional classic is an occupational hazard!

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Design/Layout Editor Mariam Henna Mariam Henna is currently pursuing her Masters in English at Manipal Centre of Philosophy and Humanities and is the chief editor of Chaicopy, an MCPH Literary Journal. Her works of fiction and travel have been published in Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Children’s Magazine and Trip Designers. She is also an Associate and Design Editor at Strands Publishers and Design Editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. The Brown Eyed Tales is her travel blog dedicated to penning down the random encounters that she has had while on the road. She hopes to become a teacher someday and inspire a curiosity for learning.

Review Editor Jude Gerald Lopez Jude Gerald Lopez is an aspiring writer who has finished working on his novel When Lines Blur (unpublished). He also writes short stories and poems and has been published in Efiction India magazine, Decades Review and previous editions of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. He maintains a blog and also contributes to publications on Medium.

Translation Editors Minu Varghese Minu Varghese is a bilingual writer and translator from India. Her MPhil dissertation was on the history plays of John Osborne and Bertolt Brecht. She has taught English Language and Literature in India from 1995 under various institutions of IHRD and is currently working as English Language Instructor in Jazan University, Saudi Arabia. She is the Malaylam translator of the Finnish children’s book (based on its English translation) ‘Simo and Sonia’ by Tiina and Sinikka Nopola, illustrated by Linda Bondestam (Sampark: Kolkata, 2014). She writes poems and short stories in English and Malayalam. Mohammad Zahid Mohammed Zahid’s first collection of poems is The Pheromone Trail, (Cyberwit, 2013). He has read his poems at Guntur International Poetry Festival 2012, and Hyderabad Literary Festivals (2010, 2013). He is featured in TIMESCAPES, a poetry collection of 22 Indian poets, by Unisun Publications and Reliance Timeout. His poetry has appeared in peer reviewed journals like The Four Quarters Magazine, Maulana Azad Journal of English Language & Literature of MANUU Hyderabad, and Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. He won the Unisun 196

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Publications Reliance Timeout Poetry award in 2010 for his poem Amante Egare. His own poems in English language and poetry translations from Kashmiri and Urdu feature in Sheeraza, a journal from Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, Kashmir. A major translation work by him on the criticism of Kashmiri poetry is being published shortly by the academy.

Visual Art Editor Shijo Varghese Shijo Varghese is a faculty member in the Department of English, Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He holds an M Phil Degree from Sree Sankara University, Kalady. He has his Master’s degree from University of Hyderabad and his Bachelor’s from Christ College, Bangalore. He is an aspiring writer and is interested in fine art and music too.

Photography Editor Collins Justine Peter Collins Justine Peter, a former BA Copy Editing student of SH College, is an aspiring writer with stories published in eFiction India and CLRI. He has won prizes in various photography and short-film competitions and has also contributed the cover image for the first issue of Lakeview. He is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma course in Advertising and Marketing Communications in Conestoga College, Kitchener, Ontario.

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Advisory Board Alan Summers Alan Summers, a Japan Times award-winning writer based in Bradford on Avon, England, runs With Words, which provides literature, education and literacy projects, as well as online courses often based around the Japanese genres. He is a co-editor for Bones Journal (new and gendai haiku), and his latest collection Does Fish-God Know contains gendai haiku and short verse published by Yet To Be Named Free Press: There is also a forthcoming book titled Writing Poetry: the haiku way. Alan is also currently working on a children’s novel, an adult crime thriller, and the Kigo Lab Project. He blogs at Area 17, and is a featured haiku poet at Cornell University, Mann Library, as well as the World Monuments Fund haiku contest judge. Website: www.withwords.org.uk Blog: http://area17.blogspot.com Bill Ashcroft Bill Ashcroft is a renowned critic and theorist, founding exponent of postcolonial theory, co-author of The Empire Writes Back, the first text to examine systematically the field of post-colonial studies. He is author and co-author of sixteen books and over 160 articles and chapters, variously translated into six languages, including Post-Colonial Transformation and On Post-Colonial Futures and Caliban’s Voice. He holds an Australian Professorial Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Australia, working on the project “Future Thinking: Utopianism in Postcolonial Literatures.”

George Szirtes George Szirtes, was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee with his parents and younger brother following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. He grew up in London and trained as a painter in Leeds and London. He is the author of some fifteen books of poetry, roughly the same of translation from Hungarian, and a few miscellaneous other books. His first, The Slant Door (1979) was joint winner of the Faber Memorial Prize. In 2004 he won the T S Eliot Prize for Reel, and was shortlisted for the prize again in 2009 for The Burning of the Books and for Bad Machine (2013). There were a number of other awards between. Bloodaxe published his New and Collected Poems in 2008. His translations from Hungarian have won international prizes, including the Best Translated Book Award in the USA for László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango (2013) and his latest book for children, In the Land of the Giants won the CLPE Prize for best collection of poetry for children, also in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the UK and of the Szécheny Academy of Arts and Letters in Hungary. He is married to painter, Clarissa Upchurch and recently retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia. For a fuller CV see his website at georgeszirtes. blogspot.co.uk

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Kala Ramesh Kala Ramesh has long had a fascination for Indian classical music and has worked extensively on Pandit Kumar Gandharava’s gayaki and nirguni bhajans along with the paramparic bandishes of the Gwalior gharana, under the guidance of Vidushi Smt Shubhada Chirmulay, Pune. Kala has performed in major cities in India. Kala discovered haiku in 2005 and feels she’s addicted to this art form from day one! She also writes in related genres like, tanka (five line poem), haibun (tight prose embedded with haiku), senryu, and renku (collaborative linked verse). Her poems have appeared in anthologies, print and online journals. Her book titled “Haiku” brought out by Katha in December 2010 was awarded the Honourable Mention for Best Book for Children: The Haiku Society of America’s Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards. “The Blue Jacaranda” won the Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2012 (Japan). Her collection of tanka poems, “the unseen arc” won The Snapshot Press eChapbook Award 2012 (UK). Loree Westron Loree Westron is an American writer living in the UK. Her short stories and literary criticism have been published in journals and anthologies including London Magazine, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and Western American Literature. In 2010, she helped set up the Thresholds International Short Story Forum, for which she served as Editor until 2013. She is currently finishing a PhD at the University of Chichester where she also teaches Creative Writing. Mel Ulm Mel Ulm is the editor and founder of The Reading Life, a premier Asian based literary book blog with over 100,000 visits a month. He is an internationally published philosopher. His posts on Indian literature have been recommended by The Economic Times of India and he will be a regular contributor to the Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society. Patrick Connors Patrick Connors was Lead Artist in Making a Living; Making Art, a pilot project of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts at the University of Toronto. He recently published in Barrie and Belgium. His first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by LYRICALMYRICAL Press this Spring. He headlined an event of Sunday Poetry at Ellington’s called, Artists as Activists. He is a manager for the Toronto chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change. Rana Nayar Rana Nayar is Professor and Former Chairperson, Department of English & Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His main areas of interest are: World Drama/Theatre, Translation Studies, Literary Theory and Cultural Studies. A practicing translator of repute (Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow & Sahitya Akademi Prize winner), he has rendered around ten modern classics of Punjabi into English, ranging over novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded 199

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First Prize, in an All India contest, organized by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi for his translation of Baba Farid’s Shlokas into English. Among other works, his translations include those of Gurdial Singh, Mohan Bhandari, Raghbir Dhand and Beeba Balwant, published by Macmillan, National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi, Sterling, Fiction House, Katha and Unistar et al. Apart from this, he has one collection of poems Breathing Spaces (Unistar, Chandigarh) and three critical books, i.e., Edward Albee: Towards a Typology of Relationships (Prestige, New Delhi, 2003) and Inter-sections: Essays on Indian Literatures, Translations and Popular Consciousness (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2012), and Gurdial Singh: A Reader (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2012) to his credit. Moreover, he has directed over twenty major, full-length productions, and acted in almost as many. Sanjukta Dasgupta Dr.Sanjukta Dasgupta, Professor and Former Head, Dept of English and Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Calcutta University, teaches English, American literature and New Literatures in English. Recipient of the Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship and several other awards and grants, she was also the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury panel (2003-2005). Her published books are The Novels of Huxley and Hemingway: A Study in Two Planes of Reality, Responses : Selected Essays, Snapshots (poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language (poetry), More Light (poetry) Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh (translation), The Indian Family in Transition (co-edited SAGE), Media, Gender and Popular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity (lead author, SAGE, 2011) Tagore: At Home in the World (co-edited 2012, SAGE). She is the Managing Editor of FAMILIES : A Journal of Representations Awaiting Publication in 2013: Radical Rabindranath: Nation, Family and Gender in Tagore’s Fiction and Fils.( lead author, Orient Blackswan) Editor:Golpo Sankalan (Contemporary translated Bengali Short Stories) (Sahitya Akademi) Sudeep Sen Sudeep Sen [www.sudeepsen.net] is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger Englishlanguage poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). He is ‘fascinated not just by language but the possibilities of language’ (Scotland on Sunday). He read English Literature at the University of Delhi and as an Inlaks Scholar received an MS from the Journalism School at Columbia University (New York). His awards, fellowships & residencies include: Hawthornden Fellowship (UK), Pushcart Prize nomination (USA), BreadLoaf (USA), Pleiades (Macedonia), NLPVF Dutch Foundation for Literature (Amsterdam), Ledig House (New York), Sanskriti (New Delhi), Wolfsberg UBS Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and Shanghai Writers Programme (China). He wasinternational writer-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh) and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Sen’s criticallyacclaimed books include The Lunar Visitations, New York Times, Dali’s Twisted Hands, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Prayer Flag, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh and Letters of Glass. Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea 200

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International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. He has also edited several important anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Poetry Foundation Indian Poetry Portfolio, Poetry Review Centrefold of Indian Poems, The Literary Review Indian Poetry, World Literature Today Writing from Modern India, The Yellow Nib Contemporary English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry from India, Wasafiri New Writing from India, South Asia & the Diaspora, and, Lines Review Twelve Modern Young Indian Poets. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in international anthologies by Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Routledge, Norton, Knopf, Everyman, Random House, Macmillan, and Granta. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, London Magazine, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. [www.atlasaarkarts.net]. In January 2013, Sudeep Sen was the first Asian to be honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read from his own work as part of the Nobel Laureate Week in Saint Lucia.

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Student Editors Gowri Nair Gowri Nair is a B.A English Copy Editor student at Sacred Heart College. She is familiar with the techniques of copy editing and proofreading and has good command over the English language. She is an also an active member of the Literary, Arts and Film club. She has sound knowledge of grammatical techniques and different forms of literature; fiction as well as non-fiction. She is also a member of the student-editor panel of the college newsletter- Heartbeats. She has participated in several essay and story writing competitions and has secured prizes. As the student-editor of the Lakeview magazine, she hopes to gain an educating work experience. Sanjay Sreenivas Sanjay Sreenivas is a college student, who is currently pursuing his degree in BA English Copy Editing, from Sacred Heart College, Kochi. He completed his high school education from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Ernakulam. At school, he was elected as the publication captain, responsible for the compilation of works for the library newsletter. He was also an active member of the readers club during his schooldays. At college, Sanjay manages the class blog and he is also a student editor of the college publication- ‘Heart Beats’. Being an ardent admirer of movies in general, he has attended several film festivals and has also directed three short films so far. Sanjay is also an intern for an online website (nettv4u.com) that builds a database on films and film professionals.

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LIJLA Aug 2017  

Chief Editor: Jose Varghese. Design/Layout Editor: Mariam Henna Noushad. This issue features works by Kira Dreyer Messell, Megan Stolz, Shan...

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