Mihir Vatsa is the author of the poetry collection Painting That Red Circle White (Authors Press 2014). He grew up in Jharkhand and studied English at University of Delhi. He is the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and an award in Writing from Toto Funds the Arts, Bangalore. He works in the field of heritage conservation in Hazaribagh, his hometown, and edits poetry for VAYAVYA.
When it’s fishing that you teach —
in the pool, carps wait for a destiny
so different from the one
we know on the land.
Teacher, I am not sure
I want them coming to me like prisoners,
so I’ve started picking up sand instead.
It doesn’t flip in my palm.
The grip is smooth. Besides,
I know it. I know there’s silica.
I know there’s gypsum.
A couple more minerals the fish
have never heard of.
During summer, when water recedes
to the level of mud, leaving the fish
dry and dead like tragic insects in the morning,
I know it breaks a heart to watch
a dream collapse from the sky.
And in the night, when ghosts
leave their temples, I close my eyes
and walk on a beach.
So much sand that infinity seems real.
water invades with its creatures.
They swim to the surface and tell me
about assignments unfinished.
Catch me. Take me to the class.
I hear them in your voice
and follow close, suspicious—
with steps not yet firm.
Say i make a wish for a gift.
A hard tangible box wrapped
and shining like happiness
even if empty.
Times like this, it’s appearance that matters.
Soon the box is an occupation.
I have taken to scratching
the sticker off the cardboard.
Tomorrow i will rough up
the corners. Delay the arrival
If i told you i’ve stopped
looking for serendipity in hollows
and you know i’m lying
but play along —
dear need, vulnerability claws
at the skin but is simple. It lives in
the present. And i am not ready
for your game yet,
however sure and
heavy my reward.
Soon gestures changed with the flash
of longing. No weft of desire spun across the fabric
of my shirt. The trees on the brim as ever —
not one leaf departed with grief,
neither the lonely bark
scoured itself out on the ground.
The sky was the blue of the lake after rain.
Whatever happened, happened
within the curtains. Windows shut but transparent
enough to gauge the buzz outside.
Whatever pursuit took off with a click
left its trails in codes, in extensions,
and it was so easy to fall through the network.
Its strands weak. Our profiles fixed.
The smiles archived to the past.
You know when you delete something
from the memory it lingers after leaving
its form? That hangover. That cache.
So don’t rush into love at crossroads
even if the streets be open. Give your keys
a rest. When every like is a courtship
choose well the posts.
He Believes We Could Do With Some Moderate Drama
The evening quaint as ever.
Across the table the restaurant’s glass doors open like a gateway to dimensions.
A group of people rush through it and in the mayhem
someone drops his wallet on the floor.
He returns fumbling his pockets,
sighs briefly before picking it up,
sprints out again.
A total of ten seconds late in emerging once again through the door on the road
and the cars haven’t changed their shapes a bit!
Reality disappoints like this.
Across the doors the cars struggle to move an inch into the future.
They accelerate like an excited pair of scissors that rushes through
a coarse fabric
and realises the meter of its existence.
Across the cars and the road,
the shops on the left
and the shops on the right
separate in the middle
to show the street you’re presently walking on.
I can see it through the glass —
you’re looking at your phone
as envious bougainvilleas stoop over you to extract
and make their own
the smell of your hair
not flying in uncharted directions.
This is where motions drop —
and it’s exactly like using a photo editing software
to focus on something specific.
Because tomorrow there’s a festival
they have lined up lightbulbs above the road in volatile rows.
the sky outside
looks the way it appears below a plane arching through a city
illuminated in the night.
The street behaves like time in a slow clock.
And it’s good for us because now you’re able to rule
the traffic quite easily.
Here I am reminded of a dystopian drama where the protagonist wades through rows and rows of lifeless vehicles on the streets after waking up in a hospital, and suddenly I stop
and think no, this is not at all like that.
You’re still with your phone as you move
waiting for it to morph itself into an email informing you about your selection for something so prestigious
you will never be able to say its name again—
and it gives me enough time to ditch the chair
tiptoe silently to the door
and open it precisely when your uncertain hand
begins its search for the knob
as you walk straight into me in an apparently
The Need To Be Accepted
You cannot shove so much desire in a bag
when confinement glows better than moonlight.
In the darkness, even a trick of shadow
can ease what struggles to declare itself.
And despite its clamour, solitude pleases
only in intervals, births what is destined
to disillusion the charm of sympathy.
Now it’s in this sky the moon looks virtuous.
Free from the stars annoying its rooms,
radiant and undisturbed, always ignoring
the loneliness it bears.