Astha Gupta’s poems have appeared in Muse India, Muse India, TFQM, Madswirl, UCity Review, Asian Cha, and elsewhere. She was shortlisted for the Cha ‘Void’ poetry contest in 2014 and the All-India Poetry Competition in 2013. Her other big love is traveling, whenever and wherever she gets the opportunity.
Don’t enter my house with your snake like hair tunneling
down your back, flopping over your behind, your waist
that arcs like the Gulmohar tree in the backyard.
Don’t excite my smell – the bouquet of jasmine around your nape
battling with the reek of garlic on your fingertips, the tang of the
powdered pickle of your armpits seeping into the henna on your toes.
At least don’t hypnotize my ears with the jingling of your anklet,
paralyzing my hands, not letting me focus as I build my mud God
and his brick house. At least, hold your sensuous cold breath
unthreading the Chinese carpets, in rhythm of your heaving chest.
I find myself constantly going back to poetry as a medium of expression because it helps me work with slices of life in short bursts of time. ‘What you don’t see’ was written in a period when I was reading a lot about the travails of the northeastern part of India. A beautiful but largely forgotten part of the country, it is beset with violence and trauma so deep that one poem cannot even aspire to decrypt it. It was the universal pain of the parent losing a child that made me want to attempt a poem set in the gorgeous green fields of Assam with a little more confidence. ‘The thing’ is for all those men out there who have been told in school and college, and most often at home, that literature is a woman’s domain and they should rather be pursuing accounting or engineering. My poem ‘Pursuit,’ which is the oldest in the lot and re-worked since, was written when I was fairly unsure of my own preferred form. I wrote it after constant musings over the rampant caste system in India and many other cultures that really bothered me, especially when it became an impediment to love. My fourth poem, ‘Neighbor,’ was born unexpectedly on a day when I was all alone at home, and decided to step out into the balcony just to find a distraction, only to see the yellow decrepit walls of my neighbors’ under-construction home. Somehow, their much-worn clothes, washed and dried in full public glory made me feel a little less alone. And then I wondered, How would I express this if I observed the entire scene from a distance and the person in question were a man?