Varsha Dutta

Chicken mnemonics

The old man 
through unhung chimney
Bellows out a copper cloud
it chokes up the stench
From the neighbor’s farm
In it 
they cull 
chickens with’AK47s
chickens that don’t die no easily
belong to some farm nearby
whose fields these rooster farms grow
Nobody knows
It belong to no one in particular
So saying
The old man chuckles
rubs his eyes
A tic in the old bugger’s left eye
That grew soon after he saw
That a piece of chicken could stand

It had two arms
two legs
a drooping head
and uncannily resembled 
his neighbor’s 

A chicken that rose up to challenge
Ascertaining goal
In a frugal bowl 
Ascertaining life
Saying nobody, 
 in particular lives
     in particular dies

Even if I were to shed this harvest
This crop of golden desire
I would still weigh as much
An ant 
With my industrious sting 
And a throaty desire
To fecundate this red mound
So saying he laughed and 
died a chicken’s death

to metamorphose 
To the mnemonics
Of incomprehensible yellow
A yellow With throat cut. Slit.
From where 
 Red dust poured
trickled earth
hid behind 
some tall dark grass

     From there 
 A mouth emerged
 With chicken Claws
  the crimson air
    Made a hole 
     and tossed
its carnal remains


Thaw the Salt 

In Lesbos …
The sounds of dinghies hum the sea

A little low over the water, 
these dinghies skim 

A Phantom scything through the sea

birds they follow 
Low tipping over the water
in hushed voices whisper their song

And the wind curdles

Empty sockets glisten in sea air 
While they sit there 
Pasted to the other’s Still form

When they arrive somehow
Clothes hanging from skin, 

Mingled with the briny stench of the sea
Something gives away 

Its the salt- the telltale
Admixture of white ash and sudden flee
Permanently settled in brows and bones

fleas in dozens crawl out of sockets
Each a story 
with their under bellies impaled in stubble fields 

Salt of their land pile up in the
heavy cracks and fissures of breathing

As they walk along in a hurry to forget and 
replenish the forgetting 

Weathered urns each of them
as the salt wings its way from sockets and bones

Simmering the tips of tongues  
Each breath gives away the aura of mutation
To thaw the salt
       Break the urn.


Breath hour

Let’s board the 9:15
Aquamarine, Maré

This head needs
the bathhouse

a spot to position
its delicate self
with its lunacy
still riddled with the cleft lip

let us throttle the spouts
this noise is growing 
in the stalk
and does a nasty job of 
with its mouth agape 
what seems like 
the Geranium

Maré I struggle
To find the teeth to these feet
We’ve been balancing 
this act of
inching  & positioning  2/2
in the ladder too damn long

let us pinch our way 
like gazelles do,
let us feast on coarse hay, 
the easy digestibles

look how the gazelle appears
alongside the
Wildebeest, Maré
Let us eat both

let us pip out the horse first
the one we started chewing
eight forests ago

and let us  eat them stalks too
the litany of barb
caught in the
muscular breath
(incoherent automatism)
squashing the Geranium

let us burp after the Geranium
Are these the badlands, Maré
where the heart was eroded
 with a sprig of rock salt
    or pepper or
            was it blueberry
                  …..the neat supper?

Even the meaty wind
can’t  sway the ladder too long

the stitches in this lunacy break
to quell their rage or

Oh for Heaven’s sake Maré please sway
  let us pinch 
   our place
      drift away to  the aqua breath
         the flower still cries among the weeds
           and I hear 
             the hyacinth has started bleeding in the nights too

your mane sprouts from the left middle
in what looks like vile anatomy
look the bad  grammar is catching up too
Your Aquamarine breath, Maré
to quell the promise of the dark sea horse

that fathered the child in its womb
and maybe faltered who knows?

And bats, they are always
    Downside up from where I am inching
                       the nail in order of this ladder

Lets stage a coup, Maré
the elements need
the father hands to thread
what is left of this geranium peel

your mane sprouts from the left carotid now, Maré

and the story, what about the story?
Who would set fire?
to the clown
And his singing bark

They have deveined his woods Maré
And he can’t go fishing

How fitting Maré
The desolation row
now intact
let us bank on the

leather grass from China
let it break our fall

or better still, our tongues

Let us swivel past
The aquamarine Maré

Let us bottle this up
Let us use it to worm the fish

Let us go fishing Maré
this hour is pulse


I want you blue...


I want you blue,
Blue against
the dying ember
of your vague eyes
against the sun
the empty contours,
the scorched landscape
entraps the weary wind
And the blue shrivels
the fish skin
into a weak moan.

I want you blue,
Blue like fish teeth
in daggers
that dangle like
sapphire blades
in the dust of the sun
the winter blue
that turns itself
into an accolade
of wilting rain.
Belching its sorrow
Oscillating between
moist and vapor
who even in death
and all the drying
looks sinister.

I want you blue,
Blue that summons
the ol’wife
who drags her feet
all day long among
lonely copper pans 
and heaves herself
to the moveable feast
the beast of the dragon,
pushing down
to its throat
grief fermented
and the muggy air
lifts the hand
to carve the ferment
the only part edible!

I want you blue,
Blue like the
arid landscape
around the ol’wife’s 
drying against
the heavy air of the sun
they will serve platters
of this stench
they will salt and pickle
this in bottles of womb
there is no other way
to entrap it,
No other way.
The fish returns
to its sea saliva
the dawn heavy
with cicadas creak
and this dense of saliva
still murmurs
the late song.

I want you blue,
Blue like the air
molting now
Cutting itself to
to fit the platter
Like wings of
the blue butterfly
That have grown
its sorrow backwards
the mad whisperer
senses how raw
flesh shrivels
the blue of the sun
and in its dance
with the butterfly
feasts on
unhatched sorrow
even though
it longs to eat 
the moist earth
its teeth are 
that falls unguarded
cinder after cinder
and the ashes grow
like weary weeds
to tie the gaping
mouth of the earth.

I want you blue,
Blue like
 the cosmic protein
That wriggles its way out
Into a scintilla of veins
that grow like new fear
and moss 
the empty dwelling
of this skinned
fish stomach
in the fish line
who seeks refuge 
from the moonlight
and whips this blue 
out of the ferment
That is the blue I want of you.

Varsha Dutta works as a neuropsychologist and clinical researcher and shuffles her time between Mumbai and San Francisco. Poetry to her is that call of nothingness to that perfect unsound, a kind of curling back into that primordial unsound, without meaning, but being, just being. Through her work she keeps making a montage of this human landscape that she stealthily wanders and keeps going back to the poetic fling of disorientation to feel the moving metaphor, both rancid and reticent since it never arrives at anything; this is where form cannot be defined, it is always waylaid by the vicissitudes of life’s constant desire to despair and moan, contemplate, heal and love. Her poetry has appeared in the Indian Review and she keeps writing for scientific journals.