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Vinita Agrawal's Poems

Poet, Editor, Researcher


For Amma

It was the only room Grandma had to herself

a small dark store, between the kitchen and the hall

it's air swirling with Chandan incense,

black cardamoms, whole wheat flour

and tins of ghee 

ready to be carried to the community ovens

and baked into nan khatais. For me.

After she passed away,

its doors swung open to let the world in.

I peered into the spasm of that space 

expecting to see another world,

instead I saw a quiet room

curling softly around her absence.

A small wooden chest 

sat at the bottom of the racks

bursting with balls of wool, bits of tapestries, 

needles, crochets

and a strip of sandalwood buttons.

Buttons that had nestled 

in the pestle of Grandma's hands.

that now fastened memories

to tissues of love

that popped open an ampule

of years gone by—

a crescendo of time's foliage

dew glistening on every leaf.

Like tiny medallions of her affection

those buttons,

nipping away the roughness of death

holding together the frayed edges

of an irrevocable parting.

Sometimes our limbs

are spun in bone lace,

our hearts held together 

by a neat row of buttons

sitting in wooden chests,

waiting to be discovered, 

silently linking one generation to the next.

Notes: Chandan- sandalwood, Nan khatais- a variety of biscuits


is a cardinal direction. 

A compass. 

Opposite direction from the east. 

The direction in which the sun sets.

Say it in any language

Separazione, Trennung, Judai,

the word somehow cognates

with the lone evening star. 

It is the realm 

of the great goddess of water,

mist and moisture.

A portal to the netherworld 

the essential link with death

but not in a negative way

Think release.

The prevailing winds in separation

—I call them the separlies,

are non aligned.

They move 

towards the Buddha,

towards enlightenment. 

Perhaps separation

has a deific personification

beyond all horizons

where all of earth,

all maps, all borders,

fall off the edges 

leaving behind an empty coconut shell.

Perhaps it’s a river basin

Or a Tolkien universe.

A solar system.

or just a retrograde Venus.

Perhaps it leans towards God.


The rustling heap of leaves,

yellow and brown

discuss the greens they wore in summer

In the book—the dry leaf.

I stare at its hardened veins

reckoning years of thirst.

On the tree

leaves croon birds to sleep 

the moon too lulled to a sickle by the murmur.

For every leaf that falls 

a memory is pressed

into the withered bark of time.


A personal world full of freedom

and isolation to overcome the mental noise.

A medallion soap of clear light, a washcloth of betrayals 

propped on the tub's edge, leaving the bare neurone of arms tingling.

An inverse view of birds, like an x-Ray

every black line telling its own story.

Silence—the broken link of duration

addressing messages of shadows and suffering.

Oppressors changing masks constantly 

proving that there is no end to greed.

The Sufi ashes of human shudders

disappearing into the waning blue of our souls.


Madhu Singh said…
The first poem, ' Buttons' is spun richly with the tapestry of nostalgia. The last stanza is simply divine.
'Separation is a cardinal direction'. The first line itself hooks the reader with its intensity. Every line is tightly constructed and as impactful as a slap on the face....{in a nice way :) }
The visuals in Prism are crisp. The last two lines are superb.
Where does one read more of you?

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