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Pyrta Journal October 2010 Fall Issue #1

editor’s note this has been an overwhelmingly difficult issue to put together - the number of submissions has been tremendous & a lot were so very good. perhaps, this is a good time to explain why we choose what we do. we’re obviously looking for sharp, original work. work that leaves you a little numb, a little changed after you read it. but we’re also a platform for new artists - who we feel have potential & who we work with to improve their pieces. that’s text. our 3 photo essays are hugely distinct in style - one focuses on the everyday things in his life, the other on the maniacal throb of nightlife in a city, and the last zooms in on a fabulous architectural space, unpeopled yet atmospheric. the sketches we’ve featured are fun, sometimes moving, sometimes funny - the first is a sparse documentation of an artists’ things “without” him, while the other offers up little slices of life. the local story, all the way from Rome, is, in one word, hilarious. enjoy.

janice pariat


C o n t e n t s

shayla hawkins michael lee rattigan amanda tongper sergio a ortiz daniel bowman lillian oben aseem kaul jonaki ray ibohal kshetrimayum

elizabeth myhr joshua rynjah howard good heather cox cm mclamb william doreski ananya guha nandita jaishankar brittany turski


francesca recchia deepika arwind saudha kasim joseph farley diya kohli michael frissore

photo essay zishaan akbar latif dhruba jyoti dutta ameya nagarajan

sketches francis raven amrit mishra


kaushik barua

poetry Carambola soft as air on my skin some incorporeal hand reaches through the night lifts open my sleeping eyes guides them to the warmth of your fingers splayed across my waist like a fan some gentle unconscious claim of possession that circuits your mind even as you slumber your hand a sweet carambola on my body a rugged five-point star that tethers us to each other glides us across the witching hours to morning’s bright and open door

My Beloved’s Voice a haiku Masculine music A lion in the lilies The sun wrapped in clouds Shayla Hawkins lives in Michigan and won The Caribbean Writers 2008 Canute A. Brodhurst Prize in Short Fiction and the 2010 John Edgar Wideman Microstory Contest.


Pictures as Drama To think this untitled picture from 1956, opens its fiery portal to a time 12 years earlier: my toddling mum, coaxed away with chocolate from a cinema screen by American soldiers stationed in northern India (Allahabad, I believe); a full 66 years before her telling us all about it in the company of my almost 2-year-old niece. Text Yukari’s favourite Japanese expression: treasure every encounter, for it will never recur. Too fatal in the case of a lovely one. Too true.

Nature Note

Stories I Crow’s gone out on a limbMouth like papyrus with burnt edges scrolls so far out and so high up, the world’s ripe stories that were plucked from earth. unbranched. With time, they have resigned into the neat folders Of your wrinkles. Michael was born in Croydon, England. He You never unfold them entirely, has lived and taught in Cancun, Mexico and almost afraid that we wouldnt understand Palma de Mallorca. Through Rufus Books he or believe. has published Nature Notes and a complete But you teased nevertheless translation of Fernando Pessoa’s Caeiro poems. with cocktail stories of lightning and cows, of trees and legendary ghosts on top of them, of rivers and legendary ghosts beside them Roots of wars and wed-locks, of forests that open like pools Only your absence splits my life into halves, of metaphors and imagery in whose collecI will never be complete. tions I am the steam that twirls from your rice You bury your busy lives. The dirt that taints your jainkyrshah II The hum that tucks closest to your heart. You dont say much While you grow old by the hearth, I appear You only move from kitchen to bed and disappear From one imagined disease to another. A city humbug You only complain about how old you are. Bleached like the jackfruit seeds that lie naAnd if I tell you that the pigment on your skin ked at your roof-top. Are only punctuations in the grand epic of your life I can never fill the crevices of my life You will ask me to take a dip in satans pool. I can only selfishly return to you again and again I have learnt to be happy leaving To have my fill of roots. With only an autograph of a kiss on the cheek. I have nothing to complain. I stayed a day in the shadow of the finest character That springs from the story book of earth.


What Remains Last evening I wanted to staple your name To the first scent of winter And arrange clips of memories like blameless stars In the sky. But tonight I want thick mist to wrap open wounds In its satiny hands And wait a while , For tonight I need to stare at emptiness And see how long it stares back. I have faced what is gone Like a sinner who visits his sins But tonight what remains stares Back at me And what remains is love. And I still want to staple your name to the first scent of winter But breathing is a must. So I turn off the lights And let my proud arrows kill the night. Amanda is from Shillong. She is currently studying in Hyderabad Central University.


Only the Rumor I, who have never seen sanity, or a caravan of Siberian huskies stroll with their pack through soft white snow,

have no appreciation for winter’s twilightsilence, or the ruckus of grizzlies ravaging my provisions. I ask: Is there anyone willing to put their hand in place of mine on the chopping block, or their signature on paper to demand investigations into all that has been stolen on my passage through this life? I have not seen tenderness nor do I feel excitement upon observing the child fed from the safety of its mother’s hands. Only the rumors of the existence of distant cities where harsh winters outlast serene summers accelerate the rhythm of my blood. That chill is mine. I, who have never seen reason, have played with water and snow. I’ve wrapped them around my legs, given them form with my hands like a lover. I, who am fed-up with listening to wolves and sleeping under willows, no longer I tremble when they throw down my door to take me where neither water or snow exist. Do you understand? It is nothing more than a short visit to the crying room of a psychiatric hospital, a show to impress the animal that sleeps beneath the sheets.


Walking Through the Dream of a Stranger

You’d draw the necessary patience to stay, watch, and conquer

on top of the most manly queen in the show. Your only fault

Now I dream that I’m the stranger in someone else’s dream That I’m walking through the dream of a stranger and the stranger’s dream turns out like dreams I had when I was young where I meet a girl on a hillside and she loves me and takes my hand and smiles and I smile too because I love her and because the stranger’s dream smells like wet birch bark and crabapples trampled in early September

is that incessant need to talk. Sadly, your audience is

Poem for the Undead

the tin man; a personal allusion of the vexed macho in drag. Your body oozes contemplating the giving of pleasure. You know how to bend, break, and subdue. At the end of the night you are

less than four. So, when you invented that bit about a cowardly lion you were

Mohawk comes like blackbirds in February, weaves itself one witness short and I got to give into itself the hundred lashes and hang the sign: like a twisted weeping willow, its face delicate, Fairy Tale Gigolo curled as ivy, Mohawk comes like some small creature hit Sergio is a retired educator, poet, and photog- and left for dead, rapher from Puerto Rico. He’s published three gray eyes fixed, poetry chapbooks and has publications in Mohawk eats the hills Carcinogenic Poetry, Perceptions Magazine of like a river, the Arts 2010, BorderSenses, Offcourse Liter- smokes like your kin ary Journal, and Cavalier Literary Couture. in the diner in the gorge, hunched over ham and potatoes, hidden like shadows in winter, Mohawk comes.

Behind the Steelman’s Piece Count


We wandered the valleys armed solitude behind the steelman’s piece count, behind skull and ice and a rusty swing set,

in the end, it lay in the details missed. when someone tells you who they are believe them. advice unheeded;

the Tuesday pot roast, an ambush of sacrifice. With promise of spring the nights rose over bluffs on back roads

ten miles in, you have forgotten the words, they are ants in your rear-view mirror and you wonder if they were full-sized statues once,

and we took the laugher’s oath, draped by maple leaves while the sky turned to winter and the rain to a snow that muffled new footsteps.

perhaps the moment before you saw them, yet chose instead to drive on, mow them down. months later you remember like it was yesterday, hear it like it was yelled over a microphone, not whispered into your ear like a love song:

Daniel lives in upstate New York where he teaches at Houghton College. His work has appeared in The Adirondack Review, American I am afraid I will hurt you. Poetry Journal, The Bitter Oleander, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Midwest That was your cue to run, get away. Quarterly, Redac tions: Poetry & Too late, you realize that Poetics, Rio Grande you were the one, the statue in the road. Review and others. Miles down peering into the rear-view mirror, you see


yourself that road kill, small as an ant fast fading into the distance.

The Voyager the first time my heart broke i jumped back, scared. what was this blood? what was this knife? who was this person standing, bleeding? then, tis i. ‘tis me. i am this human, bleeding thing. what a wonder. what a truth; to discover one’s self not immune, but feeling - a living, feeling, bleeding thing what a wonder. what a truth. i scooped up the pieces and took them home to mend. this piece i laid in water, this piece i placed in soil. soon a flower grew; it looked like me what a wonder, what a joy to see myself reflected whole. the second time, i nodded knowingly. do not be feared, do not jump back. i know this knife. i know this sword. i looked below, i know this blood. Still, there were shards: tidy big pieces, messy small pieces. i tried not to, yet stepped on them. this is my pain, this is my heart. i collected again, toiling into the night. this piece i laid in warmth, this piece i placed in light. soon a sun ray grew. what a wonder, what a

joy to see myself reflected, light; blinding, healing, warming, kind. i cast my boat out to share its good. i rowed hard, through rough sails, smooth sail, clear skies blue. the seas were good, i sailed for long. the third time, my boat capsized. i did not see the rocks, but i felt the cleft. (there was no blood, so how could i know?) i wretched and wretched and clutched my sides. what is this pain? what is this knife? tis i. tis me. i am this human, wretching thing. what a wonder, what a truth. to time and again discover oneself not immune, but feeling - a wretching, bleeding, feeling thing. what a wonder. what a truth. Lilian is a West-African-born writer. Her short story, “The Other Side” was featured in the all-women anthology, His Rib: Stories, Essays and Poems by Her (May 2007) by Penmanship Books. She is currently working on a collection of short fiction.

Before the Attack (Mumbai, 26th November, 2008) people died as usual of cancer, drugs, old age pages turned quietly in Death’s waiting room. *** I thought they were fireworks at first then realized they were gunshots. Like one who turns at a familiar voice to find a beautiful stranger.

Half Measures Happiness leaks. It’s not that I’m never lonely it’s that peace is a difficult balance and my loneliness has the weight of pop songs. Do I care to disturb the universe?


I tear the heart out of a peach put the other half

Believing in no God I could not pray with you

back in the fridge.

but mouthed these words to myself hoping they would answer. *** All across the city an outbreak of news our breaths held hostage. Tragedy perches in our living rooms its too heavy wings unfolding.

Aseem lives in Minneapolis, where he is Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. His works have appeared in Mascara, Blood Orange Review, The Cortland Review, RHINO and nthposition, among others, and a collection of his short fiction, études, was published in 2009.


Them and Us

Holding On

You know, were the same people. Its so hard to understand that they could do this to us ~ The Sunday Times of India

The thing I remember most is your toothless gums drooling over my arms.

She was eight and being yelled at No more trips to the servants quarters. She swallowed tears and the fact --there is a line between them and us. She went places. Delhi. New York. Chicago. Now, they were the goras, the Amrus Who asked at cafĂŠs for-here-or-to-go And what are you all--Hindoos? So, she clung to our kind. Happy to wed a desi type At least he is not white. Nor a Christian mind. That was the aunties reception byte. Back home, they were the mullahs. The Biharis. The Madrasis. The Bhaiyyas. Who got beaten. By their superiors. It was right. It was them. Why the fuss? The city blazed. Poolside drinks turned toxic. Holed up, goodbyes mixed with promises. Jesus! With Allahs! The rescuers though were stoic. No who are yous? No who we ares. She was twenty-eight and being yelled at Why were you out? Do you realize that they could have done to us? She swallowed tears and screamed the fact --there was no line. No them. No us.

I gripped you so carefully, your back pressed against my eight year-old belly clad in lavender sprigged with white lace. The air smelled of Johnsons Baby Oil, shiuli flowers, the Durga Puja pandal’s smoke and Lakme powder baby pink shade as askew on my hazelnut face as my already unraveling pigtails. We had been roused since six, poised against palm trees. Your eyes drooped like the neighboring Calla lilies. The back of my knees mutated into cupfuls of sweat as I pressed them hard on the yellow-and black leather cushioned footstool. Jonaki is a business development manager with Pearson Education. Her work has appeared in The Times of India, Down to Earth, and


My Wife is Away to the Mountains

In the Hills of Seven Huts

My wife is away to the mountains visiting her folks. She left the windows guarded with curtains made of her jainsem. Last night the moon peeped in through the protective embroidery, but failed to seduce me as I was secured, in the possessive perfume of my love exuding from the willful drapes. There are times between midnight and dawn, I dream of an open harbor, swallowing waves of salty ships into her inflamed mouth. But in the morning, when the north wind flutters my wife’s curtains, I pity the drowned pirates in their defeats on that adulterous night of stormy lusts. Then I realize they needed a dedicated poet to calm the storms, who can sprinkle the sacrificial blood of his circumcised words, on the cruel crevices of the wild seas. Neighbors visit with ritualistic inquiry about my solitude and well-being, but their keep-watch concerns reveal through cleverly concealed blushes, reminding me of the wiles of threatened wives in tales told on the moors. Before dark clouds solicit the sleeping owl, before an aged crow curses me with yellow teeth, I ought to rush up the mountains to bring her back home, before time shuts away all the days of my life in superseded calendars. My wife is away to the mountains visiting her folks.

In the hills of seven huts, where War is either a place or surname, and dreams are translated into numbers, and a number became a gambler’s sad song, I found God breathing through the pine trees. Orchards in the hills shivered in winter’s palms, golden oranges plucked for city bazaars, a young leaf wanted to go along, discontented orange tree held it back. A fleeting rainbow across Noh-Kali-Kai, a glimpse of her precious final steps, before she became a waterfall. Twangs of hammer on hot iron, a dagger hissed in a bucket of water, Mylliem’s blacksmiths keep their tradition throbbing. Mylliem’s giant boulders, memoirs of the great earthquake, we were cast out recklesslysays a mossy stone. Sunday morning in the church, a pair of long legs walked past a pew, a clergyman sighed in agony. Christmas in Shillong, roast turkey on the table, rush of stampeding shoppers, merchants carol their way to the bank. A dog swallowing the moon,

beating of empty tins, chasing the dog away, I became a lunar-eclipse drummer in Shillongs hills. I went down on my knees, and asked God for my Biblical rib, and I found her snoring gently beside me, in the hills of seven huts. Gardener He knew the story of every flower. He sniffed the earth and spoke to the worms. When dew-drops woke up the buds, he greeted them with rustic songs. Morning sun warmed his garden, with tender rays filtered through pine leaves. He treasured the dust left on his lips, by a butterfly lost in his garden. He loved his orchids and called them: his grafted family. His dog howled whole night long, when a midnight-storm uprooted his plants, and he wept in his dreams. He now lives with his book of poems: gardening dry flowers between the pages. This poem is for Robin S. Ngangon who was once a gardener. Ibohal was born at Imphal, Manipur in 1954. He is a civil engineer by qualification and works as project engineer with State Sports Council Meghalaya, Shillong. Happily married to Susan, he lives in Shillong with his son Victor and daughter Marilyne.

grocery outlet the waffles in the freezer section of the cut rate grocery store are the same gold color as the wedding ring I used to wear one of two rings one said your name the other said poetry I wear the blank space now and my expensive purse burns the checkout counter and I make an effort to be the same but I am not the same because thing are not the same not between me and you so much that stays the same but between the woman in front of me and the men at the door and the man behind me in line the man who is always behind you in the line we are finally calling America when the bomb concussion hit the building and two as yet unknown white men drove away

counting on the blame to fall on something other than a white man you see this is why I hate imperialism because I wind up standing in this grocery line thinking about how your privilege keeps informing too many histories that dont belong to it it rained and was hot and rained every day for aweek and when I drove over to the capitol to file legal documents the place was obscenely gilded and marbled from oil money and the guys in the car probably hated it as much as I did the smell of the leftover flesh was awful in that weather but before those white guys showed up and started the terrorist daisy chain believe me it wasnt the heartland it was the most rabidly mean spirited city Id ever lived in and the republicans were just starting to raise their coppery eyes and look around my groceries come to fourteen dollars and sixteen cents and I realize this was not the right place to buy flowers but I dont want to line your pockets for another second so Ill take the heat and be momentarily despised and justly so for this rotten moment if only I could sell the ring with your name on it but nobody can afford to buy it anymore

dycki the polish poet has one sad eye and one eye that could kill you if it needed to survive but both eyes probably only want to lie down in the fragrant lap of the world between the thighs of a woman between the petals of a violet along a bough of a northern arboreal giant eating the midsummer and drenching the air with lemon yet I seek yet I seek the golden apples and the atlas of you anteus in your rocky clay womb and I wrestle you and lose and win as the north wind breaks against the blue sound and moans in the rigging for the sun the platter of the sun which other places shrugs like a bored mistress into a great room on a Sunday long haired and careless reaching for fruit of the tropics and swatting at a greek black fly with her reliably savage news

Elizabeth is a poet and editor. She is Managing Editor of Civil Survival, LLC and Marick Press, si co-editor of Web Del Sol Review of Books, and a founding member of Calypso Editions. She lives in Seattle with her family.


Untitled 1 translated into khasi by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih Sun burnt years of skin, Buried then shall it cool, Worms wriggling hot claim the dead, By three fistsful of earth awakened to be fed. ********* sniehdoh ba la thang sngi da ki snem, ynda la tep te kan sa pjah, wieh ba ksaid ha jingkhluit ki kam iu ba la ïap, da lai kham khyndew la kyrsiew. Untitled 2 translated into khasi by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih In the night of the city’s lake, On the pale bridge like a cave’s ghost, Stood her alone and unflinching, In the night of the city’s lake. And in the middle stood I as her To taste the final cleansing water

Cold dead water to bring life to a dead life And we both stood sharing sight to sight And I was first to turn my back and hear the splash Celebrated crash of the moon’s torn mirror All because I had nothing to offer. ******** Ynda la miet ha Nan Polok, Hapdeng ka jingkieng byrngut ba kum u snaïap krem Ka ïeng marwei khlem jingsalia Ynda la miet ha Nan Polok. Bad nga hangta kum ka nga ïeng, Ban mad khatduh ka um sait khuid Ka um bapjah, baïap, ban pynim biang ia jingim bla ïap. Bad ngi ia ïeng peit seh iwei ia iwei. Bad dei ma nga ba phai lyndet shuwa, ban sngew ia jingpashait, Jingsawa jam ka ïit u bnai bla pait, Baroh ka leit long ba ngam don ei ei ban tyrwa. Untitled 3 Childless she died she wanted it so alone and unafraid to that screaming lake whose waters lapped at her feet Childless she died she wanted it so when they buried her on that sunny sunday sunset

the children came out laughing shouting and screaming running for kites all over her grave. Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih is a celebrated and widely published Shillong poet who writes both in Khasi and English. Joshua is a lecturer in the Department of English, at St. Mary’s College, Shillong.


What the Sea is Saying The broken wave repairs itself. Life is contagious. The drowned at the door look touchingly young in their sideways baseball caps. You can only dive so deep before the places you love begin to forget you.There’s a scar where the shore should be. Everything Reminds Me of Me oil fires, arranged marriages, the phone calls transcribed by the secret police, Scott in the Garden

of Allah Hotel mailing a postcard to himself, the daub of red at the tip of a seagull’s beak, my dead mother on the corner waving goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, her face splotched where the first few raindrops have touched it. Birdsong Barbara, we are love’s beautiful anarchy, birds nesting in the holes made by grenades. Howard is the author a full-length poetry collection, Lovesick, as well as 21 print and digital poetry chapbooks, including most recently, Hello, Darkness, available from Deadly Chaps.

One sister would keep the day She would walk on rooftops watching the sun steal dew from petals and grass blades She would stare into the orange orb until her eyes were mirrors She would radiate She would hiss and sizzle shooting heat out of her fingertips

One sister would wake the dawn She would wait while the night was extinguished She would wait for every ounce of darkness to soften, for its weight to lessen She would inhale deeply stealing the smell of night from the air

She would harness the heat of the world hold it in her palm turning it into the tiniest flame She would keep the day alive keeping night at bay until the fire in her eyes no longer burned. One sister would watch the night She would wait while the day’s flame was extinguishing

And then she would whisper into the horizon rousing the sun with old words, brittle words She would wait for all of the reds and purples words that existed in the space between painted during sunset silence and sound to dissipate She would use her tongue as a rope She would exhale and pull the sun from the unseen space breathing warm breathe below the line of the land to thaw the stars until they burned white hot She would wake the dawn from its sleeping spell And then she would stare until orange warmth covered her into the space between stars and lulled her to slumber.

mapping out her heritage in constellations


She would use her words as weapons keeping stronger things at bay She would weave a web of nebula with the flick of her tongue She would watch the night tracing circles around stars.

Confederate flag t-shirts with matching bandannas accompany the Klan hoods that parade around a South Carolina parking lot while I wait to be the only black man in the Mad Boar Pub.

Heather is a Texas-born, Arkansas-raised writer currently living in Chicago. In 2009, she was the recipient of The Margot Trietel Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Her poems can be found in Ceremony, Dark Sky Magazine, and Psychic Meatloaf.

Fuck all you faggots! stains a bathroom stall in North Carolina where I piss through my fear of the accompanying sketch of a lynched and castrated homosexual man.


ghetto yard sale

A little black girl with corn rows and pig tails rolls up at Jefferson Village. Three hoods ask for water and games while she browses through volumes of Shange / Morrison / Giovanni / Hurston / Walker / Angelou. She’s dogged by the hoods, who roll out. And she follows, now referencing my toys when suggesting “You should hook Me up wid dis fo’ free.”

And Virginia billboards depict smiling Negroes winning their freedom through a $34.95 phone plan while I sit in the back seat of a blue 87 Chevy praying to reach the other side of The Mason Dixon. accession During my grandfather’s funeral I sat in a chair with no arms in an aisle of the Church that once held me as its beloved child, then free to frolic and rejoice, now numb and unable to sing, surrounded by hemiolic sobs

resonantly refracting from person to person each held by someone though I was held by everyone’s eyes alone. cm is a performing and literary artist residing in NYC. His most recent publication was in A&U Magazine.


That Tragic Posture In Wilton the spring light feels hard as the steel rails on which a train, six loaded gravel cars and one dusty locomotive, is passing. Strolling down Main Street, the old storefronts all arrayed on the wrong, the shady side, I imagine I’m Will Shakespeare down from Stratford to London, my worn old hag of a wife and squalling but beloved brat left behind to soak up the cash I’ll shake from the money-trees of the capital. I’m so inspired by the chronicles of my newly minted nation I could scrawl a dozen narratives peopled with ladies in silk and ermine. I could hack a thousand sonnets and sow them like dragon’s teeth,

engendering a braver race of lovers, each with a dagger to seal the blood-pact proper for doomed couples to indulge. I could wright a hundred plays festering with uneasy kings and transvestite lovers mooning over bloodstained heroines dreamy with unfulfilled sex. But what a foolish conceit to feel on a windy bright New England mill town afternoon, as if I still felt young enough to suffer and assume that tragic posture that rarely bothers with a buskin anymore but flops all naked in the glare, hoping someone sees it. The Shirt of Nessus Someone mistook my old pink shirt, Brooks Brothers Oxford cloth model from the Seventies, for the shirt of Nessus, a smear of poisoned blood. I realize that in summer dusk I might resemble a centaur, though lacking the quadruped drive, that sure-footed attitude popular with women too foolish to see the beast within the beast. No, this is just any old pink shirt, a rag I wear around the house to remind me of warm afternoons behind the Andover museum, America’s precious heirs swarming

like salmon, my good blue blazer hung on a tree as I read aloud from Antony and Cleopatra, my students too civil to snicker.

I lectured on constellations and sketched with the light-pen a few streaks of meteor to show where my honest allegiance lay.

Everyone seemed so tidy then: blue, pink, or yellow cotton shirts, rep ties almost properly tied. And now I look like a centaur, hoary old monster running down giggling nymphs a tenth my age.

Eventually I left science, or science abandoned me, but nights like these I often stare at the same clear starlit area for an hour or more till a flash of meteor assures me the universe is still decaying and celebrating itself in festoons of gala white.

No, this rumpled old shirt’s no threat to Hercules, its washed-out pink sad as a Jersey sunset, half its buttons gone, and the hole where I received my arrow wound too lost in the wrinkles to show. About Meteors In the Springfield museum I touched a meteorite, a tough cold lump dropped from the vacuum beyond. It teased me with alien sensations so I scoured the planet for weeks afterward, searching for a scrap of distant worlds, but found nothing but cinders and pebbles of quartz. I hung around the museum so long I became an exhibit, hired for pocket change to handle the python for kindergarten kids who screamed when it wrapped itself comfortably around my neck. Later, in the planetarium, promoted from snake-handler,

William’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently Waiting for the Angel (Pygmy Forest Press, 2009).



Now I am alone alone as the tree drooping, leaves falling, touching the ground, as leaves do; planted for timeless years as worms crawl, eat into graves teeth gnashing, eyes dancing near the window of an ancient house house, that wills slow death nails a coffin, wind-like

caresses the sun, buoyant hills moon and speckled stars resonating in darkness and light The tree stands bewildered refuses to mingle with the ambience even when stormy skies threaten to shake ramparts in the maelstrom Views landscape with its gnarled, spreading branches melting into fistful of sprinkling tears We are alone the two of us Waiting patiently for the hawk.

hair, caressing the undulating slopes of these ancient hills into a one time Love story. Ananya lives in Shillong and works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University. His poems have been published in The Telegraph, Indian Literature, Kavya Bharati, Poeisis, Poetry Chronicle, New Quest, The New Welsh Review and Other Voices among others.


Love Story


I haven’t yet thought of the curtailed river bearing fangs, with snapping teeth, guffawing deliriously with its possession of beastly humans

The day begins broken, like clean white lines of bone piercing through the cloth of skin.

I haven’t yet thought of the tornado cresting on its fulcrum, tearing things animals and men, to gory death I haven’t yet thought of the ghoulish monster intruding halcyon dreams to create a death knell I haven’t yet thought of the man with leprous feet refusing my indolent stare of pity Yet what I think of is you with your marigold run-time

Harried clouds merge with sweet rain slowly moving, each splinter of water reverberating off the leaves, spattering demons of the night spent pushing dreams through unopened windows, seeping through bed sheets whipped to a frenzy of froth. As if from a lake I surface for air, mirrors and ripples embracing me through layers of sleep. I greet the chilly dawn,

newly-born each morning, cracking through the fragile eggshell air. An Ode to Georgia O’Keefe Red, the colour of anger, or a poppy framed in black, its size encompassing a stark white wall. It is a chrysalis growing, an enigma, an explosion, like a stain of blood with a dark core. It is hypnotic, its rough-edged swirls the perfect mantelpiece drawing you close with its magnetic pull, a vision to behold for hours on end, the light falling just so; the last thing you see before sleep falls harshly, deeply, in paralyzing crimson petals. Nandita lives in New Delhi where she works as an editor. Her first book of poems, The Memory Bird, was self published in 2009. She has also contributed to an anthology of poems, Writing Love (Rupa & Co).


If She Had Lived I Would call her by her first name, instead of mom, remember her mullet hair cut as a child forget what day in September is her birthday, buy my aunts less presents on the holidays, laugh at my brothers request to buy him beer, be embarrassed for inheriting her loud laugh, feel guilty for sleeping in on Sundays past noon service, change my favorite color from blue to yellow, change my last name after marriage, never notice the beauty of a graveyard covered in fresh snow.

Brittany is a Midwest writer who thinks of her best work in a sublime consciousness before falling asleep. Her main focus is long fiction, but likes to come up for air by composing bits of poetry.

prose Francesca spent the past two years in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Federal Region of Iraq, teaching Sociology at the University of KurdistanHawler. These are excerpts from bollettini, the blog she kept during her time there. The Story of the Peshmerga Without a Nose October 25, 2009 At times it happens like this that a melancholic afternoon turns into a story. Anna calls me and asks me whether I want to go with her to see the garden of one of her colleagues, who asked her for some ideas for a house he wants to build in the village where his family comes from. So off we go, in a car that is an adventure in itself: so tall that I need a push to climb into it. We travel east, towards the Safin Mountains, more or less an hour’s drive from Erbil. We head to the Barzan Valley where the main tribe of Kurdistan comes from; the road turns towards the right, and from the valley we see on top of the hill the mansion of President Massoud Barzani. The road gets narrower until it becomes a dirt path that climbs up the mountains. The air is cleaner, the sky clearer. We drive higher still and from the top of the slope in front of us we see a valley with the village of Kh. nestling on one side. The village has a long history of fighters and guerrillas who fought against Saddam’s regime to preserve their freedom. The response to their struggle has been a destiny common to some 4,000 other villages: complete destruction that culminated in 1988. At that time there were about 1,500 families living in Kh., after these many years only about 70 decided to go back and rebuild their houses in their native village. They are mud houses carved in the mountains,

completely camouflaged in the landscape and the only bit of colour are the clothes hanging to dry and the blue plastic sheets used for insulation. Anna’s colleague, S., comes from the most influential family of the village; he wears the traditional Kurdish dress and shoes, the scarf on his waist is dark and wrapped with such perfection that the gun on his side doesn’t move. He carries himself haughtily, in an almost old-fashioned manner; his hair is salt and pepper, his smile open and welcoming. There is a gentle shrewdness in his way of being in the world that says that he has seen a lot. The first stop is the plot of land where, 20 years ago, his father’s house stood and was later destroyed by Saddam. It stands on a small hill; at its back there is the gentle slope where the village clambers; the front faces west toward the valley and the sky getting ready for sunset, whilst the other side looks towards the cemetery, where two graves tower among the others. “They are my parents,” he tells us. From the side of the hill we see a man coming; he wears a dark green traditional dress and a turban; his face is disfigured. The tone of his voice is happy and cheerful; after the welcome rituals there are the cigarette rituals: I offer you one of mine and you offer me one of yours. Anna and I are greeted with a hand on the heart. He invites us for tea; we happily accept.

We climb again into the car only to drive the few meters between the top of the small hill and the gate of the pergola where the man with the turban welcomes us. We sit underneath the pergola, on a low step covered with rugs. The position is amazing: in front of us the whole valley opens up behind the silhouette of the small village cemetery. The sense of peacefulness is pervasive. There is no noise but the chatter of voices, the children playing. The man with the turban tells us that he is S.’s cousin and tells us the story of his disfigured face. Here in the village every man fought on the mountains against Sadddam. He was himself a peshmerga, which means freedom fighter or terrorist depending on who is reading this, and it literally translates as he who doesn’t fear death (and therefore fights for his freedom). He had an important role among peshmergas and was very well respected. He points his finger toward a faraway spot on the side of the Safin Mountain. “It is there that I have been shot. Two bullets. One went through the left leg and didn’t leave any consequence. The other entered underneath my chin and got out from my cheekbone taking my nose with it. I have been lucky!”

instead of his wife. She laughs again and we join in. S. and our host sit on two plastic chairs across from us on the steps where also the lady is sitting slightly far from us, and closer to the door. As time goes on and the conversation becomes more animated, several young men wearing dark clothes and with deep and inquisitive eyes come in. They all share the same hooked nose and wear a thin moustache. They come in and sit crosslegged on the ground all around us. “They are our sons,” says the peshmerga without a nose. Looking at them closely you can tell that they have all taken their nose from their mother. They are eight. And there are also eight daughters. The strong hands of the lady now acquire a whole new meaning.

Soon, it is time to go; they invite us to visit them again. It would, in fact, be very nice. Before reaching the car we turn for one more salaam. Hiding behind a door there are several girl’s faces; here is where the eight daughters we heard about were! We’re in the car again, now heading to the opposite side of the valley. The sky is preparing for dusk, the landscape takes on a warm orange shade. We reach the garden that, in fact, is half a mountain that faces both the valley and the vilWhile he tells us the story, a woman with strong lage. It is here that S. wants to build the house where he wants to find peace and quietness away hands, a covered head and a black dress comes. from his two wives and six children. They start We stand up to show her respect. A jokey conmeasuring the plot and gathering ideas. S. and his versation starts about our ages S. translates older brother, also wearing the traditional dress for us from Kurdish. The lady laughs. We ask why. The peshmerga and the gun at his waist, discuss with a friend the details, the orientation of the porch, the best spot without a nose has told S. to tell to watch the sunset. S. goes away for a minute us that she is his mother and comes back with a refrigerated picnic bag: pistachios and beer for everyone! The amazing contradictions of worlds that intertwine. There is one more thing that S. wants to show us before night comes. It is a pool of spring water that is part of the property; he tells us that it is

ground, underneath the seat where the feet brush, there are big, muddy puddles. In any case, a child with a stripy T-shirt is faster than us: he sits and starts swinging, he goes faster and faster. The seat has no back, he rolls down and falls straight into the puddle; his mom comes to the rescue. A little further down there is another one, it is white; the seats are rusty and hanging a bit, the chain doesn’t seem to be very reliable. I can’t resist: I sit and start swinging. I know that I shouldn’t. I am an adult woman and this is unbecoming behaviour: and yet I can’t resist. I slowly realise that all eyes in the playground are on me. I know and I don’t care. Swinging is liberating; I laugh and laugh, he takes pictures. We tell each other: this microscopic breaking of rules brings back to our mouths the taste of freedom and we laugh and we forget. I see in the distance a man with a badge pinned to his tie, he looks at us and slowly comes closer. He is coming I say. Nah, we are not doing anything wrong, he reFreedom is a Swing plies. October 31, 2009 The guy in charge of the playground comes by; he doesn’t talk to me but to him: we don’t underIt is Friday afternoon, a time that is dedicated to the family. The air is clean and fresh after the stand Kurdish. Mushkila. It is a problem, he tells us. rain, the park is crowded. Music blares from the loudspeakers, small groups of girls sit in the It is all right or maybe it is not all right at all, but grass and chat, timid couples hold hands. While we know it, freedom really is a swing. strolling around we decide to stop for a chat in the playground: parents sit on the benches looking at children running around and up and 15 good reasons to move to Erbil down slides and swings. He tells me: I cant resist, I need to have a go on January 18, 2010 the slide. - you like kebabs at 6 in the morning even if you I prepare my camera to take pictures. The slides are covered in mud; it rained and chil- are not drunk - you think it is a good idea to fix a laptop with a dren love to climb and challenge the slopes. hairdryer Let’s try the swings, I say. - you think that the answer to how are you is There is a green one; we get close but on the very old. There is a big tree clinging on a tiny piece of soil just above the spring. As S. tells us about his family, the sun starts to set. I look around. Under the tree by the spring, S.’s friend has rolled out his mat and started praying. Mecca is in the same direction as the horizon. The power of Nature adds a mystical tone to the situation, which touches even someone as sceptical as myself. S. tells us about his grandfather who was a powerful and well respected man, a fighter, the owner of the village. In the 1920’s he fought against the British mandate that wanted to conquer his land; he fought till the end, but didn’t win. S. tells us that if his grandfather would have accepted some compromises, their social status would now be different. His grandfather lost everything but his dignity. “Maybe he was right,” he says talking more to himself than to us. “It is not for us to know. History will tell to the next generations.”

thank you - you have a soft spot for sandstorms - you think that flairs are the latest fashion - you can’t leave without a thick moustache - you believe that picnics are the most amusing activity on earth - you fancy women wearing sequined polyester clothes and heavy make-up - you like to drive like drunk blindfolded sheep on acid - you use industrial strength air freshener as deodorant - you think the only decent building material is concrete - your word for food is bread and your word for drink is eat - you think pointy shoes are the way to the future - you think mountains are Kurds’ best friends - you sign all professional correspondence with beast regards Mountains and Contradictions January 30, 2010 Yesterday, I went to visit the Bestoon Cave on the Bradost Mountain. The cave, that according to legend is endless, was discovered in 1951, and it is one of the Modern Stone Age sites around Kurdistan. It was a nice feeling to know that I was in Neanderthal man’s house. Inside, along with the ancient stone stalagmites and stalactites, there were newer ones made of ice: transience and permanence one next to the other. It was very suggestive: the mountains here are so old they force you to rethink your sense of time. After visiting the caves, we continued roaming up and down the mountains: the snow added an extra air of tranquillity. Around lunch time, we stopped to have a bite on a quiet spot on the

side of the road with a stunning view of three different chains of mountains at the far end of the valley in front of us. A few minutes after we set up our picnic, a car honks and slows down. Nothing surprising about it because people here are always very curious about foreigners. Their call, though, was not a gesture of kindness; it was rather one of warning. Careful, landmines! they tell us. Not five minutes have passed when another car does the same. We look around and realise that we have parked the car by a landmine field: the red flags that signal it are slightly hidden by the trees. After a cold shiver passes through us all, the situation becomes the subject of several bad jokes, including the concern about where to pee after lunch considering no one wants to be blown up. It is fascinating how humour becomes a powerful means to face fear. We get back in the car and continue our exploration. We listen to a pretty unusual selection of songs, including a Hawaiian reggae tune that goes: you’ve got to live Hawaiian style... Nothing could be more strident than this in relation to the environment that surrounds us. The song actually begins the very moment we drive past another landmine field; this one is very big and is being prepared to be cleared. Inside the fence that hems the area, I see a black squirrel running around unconcerned. Just outside the fence there is a herd of wild horses. The soundtrack gives the scene a surreal twist, yet is seems to clearly reveal the sense of displacement I am feeling. There are things that seem so distant and yet they have become part of my daily life. This morning I went to look for some information to try and understand the situation a little better. All over Iraq

there are still 25 million unexploded landmines. In Kurdistan, which started a serious de-mining campaign in 2002, there are still 716 mined villages and 2,241 landmine fields. These figures make my head spin. Italy, it seems, found a way to make herself useful: in the late 1980’s, during the Iraq-Iran war, she was one of the main mine exporters to Iraq. Kurdish Classes February 4, 2010 A few weeks ago, I started taking Kurdish classes again. The attempt I made to learn the language at the beginning of last year dramatically failed and in the meantime, I only managed to pick up a few words here and there. Frustration at not being able to understand the culture of this place added to the difficulties of daily communications. I decided to start asking around and eventually managed to find a teacher. He is a student of Linguistics, comes from a very conservative family and has never shaken my hand since we first met. We have had five classes until now and we are having a really good time. One thing that we have in common is a deep passion for grammar. I, therefore, feel entitled to ask millions of questions on how language, syntax and the structure of words work. My favourite Kurdish word is now bo, which means “why”. I feel like a mixture of a three-year-old girl who is discovering the world and a six-year-old who is learning to describe it by carving words, letter after letter, in a notebook. This is me when we do dictation! My inhibitions, beginner’s mistakes and perfectionism make me think it will be a while before I actually manage to utter my first full sentence in public. The other day, B. asked me to translate a sentence from a book I looked

at the words, I knew them all, and with great pride I slowly started saying: “his brother is a girl” B. looked at me in disbelief and burst out laughing. I was too proud of having been able to recognise all the words to realise what I was saying. When I actually did realise, I got really embarrassed (that was not the most appropriate thing to say to a member of the Muslim brotherhood) and started laughing; it took a fair bit for us to stop laughing and get back to work. For your information, the correct translation was: “he is the girls brother”. One of the most fascinating discoveries so far is that, through the language, I am learning a lot about Kurdish culture. Last week we were studying phrasal verbs and B. was explaining to me how to construct the different tenses. It was a real moment of enlightenment: present and future are constructed in the same way, there is no difference. The explanation is very simple (yet dramatically profound): for Kurdish people the present IS the future. Never Forget Halabja March 16, 2010 On the 16th of March 1988 at 11 am, the city of Halabja, in the south of Iraqi Kurdistan, was attacked with chemical weapons by the Iraqi army. The operation was conceived by Saddam Hussein and conducted by Ali Hassan Al-Majid, better known since that day as Chemical Ali. Today, we have commemorated that event in Erbil. The city stopped for five minutes, the time it took, 22 years ago, to kill almost five thousand people. With the students, the guards, the teachers, we went out on the streets for five minutes of silence that was broken only by the sirens and the mournful lamentation of the muezzin.

to the ritual, and the spectators. I am with my Saddam Hussein has been prosecuted and confriends of the Metrography photo-agency; they demned for the execution of 48 dissidents in a tell me to cover my head and follow them. Evvillage in the south of Iraq, he has been executed eryone turns to look at me: I am the only wombefore the trial for genocide could be completed. an on the celebration ground. I look up: women and children are outside; they stand on the hill by the pitch. Dervishes I get out and join them. The drums beat faster; May 13, 2010 the dervishes follow the rhythm with their bodies: they frantically bob their torso, heads and Travelling in the back of a pick-up truck fills hair long hair until they enter a kind of trance. Two with dust and thoughts with wind. A.K. plays women, a young and an old one, sit cross-legged the tar (a little Persian guitar) while we travel at the side of the road and also follow the music and people in the cars that pass us smile and by shaking their bodies; they seem lost in anwave. A musician and a foreigner in the back of other world; other women come to assist them a pick-up truck are not too common a combito make sure their heads don’t get uncovered. nation around here. We go southeast, along the Iranian border, to Barzinja. It looks like a clusThe Kasnazani order is one of those that practer of anonymous houses rather than a village: tices self-flagellation as a way to achieve mystia football pitch, a big mosque, empty fields and cal ecstasy. The music plays faster, the dervishes nothing more. This is our destination. We are stand in a circle, the circle grows larger and a here for the yearly festival of the Kasnazani Oryoung red-haired man reaches the centre. der of the Sufi Qadiya sect founded in the 11th It is Khalid Konapowsi, a 25-year-old dervish century. The members of the sect belong to the from Iran. He is the core of the whole ritual. Barzinji tribe and live between Iraq and Iran and Once he is at the centre of the circle, one of the all gather for this occasion. elders hands him a sword, the other dervishes step back to give It is long since I have been fascinated with derhim space. Following the beat of the drums, vishes and Sufi spirituality. My first experience Khalid starts hitting his back more and more of their celebrations was a night many years ago violently as the music plays faster. The crowd is in Lahore, when the exotic image in my mind mesmerised and I am with them; nobody manof the swirling dervish in a white dress and a ages to take their eyes away from Khalid’s back. halo of purity and sanctity was substituted with There is no blood. Khalid goes back to join the a more tangible form of mysticism: of sweat and other men, his body moving in harmony with earth rather than incense and spirit. The enthe others. One of the elders calls him again to counter with Kurdish dervishes is similar and the centre. This time he holds a skewer in his also as intense. hand. Khalid kneels down to allow the old man to pierce his tongue with the skewer. People hold Celebrations take place in the football pitch. their breath. There is no noise but the wind and There is a shade to protect the Sheikh and the the drums. There elders from the sun. At the centre of the pitch is no blood. there are the drum players, the participants

The ritual ends and the crowd moves away to join their families for the picnic. I am speechless; the sound of the drums is still in my ears. In the mosque nearby there is the tomb of the founder of the order, where I get to meet Khalid face-to-face. He looks like a boy and has an ecstatic smile, there is no trace of pain on his face. Francesca is a compulsive traveller, researcher and lecturer. She holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and a Post Doctorate in Urban Studies and has lectured in the fields of Cultural Geography and Social Sciences in different places: Holland, Italy, Sweden, Pakistan, Palestine among others. Francesca has contributed to various journals. magazines such as Third Text, Abitare, Domus, Africa e Mediterraneo.


When Sarovar Leaves by Deepika Arwind He takes all longing with him. The cacti still stoically reject the water can, the cat’s otherwise-searching eyes are now empty, and the rubber doormat -- Welcome -- is disheveled in its irony. The light could be a little less defiant, maybe slant in with a sense of occasion. It doesn’t make sense to have a gramophone player anymore. Antiques require someone to recognize you are special to have discovered and nurtured them; they are a form of validation. The bookshelf seems a waste. Everything reads like a telegram from my childhood:

bare, starved, and always signaling danger. Pardon this dissection of the things I own. I am sorry for the living room. Look, I’m aware its been months since he left I can’t tell how many. I know should know. Although, it couldn’t have been too long ago that he sat across me, waiting for something to happen, something that was far away but big enough to electrify the air that moved sparingly between us in this hot month of April. That something never happened -- whatever he imagined it to be. He would continue rocking in my decade-old chair (one I bought in an otherworldly fit of extravagance). On that chair he was something of an old soul, waiting to sermonize to his only audience member. In time he’d recite the only English poem he knew by heart: Derek Walcott’s Love After Love. Sit. Feast On Your Life. *********** Sarovar walks into Shalom Bar in Thamel, his hand around a man’s waist. The man he is with -- I can’t tell if he’s Indian or Nepali -- is bald and holds Sarovar with his slender fingers. They walk in assured, as lovers often are. My friend, in appreciation of my growing smile as they

enter, makes eye contact with them in drunken bravado. A few minutes after their cozy occupation of the booth in front of us, I begin to worry he is staring at my crow’s feet, and I instantly cover the side of my eyes. A few more beers later, and as our early enthusiasm has clearly foreordained, the two men slide into our booth, chattering in Hindi assuming we understand it fully. There is a moment later at the Kathmandu Inn, after his urgent and my awkward lovemaking (he preferred calling it that) when he asks me brightly in Hindi: Does it bother you that I was with a man? And perhaps it is because I don’t reply -- or in spite of it -that we are on our way to Pokhara the next day, buying hiking gear in the drizzle, sure that we will part ways on the third day of our trek, when I return to Kathmandu. And what could have ended in Ghandruk or Ghorepani along a rainy Himalayan trail, or back in Thamel’s serpentine tourist markets, or even at the Kathmandu airport, finds its way to Delhi, onto a train called Rajdhani Express beating its way through the country’s capitals, pulling over at Bangalore: Sarovar in the South, a chapter I bookmark to read only once. Sar-o-var, I say to him, welcome to my home. *********** I am back around 5 p.m. on most days. Everything is as spotless as I left it. The living room smells of chicken cooked in cashew gravy, and sometimes, fresh mango juice. I find Sarovar on the bed, always writing, a

cigarette in hand. He puts it out quickly like a teenager would, and promises to smoke only in the balcony. We discuss the day loosely -how I thought I could use Bob Dylan to ease my students into Dylan Thomas or how I hiccupped for three hours after lunch -and we inhabit my sprawling bed almost wholly, entangling our bodies while the power comes and goes. Then Sarovar brings out his flawed ghazals, or an innocuous poem about nature in Hindi. We fight this brokenness of our communication, and often enough we are triumphant: I understand what he has written. But I never tell him that I don’t quite see what he is writing about. I want to tell him that his daily speech, the everyday prose that he so generously delivers to the cat and me often leaves us both stunned, and wanting more. *********** Every time I say to him that The World Is A Small Place -- after I run into an estranged college friend at Koshy’s or a colleague at Fabindia -- he says the world is unimaginably large, but that English is a small place. It’s a wonderful little observation, I tell him, but these things are more complicated than they seem. He asks me: What things? What are these things you always talk about? *********** One Friday night I take him to a pub we’ve begun to frequent. I like the music, and I run into fewer students here these days -- I suppose college-goers are not charmed by it anymore. Sarovar doesn’t drink beer, so he

goes to the bar next door, drinks a whiskey or two, and comes back to me languishing near the pub’s only table fan. I remember us walking out of there engaged in a loud conversation in both Hindi and English. He is mocking my Hindi; I’m laughing in escalating pitches. He is mocking my laughter. He asks a man in a yellow T-shirt for a light. The man lends him a blue lighter, with the photograph of a rose. I remember picking it up later that night. When it doesn’t work, Sarovar jokingly says to him in Hindi: What man? The lighter is useless. He laughs and goes across the road to light up at a cigarette shop. The man seems irked, like he doesn’t understand Sarovar, and walks away. I go up to use the dingy bathroom while Sarovar smokes. When I’m back, he is writhing on the ground, his hands on his stomach, his nose bleeding. People are beginning to gather around him. Man in yellow and two other burly boys zip by in a small white car. *********** When Sarovar leaves, I don’t hear a thing. It is a graceful, early Sunday morning exit. *********** We sit up all through Friday night with an ice pack on his nose and a hot-water bag under his back. We don’t talk. Not once. On Saturday I order lots of food, and buy him his favourite whiskey. I massage his back. I apologize. But he says I didn’t know why he was hit: it was because I don’t know anything about people. He says

I don’t know anything about him; I am the stupidest person he has ever met. And he is just as stupid to believe he could live in this city. We are two really stupid people with a passion for each other’s stupidity. I have so many things to say to him, so much I’m sure I can explain, but I let him go on. Meanwhile, I lodge a reluctant police complaint about Friday night. I call a few friends and, on their suggestion, drop the idea of going after man in yellow. I try calming Sarovar with music and anecdotes from my childhood. The next morning he must have been up before dawn packing his backpack, the only thing he came to this city with. He doesn’t make a sound. Im fast asleep -- even though I may have heard the door click lightly. For the next three days, I stare at the blue lighter with the rose. I hang on to my cell phone for any news of Sarovar. He has switched his off. I still call him frantically. I don’t have any other number on which I can contact him. I want to speak to his family, or the man I met him with in Thamel, or anyone who knows him, just so I can authenticate my experience with Sarovar, who was a living person. He finally calls me from Itarsi, where he has decided to stay for a few days, before he goes back home to Dehradun for some months. He says he has had the best lemonade in the country at the Itarsi railway station, and that he met an old poet on the train but didn’t like his work very much. He says he cannot speak about anything else. He thanks me. He says he will keep in touch. ***********

Deepika is a writer and journalist based in Bangalore, India. Her poetry and prose have appeared in magazines and journals such as Himal Southasian and Pratilipi. She also does theatre in Bangalore.


A Special Lunch by Saudha Kasim

The newspapers were full of grim news about unseasonal rain that could ruin Keralas mango crop and a string of murders of lonely, senile women by their caretakers. Devi hadn’t read a newspaper since leaving her house after her husband’s death. Her son and his wife had decided that they needed all the rooms and couldn’t spare space for the grieving widow. For two years she roamed, Bedouin-like, from one relative’s kitchen to another. One day, breaking routine, she walked into the living room in a cousin’s house and met Mohammad. He liked her calm manner and asked her to take care of Amina Kutty, his mother, who lived all alone. He promised a good wage, good food and a proper bed. Taking care of the old woman had meant five long years of staying awake half the night, helping her squat on the toilet, cleaning her stinking spittoon and washing her urine stained clothes. Devi, in this house, had become filthy. She had also forgotten things. Songs praising

the Goddess Mookambika that she’d sung as a child, the names of months and stars. Time was now divided according to the five calls for prayer Fajr, Zohar, Asar, Maghrib and Ishaa. When the muezzin’s voice came to her from across fields of rice and coconut palms, she went into the small bedroom where Amina Kutty, milky-eyed and wrinkled, lay on the bed. Devi woke her saying, Umma, it’s time for your prayers. Amina Kutty struggled to get up and go to the bathroom to do her ablutions. She accepted Devi’s arm while going in. But when coming out, having cleansed her face, her ears, her hands, and her feet, she refused to let Devi touch her. I am pure now, she said, if you touch me, I’ll become unclean. Amina Kutty limped back to her bed, climbed on it, adjusted her veil and started muttering her prayers. Devi left the room and went into the kitchen garden. Her grey hair glinted beneath the strong March sun as she walked to the mango trees by the outhouse. She knew her quarry was hiding there, the only cool place near the house. She heard a rustle at the foot of the giant mango tree. She crept up to a shaking pile of leaves. There it was, white as Amina Kutty’s veil and just as soft. She pounced and caught it. There was a hard struggle and Devi remembered when she’d let go of the old woman in the bath. Devi had let her thrash and scream for a few seconds before catching her and saying, Calm down Umma, you’re not

drowning. Amina Kutty had clawed her arm and whispered, You infidel bitch. Devi felt the quickening heartbeat, the flutter of fear in the warm bundle of flesh and stroked the nervous creature just as she had stroked Amina Kutty’s fragile, brittle neck that day. Their fear melted; they became quiet and submissive.

Devi knew what the old woman was thinking: the duck was not halal. Prayers had not been said when it was slaughtered. And yet it smelled so good. Amina Kutty picked a piece of fried duck and put it into her mouth. As she chewed it, her face relaxed and a smile flickered on it.

Impure. Infidel. Filth. She twisted and snapped the long neck.

Outside, the muezzin was calling for afternoon prayers. The two women ate on.

At lunch that day, Amina Kutty sniffed the delicious smell wafting towards her and asked, What’s this?

Saudha studied architecture and graphic design. She wasn’t very good at carving three dimensional space so chose to fool around with lines, type and Pantone colour cards. Her short stories have been published in online journals such as Eclectica and Pratilipi. She lives in Cochin, Kerala.

A treat. Fried duck? Yes. Mohammad bought it last week. But Yes, umma?


Jeff Kendall’s Boys Come of Age by Joseph Farley Marshall Dugan was hiding behind a buckboard. He snuck a peek at the shack made of unseasoned pine boards. The place looked like a strong wind could blow it over, but he couldn’t wait for the breeze to pick up. There were three men inside wanted for murder: Jefferson Kendall and his sons Tyler and Pierce. Dugan glanced at the men in his posse. All the men he had deputized were in place, hidden behind the remains of fence rail, scattered trees, and the ridge to the east

of the shack. Cameron Creek gurgled behind the shack - at the bottom of a ten foot drop. Dugan was expecting a shoot out, but he hoped to avoid one. If he couldn’t, he’d like to delay it long enough to get some of his men into the creek bed to cut off any escape. He didn’t see any horses, but he knew the Kendalls had to have horses close by.

“But it’s up to a judge and jury to convict you.” He tried to get a bead on the old man, but he couldn’t.

Dugan shouted loud enough for the men inside the shack to hear.

“I see two of them out front and at least one around the side. I don’t think they’ve got behind us yet. The horses still in the gulch?”

“Jeff. We got you this time. You’ve been shooting up this territory for near twenty years now leaving a lot of graves behind you. But we got you now. You killed Tom the barber in broad daylight in front of witnesses. You’re gonna swing for sure Jeff, but, if you give up peacefully now, it might go easier on your boys.”

Inside the shack, Jefferson Kendall kept low to the ground, sneaking looks out through the cracks between the boards. He spat, and whispered to his boys.

Tyler replied, “They’re hidden in the cottonwoods.” “Well, “ the elder Kendall said wryly, “They won’t be much use to us if the marshal’s men find ‘em. We got to sneak out before they get around us.”

Dugan didn’t really believe the judge would be any more lenient on Tyler or Pierce then their father. So what if one was barely sixteen and the other only a year older. So what if they were thick in the head. They’d caused a lot of harm in their short lives. They’d shot the barber too, at their father’s urging, destroying the man’s knees before Jeff put a shot through his head. Still, it was worth a try. Dugan didn’t want anyone in the posse to get hurt unnecessarily.

“How we gonna do that Pa?” Pierce asked.

The old man shouted through a broken window covered with tatters of newspapers. “Marshall. I never shot no one who didn’t deserve it.”

The room grew silent while the Kendalls studied their enemies positions. Pierce interrupted the silence.

“That’s not the way I see it,” Dugan replied.

Jefferson Kendall looked at his younger son. He still found it hard to believe that this tall broad shouldered youth was his son. The old man was thin, short and wiry. He was also a lot meaner and more than a shade brighter than his boys, especially Pierce. “I’m thinkin’ on it Pierce, but I gots to think fast.”

“Pa?” he asked timidly.

“What?” his father replied. “Did you mean it when you said you ain’t never shot nobody that didn’t deserve it?” Jefferson Kendall looked at his son as if he were something that had come out of the wrong end of a horse. “You know I meant it,” he said. “I never say nuthin’ I don’t mean.” “That barber,” Pierce said. “He deserved it, right?” The old man was angry now. “Of course he did.” He pointed at his face. “You see these cuts. That man was tryin’ to kill me.” Tyler interrupted, “Maybe he was just nervous.” “Nervous? the old man guffawed. What makes you say that?” “Well,” Tyler said thoughtful like. “He looked kind of scared when you came in. His hands were sort of shaky-like.” “Dang,” the old man said. “Who ever heard of a barber being nervous about giving a shave. And if his hands were shaky he had no business being a barber. That razor is sharp. God knows how many customers he’d killed before I came along.” Pierce thought out loud, “Maybe it was the wanted poster. The face did look something like you.” “That poster showed me when I had a beard.

I don’t have a beard anymore.” The old man growled angrily. “It was just murder, plain and simple. That man just thought he could slit my throat and get away with it cause I was in his store in his chair. The thought of it makes me sick. What’s this world coming to when a man can’t trust a barber to give him a decent shave.” “What about Ma?” Pierce asked. “What about her?” “Did she deserve it?” The old man rolled his eyes. “We’ve been through this before. I told you, she burned the dinner. She did that just to get me angry, and when I slugged her, she had the nerve to throw the frying pan at me. Nearly took off my head. That thing is heavy. It could have killed me. It was self defense, plain and simple.” “But why six bullets?” “She was still movin’ weren’t she?” the old man snorted. “Sometimes I think you boys just want to be orphans for real, want to see your poor father shot or strung up from a tree just for defending himself.” “No Pa,” Tyler said. “We don’t want nuthin’ bad to happen to you, it just sometimes we miss Ma.” “Hell,” the old man replied. “I miss her too. But a man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. The world can turn on you real fast.”

Tyler chimed in, “And Old Man Keeler. He The shack grew silent until Tyler spoke again. could barely walk. What about him?” “What about Kevin Tucker. Did he deserve it?” “And what about...” Jefferson Kendall was exasperated. Here they were, holed up in a shack, likely to get shot any moment and here were his two fool sons asking fool questions. “You were the one who done told me he stole your marbles.” “I know Pa, but I didn’t know you were going to shoot him. I mean, he was only nine and he was my best friend and all.” “He may have been young, but he would have growed up if I hadn’t stopped him. A man’s gotta stand up against thieves and bullies. Don’t matter how old theys is. If I hadn’t shot little Tucker and his family then, they’d have just come back for more stealing and thieving later, if not then, then when the boy got older. You didn’t want your friend breaking in on us while we were asleep, killing us in our bed and rapin’ your mother, did you?” “Hell no.”

Pierce was cut off by his father who was glowing hot now. “I done told yous before. They was all trying to kill me. Now lets have an end of this nonsense.” The boys grew quiet. Jefferson Kendall looked at the men outside. They had moved closer to the house. These fool boys of his could be the death of him. If they were going to make a break for it, it couldn’t wait much longer. “Boys, “ he said. “I’ve decided what to do. We ain’t got much of a chance, but we can pull it off if we all do what I say.” The boys nodded yes. “Now,” Pierce. I want you to come to the back wall with me and help me pull off a few of these boards. As soon as there’s room for a man to squeeze through, I want you to start firing at those deputies. But, if any one gets as close as that stump out there, you don’t wait for my word. You just open fire.”

“That’s right. And that’s why when I heard little Tucker done stole your marbles I got my gun and did unto others before they done do Pierce was a strong boy and the wood was unto me and mines.” half rotted. The boards pulled apart easily. The old man signaled to Tyler, who opened It grew quiet, but only briefly. Pierce spoke. fire with his rifle. Pierce started to pull him“What about Aunt Sarah? And the Widow self through the hole, but his father pulled Huntley?” him back.

“You help your brother. Try to pin down the men on the ridge. I’ll go get the horses. I’ll whistle for you when I’m back.” Pierce said, “Okay Pa”. He grabbed his rifle. Tyler was shooting out the window. Pierce punched his fist through a rotted board and began firing out the hole. They both fired like jack rabbits, and actually brought down a few men, how badly wounded they didn’t know. They were running low on bullets. Tyler asked his brother, “How long should it take to get to the horses?” “Five minutes or less.” “It has to have been longer than that. Come on. They must have spotted Pa. Maybe he’s wounded or pinned down. We gotta help.” Pierce followed his big brother through the hole in the wall. They jumped down the gulch and rolled nearly into the creek. They could hear hoof beats and gunfire. The gunfire was behind them and to the their left, but the hoof beats were to their right. Pierce and Tyler looked up and saw clearly as their father rode off on his horse, leading their two horses behind him. “Pa,” Pierce yelled. “Wait for us.” He began running after the horses. The old man showed no signs of slowing down. Tyler’s face was red. “I can’t believe it. He’s run off on us and stole our horses.” “Pa!” Pierce cried. “Don’t leave us!” He fell on

his knees in the creek bed, soaking his wool pants. Tears were rolling down his face. Tyler pulled his brother to his feet. “No time for that,” he growled. He was panting himself. It felt like the sky was closing up on him. He was drowning inside. “We gotta run and run quick. If we somehow manage to get away, we can settle things with Pa another day.” The brothers ran as fast as they could while weaving through the cottonwoods and looking over their shoulders. If they survived this day, there’d be some growin’ up to do. Joseph edited Axe Factory for 24 years. His books include For The Birds, Suckers. Longing For The Mother Tongue and The True Color of You.


A Pinch of Salt (excerpt from Chronicles of the Kitchen) by Diya Kohli This salt in the saltcellar I once saw in the salt mines. I know you won’t believe me, but it sings,

salt sings, the skin of the salt mines sings with a mouth smothered by the earth. from Ode to Salt by Pablo Neruda These humble, modest grains rose from the sea and went forth and multiplied. Sedimented, mined, dried and boiled, the earth yielded its salt painfully, grain by grain. This “white gold” marked the beginnings of our culinary history and rescued our meats from decline and decay. Salt has been referred to precisely 35 times in the Bible. Eating habits in Islam recommend salt before and after every meal. Wars have been fought over salt. Slaves have been bought and sold for salt. Salt has been taxed. Man over many centuries has levied the tax and has revolted against it in turns. Roman soldiers were paid in salt and well, the modern word “salary” has its convoluted roots somewhere at the bottom of a salt cellar. I could put little piles of the different types of salt aside for every day of the week for the next whole year and I would still have some left over. There are salts for every reason, Salts that cause treason and Salts that there are rubbed into a lesion. They come from every country. Seeping out of the cracks of the earth, these Celtic salts, French sea salts, Hawaiian sea salts, glittery African salts, Italian salts pour themselves

out over the maps of the world. There are coarse salts that cling to the tongue after the meal has long wound its way down your food pipe. There are flake salts that sprinkle themselves over delicate gourmet dishes like light snowfall on a crisp and bright winter day. There are table salts, which like marching bands, gather together in symmetrical crystals in their mass produced jars and do a little functional jig over our daily bread. There are sea salts and smoked salts. These are creatures of romance that walk with your perfect cut of meat or richly exotic farm-fresh salad leaves and vegetables like lovers in the rain sharing a single umbrella, revelling in the moment of complete togetherness. Just like a brilliant auteur crafting the work of his lifetime out of seeming nothingness, man in a flash of genius excavated the pink Peruvian salt from a nearly inaccessible spring deep in the mountains of Peru, which was then carried down the slopes as bricks on the backs of furry llamas. There are sociologically accurate salts, which, by their very presence define what is kosher and what isn’t. Then there is the wildly exotic caviar of salts, fleur de sel, which is hand-harvested in special ponds and scraped off before it can float down to the bottom, a feat as arduous as the quest for the Holy Grail. There are the esoteric dead sea salts, salts that share space with blood-red hibiscus flowers and vanillascented candles lining the edges of cavernous marble baths. An exercise in luxury. And there are of course the legends of sea water, shipwrecked sailors, thirst and halluci-

nations. Most of it made famous by salt. And some of it by Samuel T. Coleridge whose lines echo through my mind every time I’m on a boat. Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. The fact that two-thirds of our planet is covered with this salty undrinkable sea water is not a very cheerful thought. Salt is an experiment in lexicology from the lively wit of a notable Athenian to an indicator of class dynamics. Salt is a salve for the digestive glands from the old fashioned salt water potions to the modern day flavoured fruit salts. Salt is a powerful magical charm, from basic protection against the evil eye to extensive use in african hoodoo practices. There is the salt that delights when it is rubbed on small pieces of raw mango and secretly gorged on hot summer afternoons there is the salty ham and chorizo which complements every sandwich, salad and gourmet meal. There is the salt that is applied on loitta or bombil fish which is dried on lines as the wind carries its powerful smell to the corners of the city. This rather acquired taste favoured by Bombaywallahs and East Bengalis and presented as pickles or curries for the colonizer and Anglophile. There is the salt I have carried with me in packets as my personal talisman against vampiric leeches. There is the salt in my tin that I have every once in a while mistaken for snow-white castor sugar. And thus, I have had a salty chocolate pudding, a lovely vanilla cake dusted

with fine salt, a salty chocolate and peanut butter milkshake and many cups of perfectly brewed fine Darjeeling tea with a teaspoon of salt. There is the salt that sits innocuously in a battered china saltcellar on my table, which inspired me to write this piece. This salt changes its consistency almost daily with the weather. Nearly every morning there ensues a Herculean struggle at the breakfast table. Me on one side trying to get a few grains out through the five evenly spaced holes and the salt cellar on the other, a hardened and formidable opponent resisting at every step. I have never been successful at getting a perfect uniform sprinkle out of my salt cellar. I always stared enviously at the waiters in restaurants who would sprinkle salt over my fresh salad with a deft flick of their wrist. The chefs on TV would dust their beautifully crafted concoctions with salt, ever so elegantly while I sat across the television set working myself into a nervous frenzy trying to extract even a few grains of salt from the dratted shaker. This old china salt container has some great nostalgic value for my mum and thus it was never discarded and thus, my travails continue. I subjected the salt container to much violence and yet, it stood intact and unyielding. I applied home remedies to it by putting in a few grains of uncooked rice to keep it dry and powdery. And yet, the salt stayed inside never to see light of day. I tried wrestling. Brute force achieves little and the beheaded salt cellar vomited all its contents on my perfectly fried egg. I tried being gentle and tapped it lightly while poaching my egg. And all I got was a bland egg for my efforts.

The salt itself had become a wet and soggy lump that was clogging every opening of the shaker. The only reason I saved this salt cellar from the dustbin was because I realized it had character. It taught me the value of patience and it made me appreciate the small things in life. Every once in a blue moon, there was the perfect egg with the right amount of salt, the perfect cucumber sandwiches with the perfect amount of salt and the perfect crispy Aloo Bhaja (fried potato strips) lightly dusted with salt. These rare moments made precious because of their scarcity. It was a perfect moment when me, my eggs, my cucumbers, my Aloo Bhaja, my salt and my salt cellar existed in complete and beauteous harmony with the larger motions of the planet. My little homage to salt is dedicated to such occasional moments of truth. Diya is an editor, a whimsical cook and an armchair traveller who would love to eat her way through the cities of the world. She has written some stuff that is hidden away in a journal under her bed. On good days she writes food stories at Chronicles of the Kitchen..


The 9 Greatest Serial Killer Nicknames by Michael Frissore The world has seen a hell of a lot of serial killers. With most comes an appropriate nickname, usually coined by the media, but sometimes used by the killer himself (or herself). A lot of these nicknames are boring. Every stupid nurse who murders a bunch of his or her patients is labeled “The Angel of Death”. There are plenty of those. It must be hard to stare at their blank faces and not snuff ‘em. Still, how about a new nickname for one of these ghouls, like the “Convalescent Killer” or “The Pillow Talk Slayer”? Then there’s the simple practice of taking the area the murderer focused on and adding “killer” to it, such as “The Green River Killer” or “The Baton Rouge Serial Killer.” Well, in that case, you’d best be hoping a second killer doesn’t one day pop up in those places, because he’ll be nothing but a sequel: The Green River Killer II. Electric Boogaloo. Then there’s the plain silly. William Heirens was labeled “The Lipstick Killer” because he wrote a message in lipstick at one of the crime scenes. Boy, I’ll bet he regretted that once he heard what people were calling him. I’ll bet he was made fun of back at the serial killer headquarters - “Hey, it’s the Mascara Murderer!” “Watch out! Here comes the Rouge Ripper!” What about Colin Ireland, the Gay Slayer? His name came from his choosing homosexuals as his victims, but it sure sounds a lot like he’s the gay one. You also had Gerard

John Schaefer, who snatched up the nickname “Florida Sex Beast” before Ted Bundy even had a chance. And Jerry Brudos, who had the awful, creepy nickname, “The ShoeFetish Slayer.” There was also Altemio Sanchez, “The Bike Path Rapist.” Well, I don’t care if the word rapist” follows it, “Bike Path” makes you sound like a nine-year-old. You were just skipping along, killing people while on your paper route. There are also the many beasts, monsters, and vampires. But these are the nine greatest nicknames enjoyed by the world’s serial killers. 9. Nannie Doss - The Giggling Granny/The Jolly Black Widow You would think that Nannie Doss was a completely likeable woman. What’s not to like about a grandmother who’s always laughing and baking apple pies with five tablespoons of rat poison baked in? Doss may have been a bit of a piker in only murdering family, including four husbands, her two children, her mother, two sisters, a grandson and a nephew. This puts her only a little above Andrea Yates, for Pete’s sake. Anyone can kill family. Most of us think about it all the time. But she did have not one, but two great nicknames, and I don’t mean the Fran Drescheresque name “Nannie.” Between her “Giggling Granny” moniker and “The Jolly Black Widow,” why has there never been a movie made about this silly woman? She was also given the name “Arsenic Annie, which

would make one hell of a musical. Doss died in prison from leukemia in 1965. Wasn’t so funny then, was it, Nannie? 8. The Zodiac Killer Oh, sure, you might think of astrology as incredibly silly, what with the horoscopes, or horrible scopes, always appearing right below the latest Cathy cartoon, but was there ever as cool a thing as the puzzles the Zodiac left for police in San Francisco in the late 1960s? You might not think much of the zodiac. I mean, it does seem just a step above being The New York Times Crossword Killer or The Dear Abby Slayer, but this guy made it work. And the fact that he was never captured only adds to the mystique. If the San Francisco media had just called him “The Murdering Ass with All the Stupid Symbols,” he wouldn’t be nearly as romanticized as he is today. 7. Dennis Rader BTK He of the very chantable, pro wrestling-type nickname. Just don’t call him “the Bind, Torture and Kill Killer.” This makes him the serial killer equivalent of ATM Machine and PIN Number. Like Mr. Zodiac, BTK evaded police from his very first murder in 1974 all the way until 2005. He was also known for writing letters to police and the media. Had the Kansas man not written again in 2004, he might still be at large. But how cool is it to be a serial killer with a nickname consisting only of letters, especially when those letters stand

for what they stand for? No wonder he wrote again after all those years and was arrested months later. 6. David Berkowitz - the Son of Sam He’s been glorified in song and film. They even named a serial killer law after him. He was one of the lucky murderers who nicknamed himself and had the name stick. Berkowitz murdered at least six people in New York City in the mid-70s, leaving behind letters that referred to himself as “The Son of Sam,” Sam being his neighbor Sam Carr, whose Labrador retriever Harvey, Berkowitz claimed, was possessed by a demon and had commanded that Berkowitz kill. This led to many questions at the time, such as how this made him Sam Carr’s son, and why did they never question this evil dog? I mean he was at least as culpable as Manson was in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Didn’t anyone ever think that this Sam guy named the dog Harvey after the six-foot white rabbit who commanded Elwood P. Dowd to kill? Dowd never bought Harvey’s story, but Berkowitz was just too gullible. The weird thing was that the two actual sons of Sam Carr were each dead by 1980, one from an apparent suicide, the other in a car accident. Berkowitz is still in prison, where he has found Jesus, God bless him. 5. Peter Stumpp - Werewolf of Bedburg You may never have heard of Stumpp, who supposedly committed his crimes in Ger-

many circa the 1580s. Apparently he was a wealthy farmer with a couple of children, and he may have had an incestuous relationship or two somewhere along the way, with both a distant relative and his own daughter. But that last part is easily forgivable since Stumpp was a practitioner of black magic. He even had a magic belt given to him by Satan himself, that, when worn, turned him into a mighty, vicious wolf, Hence his name, “the Werewolf of Bedburg.” From there the legend gets a little crazy. Stumpp was an insatiable bloodsucker of everything from humans to goats and sheep. He confessed (albeit under threat of torture) to killing and devouring 14 children, one being his own son, plus two pregnant women and their fetuses. Oh, and he had sex with a succubus, the lucky bastard. For his crimes Stumpp was brutally executed. All of this may seem a bit harsh, but what else was there to do in Germany in 1580? Centuries later there was Albert Fish, the Werewolf of Wysteria, but that just sounds like he was a character on Desperate Housewives, killing people is a very silly fashion. 4. Nikolai Dzhumagaliev - Metal Fang Okay, so you have a Russian serial killer. Already pretty cool, right? But this one has white metal false teeth. It’s already the stuff of graphic novels! But wait, theres more! He’s a cannibal, see, and he murders women with an axe, then serves them as dinner to all of his friends! And his name? Metal Fang! It was Kazakhstan in the early 1980s, and

Dzhumagaliev was having a great ole time with all the hacking and cannibalizing until his snitchy, buttinsky friends found a human head and some intestines in his refrigerator and ratted him out to the cops. Like many slashers, the grand total of kills for ole Nikolai ranges from the confirmed seven to perhaps as many as 100. Needless to say, Dzhumagaliev was found to be completely insane and was placed in a psychiatric hospital. He escaped in 1989 and eluded capture until 1991. Then they released him in 1994! To this day he’s a free man and living in Eastern Europe with relatives who check their fridge and freezer regularly.

did the press give him the nickname “the Moscow Butcher?” Nope. “The Monster of Moscow?” Don’t be silly. Due to his thick neck and pasty skin, and just his overall despicable bulk, he became “The Hippopotamus.” There were some who called him “The Balashikha Ripper,” but once the hippo moniker started going around, this commie might as well have been trying the eat marbles with his mouth controlled by little children.

3. The Cleveland Torso Murderer This is a tricky one because it sounds like he traveled to various circuses killing men billed as “The Human Torso,” like Prince Randian on the cult film Freaks.

1. Cayetano Santos Godino - The Big Eared Midget If U.S. cities were more like Buenos Aires and Moscow and gave serial killers awful names, rather than cool ones, we might just see less and less of them.

Also known as “The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run,” the CTM was also never caught. In fact, most of his victims were Jane and John Does. The official body count is 12, all during the mid 1930s, which includes the lead detective in the case. But he could have murdered as many as 40 during a 30-year span, for all anybody truly knows. Per the nickname, most of the victims were beheaded, and their torsos were often cut in half. The inability of famous detective Eliot Ness to capture CTM cut Ness’s career short. 2. Sergei Ryakhovsky - The Hippopotamus The Russian-born Ryakhovsky murdered at least 19 people between 1988 and 1993, but

King Hippo, who was also a necrophiliac, was supposed to face a firing squad in 1995, but apparently he was too easy a target. He’s still serving life in a maximum-security prison.

This little fella was born in 1896 in the capital city of Argentina. At just 16 years of age he began setting buildings on fire and murdering children. Did the people of the city start calling him “The Buenos Aires Killer?” Heck, no. Due to his small stature and large ears, he was called “petiso ore judo,” or “big eared midget.” He died in prison in 1944. But don’t cry for him. He’s number one on this silly list. Michael’s chapbook Poetry is Dead won the 2008 Coatlism Book Prize. His work has appeared in over 60 publications in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. He lives in Arizona with his wife and son.

photo essay

I’ve lived a quarter of my life rarely dreaming. I felt done in; Seemed to have forgotten what it was to dream. A dream not dreamt is a life not lived. I dream of busy days, clear nights. I dream of clever takes on forks and knives. The plot thickens Do you care?

My dreams are born and broken, Dreams torn and forgotten, lead to nothing. My window’s dark and grey My chair rests and my towel comforts my dreams soaked by night, dry by morning. This is me dreaming, My reality, I am living my dream. My dream is a safe-house out in the cold wilderness. miles from nowhere.

dreams of my own

Zishaan is a Mumbai-based photographer whose work has featured in The Times, NY Magazine, Private Magazine, The Sun, The Australian, and BusinessWeek among others. He was the stills photographer for the movie 3 Idiots. This essay is an excerpt from a photo book that he is currently working on.


cturn al

At a certain time in my life I was suffering from insomnia. I walked the streets

of Delhi with my camera in the dead of night. There are certain nocturnal creatures that still do their business at this hour, lurking around shady corners of a tired city trying to sleep. For some people, the public spaces of the city become their bedroom and they perform ingenious tricks to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Like the migrant ricksaw puller who balances himself on his ricksaw. Or the drunkard who sleeps under a parked van to avoid the street light falling on his face. .

The night changes the activities of certain people. I used to live near the Mool-

chand flyover and almost everyday, I passed by some transvestites waiting at the traffic junction. They’d ask money from commuters and as night fell, they would wait by the sidewalk for customers. Once, I happened to get into a conversation with one of them; she first thought that I was also a customer until I pulled out my camera. I asked her if she actually manages to get customers here as people would normally go to a place like GB Road to fulfill their sexual needs. She laughed and told me that I was a novice in these matters, much unlike her permanent customer who was also married, for whom she was waiting that particular night. After this, as I pulled out my camera she chased me away. As I was running, an autoricksaw driver laughed and shouted at me saying I shouldnt take panga with the Raat ki Rani.

Another time, I became pally with a bunch of boys in a slum area in

Delhi. These boys sell marijuana and smack at night. They told me that the marijuana they sell comes all the way from Assam in trucks. I was amazed at the unseen network that thrives in this country.

Dhruba is a freelance photographer based in guwahati. He has worked in Today and Timeout Delhi. At the moment, he is juggling between commercial shoots and his personal projects in Guwahati, Assam.

i n b u r g o s

Burgos, on the Camino de Santiago, is a town in northern Spain. Famous for its magnificent effervescent Gothic cathedral, it was on my trip plan, and when I got there on that sunny July afternoon, I was not disappointed. A luminous blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the giant building of creamy stone, stone that had recently been cleaned of centuries of soot and dust, leaving the insides sparkling almost like marble.

Shafts of light from the soaring ceiling illuminated shadowy corners and threw the ornamentation into relief. I spent hours lost in that echoing temple to the imagination, every corner revealing more gorgeous detail.

In true Gothic style, my eyes were drawn upwards to the intricate ceiling, through which more light spilled.

Light being one of the main features of Gothic cathedrals, this one exploited it in full with its windows.

The light was so strong that it dyed the walls. Even modern design manages to complement this beautiful style.

Rounding a corner, I stumbled onto this modern angel, part of an exhibit, staring up at the traditional angel. The outside is as rich, with what seems like every square inch covered in or part of some kind of ornamentation.

I noticed on my way out, that the bottom level of the frontage had been replaced by a neo-classical style apparently done when the Gothic fell into disfavour. Every era will have its bigots, and they will destroy what they can. Looking back to see the sun set behind the cathedral however, my peace was restored.

Cook, photographer and linguist, Ameya lives in Hyderabad where she teaches languages and squirrels away her pay to travel and buy photography equipment.


my stuff without me by francis raven this is a fake stationary company I am Founder and Executive Producer of this venture. I assume all eventualities. I will answer questions if I feel like it. Email me at: I will take charge.

That is, YS for YS; it’s our motto: Your Stuff for Your Self.

this stationary company is also in the Personalized Still Life Business. I’ll come io your home and draw pictures of Your Stuff (YS), which will enable you to know Your Self (YS) better.

Francis’ work include volumes of poetry, Provisions, Shifting the Question More Complicated and Taste: Gastronomic Poems as well as the novel, Inverted Curvatures. His poems have been published in Bath House, Caffeine Destiny, and Spindrift among others.

Here & a collection of snippets from everyday life some experienced by self, some observed from a distance. Stories in themselves, each slide is conceived as a mirror of reality by the artist.


by Amrit Mishra

A software engineer by profession, Amrit is a story-teller by passion - be it in the form of poetry, art or prose. He writes at


on the streets of Rome A true story (seriously). A man is walking his three dogs down the road, one is a Scotty (terrier-like, black with tufts of hair sticking out of his forehead), one is a Labrador, and the third is one that looks like the end of a mop, as if you could attach a broomstick on top of the dog (like those annoying, apparently fashionable, Lhasa apsos). The happy group reaches a traffic light and is about to cross. The man becomes engrossed in something - he’s lighting his pipe. The mop-dog escapes from his leash and darts across the street. Then he scoots back, taunts the man from a few feet away and starts bolting all over the road. Dog-owner is still struggling with his pipe; now he’s slightly upset with the dog, because he just wants to light his pipe and doesn’t particularly care if he loses the dog (most mop-dogs and chihuahuas are handbag adornments for ladies anyway, he doesn’t have much use or affection for this one, I guess). On the road, there’s another guy in a small car, one of those really small cars which look like oversized toys (from which, in the movies, it’s inevitably a giant who steps out). The Driver (who’s alone in the car) is animatedly talking into his phone. He sees the dog running across the road, and though the dog doesn’t really obstruct his car, he seems quite pissed at this general lack of order. “Fuck the snowman”, he shouts (which is equivalent to What the Fuck in Rome, even five-year-olds have been heard yelling this at their baby-sitters) and swerves to a stop next to Dog-Owner. “Oouu” He calls the dog-owner (that’s the same as the clucking sound one makes in Bombay to call out to someone, heard often on the streets but never in living rooms). “Yes,” says Dog-owner, his pipe now lit. “Is that your dog?” demands the Driver. “Yes, so what?”

“What if I had run him over, would you still be smoking your pipe so calmly?” Now Driver is quite agitated. But he continues to dangle the phone next to his ear as well. He probably wants whoever’s on the other end to hear this encounter. “First you kill him, then we’ll talk,” says Dog-Owner. Meanwhile his mop-dog is going berserk, shooting between cars, around buses; by now traffic is actually disrupted. The Driver who’s stayed on, keeping his plans and his phone-conversation on hold, hasn’t been affected but cars on another road on the intersection skid to a halt. “Fuck misery,” The Driver says (which is a slightly more intense variation of fuck the snowman - the object of fuck can get increasingly more outrageous till you reach the ultimate, which is fuck madonna - that is the original madonna; no one uses fuck madonna on record, not even an atheist on his deathbed, so our landlady says), “I had to swerve out of the way to avoid killing him. Almost bloody killed myself.” By now, Dog-owner has also braced himself for the fight. He’s twisted his two remaining leashes around his wrist, clenched the pipe firmly in mouth. No one cares about the mopdog anymore, except the two other dogs perhaps who are looking on very enviously at all the mayhem the mop-dog is creating. “With that car you’re driving, you couldn’t kill a dog even if you wanted to.” “Hey, fuck you, don’t insult the car. It’s my mom’s.” Now the group that has gathered around the duo pipe up, “Hey, don’t talk about his mother, “ Come on, not Mamma” The two shake hands. Mamma saves the day. Behind the traffic, a lady bouncing on six-inch stilettos across the cobbled streets is chasing the mop-dog, her handbag greedily open. Thus, universal truths are imbibed across cities - Ma ko beech mein mat laana. Kaushik Barua lives in Rome. He works on rural development and policy issues and is writing his first novel on stolen time.


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