Khairlanji. The darkness of humanity percolates into corners over the skins of the mother and her daughter, those sons, the father.

The darkness of the witching hour. Indigestible truths consumed in brittle cognizance.

When history has reasons and explanations.

Genocidal waves. Discrimination waves. Feministic waves.

Blind rage of the immeasurable… appropriation of pain.


Khairlanji can be explained away, rationalized, reasoned with.

Like the light kissing the cheeks of another morning of other lives –

when we held cappuccino cups and the sun smelt

into a wealthy smile. The ferris wheel of souls. Khairlanji: Casablanca.

Hathras and Havana.


One life asked questions – the other had to answer and sometimes

that answer was in dark quietness.


If all lives were a tale of anguish between its acts,

when was the life to feel the light,

over anguished skin?

Which life was an interval?


a blink?


Water wheel – the stops at those stations where electricity had never reached. 



One life in Hathras. 

The other thinking of it.


compost, last stage –

darning the patchwork

to the zillionth hour

ȿ0µr¢ĕ ¢®Đĕ


Now that it roams the wide streets,

we paint a smile over masks, letter a balloon,

make Lego of port containers, paint graffiti over walls,

banner the mountain peak, ride bicycles with flags,

keep flowers by the sill, illuminate our monuments and towers,

light up the parliament, the medicinal green of stadiums.


Mask our pets, statuettes,

light lamps, chime plates

play music by the verandahs,

blink in dits and dahs like lighthouses

for the middle-of-the-seas.

Crossing noise…


So if it turns, it sees the spirit we keep

matching the wireless telegraphy

of nature’s cherry blossom, autumnal gild,

oceanic blur, the medicinal green of harvest fields.


Off gridlocks of words and letters

an undivided conversation in Morse code

with our telephone operator 

from quarantined spots, framing

vital codes of hope

reaching the object code:


a dumbcharades of ΣΩDϋЯдп¢Э 



They are bursting on the streets

from a deep gash,

wounds to capillaries,

leaving the atriums and ventricles

vesicles of this city

that has closed the gates on them.


They are hemorrhaging

after delivering their daily karma

of nutrients, oxygen to each cell

away and back, from the city 

of vital substance.


They are releasing between (two) heartbeats –

a circulation of desperation –

internal, external hematoma

drop-shaped footprints.


Feet sprouting bare earth,

releasing Co2 

from two vena cavas

of a city contracting 

its waste.


They are cleaning, carting it 

away through tricuspid valves


they themselves disappearing 

off all the cobalt streets – 


landless, faceless 

from a deep slash

of our intracranial, intracerebral

unabridged memory.

Fictionist | Poet | Critic | Curator | Editor | Translator | Screenwriter Rochelle Potkar’s poetry film ‘Skirt’ features on Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland. Her book of haibun, ‘Paper Asylum’ was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. She is an alumna of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2015) and a Charles Wallace Writer’s fellow, University of Stirling (2017), and has read her poetry in India, Bali, Iowa, Macao, Stirling, Glasgow, Hongkong, Ukraine, Hungary, Bangladesh, and the Gold Coast. ‘Bombay Hangovers’, her short story collection is due soon.  Read more of her work here

Mumbai, India

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Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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