Poems by Anu Mahadev 2017

Anu MahadevANU MAHADEV is a left-brained engineer turned right-brained poet based in the Greater New York region. She is a recent graduate of the MFA in Poetry program from Drew University, and she has different sobriquets depending on the day – a hopeless romantic, a brooding hermit, a social connector, but always and forever a poet first. Domestic abuse, women’s rights and education, and mental health disorders are topics particularly close to her heart. In addition to which, she has a soft corner for the underdog, the immigrant, the minority, and often writes about those who don’t fit in, their experiences and relationships. She is part time editor for the Woman inc. Online and Jaggery Lit online.

Clear skies of summer!
My goodbyes don’t come easy
Cruel month, April

The view

Plants come to this house
to die

Latticed glass windows,
cut with blinds
cut by light
and I by the summer sun

Watch a ruined vegetable patch
Overrun with weeds, parched earth

A lone banana stem long gone,
tomato creepers, green chilies,
a gigantic squash, eggplants ,
a veritable salad mix on the ground

Peppered with bits of herbs – basil,
thyme, cilantro, a chef’s sauté pan
in the making, tossed high with pollen

Magic in the air, until someone forgets
to water them one day – nothing grows except poison ivy on the walls

I have nothing to give

photograph in b/w

sepia toned acacia tree, two

little girls standing—

one, bigger, smiling, two

dolls in her hand

one,smaller, wailing, one

doll, clay-baked mud

matching dresses, hairbands,

shoes, one happy

— she’s not an only child

anymore, she won’t

share though, the other

screams for mom

separated soon after birth,

reunited as sisters

strangers in the womb

awkward, holding

hands, trying to understand

how a family behaves

the definition of love, where

it comes from


portico’s wind-surrendered song

lattices of trellis, fickle fireflies

jasmine creepers, stonewashed

pillars, a lazy lawn chair or two —

she collects these into her little

brown bag, chock-full of maps,

floor plans for a non-existent

life, a stranger, a stranger once more.


Ash (as seen by the urn)


from her bones


scrape out the last


of a life left behind


brass pot, warm, too much


to hold a person, a mind —


immersed in a river, a sea


hands welcome, join us


of non-existence, freedom

Now in the trunk

of an ’07 Honda Accord, bouncing


Caller ID

I’ve run out of salt —
earth’s pores, geyser steam
no matter what I eat
I run on empty
So I’ll call you tomorrow

I’ll call you tomorrow
when I’m the ubiquitous aunt,
a familiar pockmarked face now forgotten,
now wandering about random weddings,
iPad in hand, to avoid being photographed

From the depths of the ocean
where light can’t get through
I’ll call you tomorrow from
a bathyscaphe muffled with the voices
of my critics, my self-pity that chides me
my own brain that berates me
for not conforming to the mould


her pencil writes —

of styli, quills

scratched sound waves


between the lines

wood shavings

scattered word fragments

soft chipped graphite

shaded fingertips

empty notebooks wait

in silence, ruffled pages

reams of white

soon to be covered in print

this day

broken only by these faint

noises, muffled roar

traffic, teapot, dryer

her tapping toe rings

against the chair

the pencil writes —

of such things

when her thoughts

cannot sing her song.

Centrifugal Force

she spins, careless merry-go-round

— carousel, shifts her fortunes

from cheetah to camel, ruffles her skirt

careful not to let her legs show

ogling eyes, wolves eye her, reptiles

slither, strip her into rubble

“i don’t belong, i don’t belong”

her thoughts run away, but never

leave the scene, she cuts herself

out of every memory, every event,

promises that one day she will

reverse time, she will belong

to the music store, the place she

once felt at home, watches the

gramophone record spin, traces

her scars, the betrayal of her larynx,

her useless genes, “you’ll just need to

practice more or you’ll never be as good

as your sister” when did living become

a contest, a proof of skill, talent, luck

“since Darwin said so” her thoughts

run away once more, circle of life,

she won’t let her daughter be caught

in its cobwebs, its sticky super glue.


Strings of jasmine, paused
Entwined, enshrined, in their tomb
Pearls from her thin wrists

Le spleen

forlorn woman
refuge in libations

lone candle on a sconce
longer shadows
stretch, scoop out insides
for ransom

halo flickers, threatens
to envelope her

she prefers
black box of the dark
olive shades of the walls,

tolerates light —like a plant
absorbs the infrared waves
of the spectrum

she genuflects
a stupor only she can sense

watches her goblet run dry
wishes for its contents
to be refilled perhaps

mood synonymous with
a sombre color palette

spiteful —

she only destroys the old
removes the debris from the room

lumps her listlessness
in the reservoir of blood

gift haikus

gift, unrecognized

in the guise of veiled insults

disapproving hints

childhood gift, bestowed

—literature, language, love

gift of expression

defenseless woman — womb
opened, emptied of all grief.
blue child of farewells, too
quick, too soon, medical
terms, certificates signed,
faint peeling tan walls,
sigh — they are used to
screams, primitive, down
to the very basics of life,
procreation. wind howls
through her, all vestiges
scooped out. who wants grand
plans, ultimately all she wants
— a set of walls and deadbolts,
to keep strangers out, but
all the doors to her house stand ajar.
victim of a mass robbery,
arson, leaving nothing behind
but urns of ashes, a mound
of earth, six feet under.

Each day I am a wine transformed

From grape to vineyard to barrel to glass

I slosh in someone’s sinful hands

Unsure of virtues, the truth unfolds

Desire’s own fragment, fermented, shaped

I am the leaping fire you brewed

Blurry eyes — the vintage sunrise

I slip away into rosé

Honey, amber, ambrosia

I bring out the best in you

These hands once bold — wrinkled, old

Tremble as they conquer me

Then at last, when you decant the past

I am neither the start nor the end.

Laws of Poetry

If poetry is a law, then I am pretty much lawless, a free spirited rebel —

a mind of my own, no rules to adhere to. This is more like my thought process.

1. I shall not write sonnets or sestinas, do not try to confine me.

2. No political poetry, else I might get deported 🙂

3. Show, don’t tell. But don’t be obtuse. And don’t hide behind layers of confusion.

4. Don’t belabor the topic. If every poem leads to the same cliched ending, avoid it.

5. Be more concrete. Abstractions don’t work -period.

6. Please PLEASE keep the formatting intact. And the title. It is half the battle won.

7. Condense the poem to its core, as opposed to blathering on with propositions and conjunctions.


heard that light is scarce
dark sky serves up ring of moon
red dawn dances high


she signs off xoxo

like she breathes

hurls an insult

tic tac toe and exes

and ohs — it’s old stuff

a storyline intersects

with a brief impulse

her tuning fork is set

to the frequency of the hunted

the ermine emerges from a stoat

winter charade — over and out.

she crosses checkboxes for mistakes

plays guessing games

under the Southern Cross night sky

her typewriter only knows

how to write amalgams

fairy tales peppered with

a heavy dose of reality

Without the Wind,

Smoke, Ash

No path to trace

No map to follow

Grounds, skies bleed

Aftermath — they

say the mother of all

bombs explodes

Does it matter to

Mosul, Aleppo

Afghanistan – non

nuclear or not?

Without the Wind

Screams of war

in silent hunts,

Compatriots’ fear

muffled, forgotten

in landfills, debris

Wave of terror

spreads, mingles

Voices shake, cry

While power sits

around a table

pinpoints a place,

axis coordinates

and a million cries

subside — a brief minute

of chilling horror

before the wind’s

final whiplash

Without the wind

Where would panic go?


Cherry blossom, faithful spring
Sake, feast under its bloom
Ephemeral metaphor
Cloud messenger, come!

Shade of the Himalayas

Of the sea, of the earth
Tectonic plates in my

food. Dash of pink grit,
coarse hands finish the

dish. Lend some lush
sweet subtlety to an

otherwise normal day.
I sprinkle it on the top

— a history and geography
lesson rolled into one,

from the depths of the
prehistoric oceans.

It’s as if it says to me,
only one could exist —

the Indian subcontinent
or the Tethys. Take your

pick. I imagine it as a
soft blush, the art of

cooking, as glitzy as
makeup, a chemistry

of iron oxide and mouth,
the happy faces of my

dinner guests when I
top off with a grinder.


Moment of calm

candlelight, light

tapers, fluid dark

Life’s bullet train

flashes by final

exhale, waiting

On the other side

— love remains on

imaginary coordinates

(nostalgia, melancholy)

A memory of something

with the desire for it


Across her palm,
Criss-crossed with graffiti,
Her stubborn stars, her telltale scars,


What acoustics betray, what strings cut

the promises of a tepid summer evening —

tapering jacaranda shadows, unsure candles

flickering to the gentle mistral?

What of knowing the heart’s pleasures, its

measured beats, rise and fall with each note,

this upheaval of youth, this rhythm of movement,

this birdsong?

This is then, the reason why

the ivories are caressed

the instrument is polished

the muse is evoked

the music passed onto the hope,

the innocence of young fingers,

their eyes of stars.

Autumn Sun

It returns to me in shades of autumn leaves,
light intersecting voile, chiffon threads in longer
rays, earth’s axial tilt, as the equinox approaches.

North wind coruscates the lone window
of my room. Cornucopia of scarlet, bronze,
crimson, cyan replace chlorophyll with carotene,
nature’s colorful ciphers.

Hourglass tips, sand pours itself into a heap,
time changes, clock sets back. Fiery veined
leaves aglow. Frost covers this mauve-hued carpet.

Long days gone, trees slow down, their summer
chores done, it is now time to retire and rest.


Boy, man, testosterone,

Y chromosome

So similar, so different

You — of the silly jokes, foolish

pranks, stupid ideas

So sure of yourself, dripping

with swagger factor

What was I worried about — you pulling

my braids till they hurt or stealing my scarves

or tugging my skirt or pelting stones on dogs?

The answer is e) all of the above

And no, that’s not how I know you like me

— I see through your hollow

core, you jaded casanova, overfed

with pride

Sincerity > Braggadocio in my world

Come, shrink into my pocket

Go back to Lilliput.


This is all a dream.
A platonic rewrite to erase
the vestiges of time.

Reversal of fortunes — monsoon wind
doesn’t happen too often here.

I can obsess, use my x-ray vision,
wash the parchment layers with pumice stone
till my hands run dry and red.

But the scripto-inferior is a tattletale.
It does not take too long to decipher the codices
— crossing the boundaries — forbidden fruit seldom does.

And yet, if I could transform it all,
the clock would stop when you said those words
that changed my life — that you couldn’t be just friends
with me anymore.


There is a ceasefire

happening now

along the fault lines of my broken body

This alienation, this prison

of blood and bone, as if bound in an alcazar

— exquisite entrapment, cannot save me

I’m eating everything in sight, eating away

at my brain cells,

until my clothes don’t fit anymore

until my mountain of bags and shoes mock me

I want to exist only

in the metaphysical sense, this form, its flaws


Wearing a diadem of branch, bramble, briarwood

and thorns

to keep the robins out

Cité Mémoire – Vieux Port de Montréal

Caramelized chocolate buildings. Cobblestoned streets.

Wrought iron lamp-posts.

He walks along these, camera in hand, searches

for the perfect scalene angles of light.

People watching from verandahs, sloping roofs

of rain, vintage shop fronts.

He breathes this air, eats his readymade palak paneer,

settles down in his cosy AirBnB apartment.

She tracks the entire route to Canada using FlightAware.

He sends her pictures, one of himself, taken by a tourist.

That look he reserves only for the passionate pursuits in life

— photos, comics, ciphers, her.

How does one go from a long lost girlfriend to bad karma in one day?

She writes a thank you note to Apple, congratulating them

on the Find-a-phone feature — it ruins her life.

How does insecurity seep into bones — like a malignant cancer cell?

How does one finish something before it ever even starts?

The lamps are now lit, the appetizing aroma of food fills the evening air.

Tomorrow she will be a piece of trash. But tonight she revels knowing

that no one knows him like she does.


Pigtailed girl, your braids
in different colored ribbons — an April fool’s joke
gone sour. You aren’t color blind.

Uttrayan is around the corner. Boys will fly kites
with glass-crusted manja cutting their hands raw.
Rainbow-embroidered sky.

Sharp-eyed girl, oil your hair, tie it up!
Only loose girls let their hair go wild. And no shampoo –
only aritha and shikakai, okay?

The atmosphere is charged with testosterone fuel.
Girls in their delicate hats walk about innocently enough,
cheering the players on.

You cut your hair? Colored it?
What shade is this — Red blonde? I don’t care!
Go to your room, you are grounded! Repent!

Siesta time. The afternoon is dead. She walks up
to the terrace, gold flecks of sun in her hair.
The dupattas are clipped to the clothes-line.

His kites cut her ribbons loose. Untamed hair
blows about her face.

She lets them go. He lets them go.

Their eyes will forever be midnight blue skies.


The only gates she knows are the creaky, metallic ones

at home — haven’t been oiled in over a decade.

Except she isn’t the same person crossing the same gate twice.

HE speaks to her today, patiently, sitting across the bench.

To HER of all people.

Wondering who’s the person behind those straight A+ report cards.

He doesn’t know he is the first person to talk to her that day, or any day.

He is the first boy.

Virginal blood rushes to her head. Overflows into dark and cold nooks

and crannies.

Her mind races. The floodgates buried under wallflowers open,

the spillways don’t hold anything back. She tries hard to escape the gates,

cast down eyes, hidden smile, but they are suspicious.

She imagines a life ahead, looping arms with him, planning dates

with a superior air, loose hair, flowing skirts, summer wind.

But a casanova isn’t meant to be trapped. The gates laugh.

They are sadists, oddly satisfied when she runs out of his house,

everything incomplete. They celebrate when she leaves for the airport,

a girl for one last time, leaving his smirking face far behind.

She shuts them for good, painting copper rust over them, sealing them

into wallpapered rooms, hammering them shapeless.

But within, she is still that trapped girl, still waiting.

A forced sunrise

There is this place,

saved — a postcard, only obvious

when I go spelunking deeper inside

the dark heart, when the sun rises.

But sadly, I cannot fake a look of awe.

The earth, for all its sins, wakes up

to a new forgiving shade of lilac, lavender each day,

something I wish I could do.

Once we saw this spectacle together, you and I.

Now I see it first, and you — perhaps a morphed version

of it — later. It doesn’t remind me of you — not anymore,

I say, even as I write this poem.

My quill is in my wayward fingers, which don’t really

want to write this poem. But I have promised to.

So I imagine this non-existent sunrise in my life,

try to go back to one that really means something.

This keeps me up at night. When I wake up, it’s gone,

the director has wrapped up the scene, the set.

This is why counting sheep is never my forte.