ABOUT THE POEMS The world’s great epics show their valorous, and sometimes vain, heroes at the crest of their powers. But what happens in the aftermath of heroic victories? In ‘Much Later, Achilles and Arjuna Speak of the Gods,’ Minal Hajratwala imagines her two protagonists as aged men occupying the same hospital chamber. Shorn of their martial settings, they look back regretfully at their past selves, much in the way that readers might regard characters. Taking the idea of parallel progressions further in ‘Terza Rima in Bermuda,’ Hajratwala deploys a little-used poetic form: the terza rima made famous by Dante, in which triads of lines rhyme in an aba bcb cdc scheme, so that sounds appearing between rhymes in one stanza begin to rhyme in the next, and then fall away entirely in the third. Here, they do so in parallel columns at the same time, making the eye shuttle back and forth between terze rime.
We are old men now
drinking gold instead of draping
heavy chains over the breasts of our dreams.
I never much cared for boobs.
I was an ass man. Am.
Was it worth it,
all that sticky red gore? Did I honour
my lover’s cannon-melted
lump of jaggery?
Ten thousand twirls of her sari.
Strap-marks on his chest
where the armour chafed.
When He spoke the universe sweetened
With the light & wind She tricked me,
with the vengeance-melody
with the song of duty & order,
& it seemed
the only way
we could restore order
to find peace
but where is the order in battle,
o but where is the peace in mayhem,
what I wielded with the tip of my sword
what I dispensed, arrow after pure arrow
arcing bright through the muscles of men
aimed true into the hearts of my cousins
like divine love?
I would rather have adored,
adorned. Had I dared…?
Now they sing of us
in rhymed couplets, heroic metre
as if we were brave.
Shit-scared. Bastard. Orphan. Cunt.
Kund, kundalini, Kunti.
If I had known you then?
I’d have shot an arrow
into your noble eye.
(ENTER Nurse, with syringes. Shh, shh, she soothes as
veterans’ nightmares soot the ceiling
of the PTSD ward. She lifts each soft,
mottled wrist to find the vein.)
will henceforth be called skinIts inner scaffolding is named bone
System of sinews that shifts it
let’s moniker muscle
Growing from it is hair
in soft waves of sex
Deep inside geography untamed soul
solely occupied with mapping
no will or ill
ease of transmission the whole
calls itself Minal
cuts the ribbon
throws open the doors
begins to serve