Yellow Oleander, Rose-Ringed Parakeet and Half-moons (Three Poems)

Yellow Oleander 


Because boys don’t read anymore, 

how Prophet helped Khadeeja with house chores, 

sucking acid out of their sippy cups, look at ’em 

pulling out their phones to seek wisdom 

from a jacked man’s rapist tone. 


Oh my people name their girls 

after goddesses or a flower, do their braids 

like grapevines tied to a bower. Mamma told me 

the day I was leaving she’s a bird keeper, 

love is an act of unlocking and praying 

for a poacher with a shotgun won’t shot me down.

Note down, school girls should only care 

about boy bands and homework on Mondays. 

In the minor injuries unit sits a woman— 

an eye like a broken lamp of plundered hallway. 


Two years ago, I saw a little goddess become a barged home.

Her aunt says that she’s 13 and so poised. 

But wisdom is nothing but a murdered childhood. 

An eerie dream of the gone girlhood. 


Because my father says this city is a forest 

purpled by the waning of the lunar 

so little red riding hoods cry about 

wolves with foaming hunger. 


Because, the TV tells rape state can burn bodies 

to erase evidence till the soil cleanses 

itself of your caste’s existence. 


Because there is a dearth of synonyms for “fearless” to

be given to girls. So they become case studies of cities in which they are hurled.

Even fetuses learn the color of their blood early because womb

raiders roam free in this country.

For women like me, it’s double whammy, oh my people my people

ask me to cosplay me into warm lamb chops in black cloaks. The

orange incel on twitter sells my pictures 

like a vendor with a pushcart of cantaloupe. 


Because, sometimes women love so intensely 

that they abandon their Gods so in vengeance 

the saviours of race, lynch their lovers under the God’s gaze. 


Because runaway women are like salmon on the run, spawning from river to sea, making home 

out of strange fissures, hatching little dreams. 


And when I say feminism, I don’t mean feminism of pretty razors

and discounts on fast fashion on Women’s day. I want to yell about

the women in & out with knuckles frayed. 



because after the U.S dropped an atomic bomb 

on Hiroshima during World War II, scientists said 

that nothing would grow, or live, in the city for 70 years.

In the following summer, yellow Oleander bloomed,

Because we too are the oleanders between the war fumes.


Rose-Ringed Parakeet 


Today, my mother met someone like her in a quaint shop

down the lane of Keetganj, vintage street lights upend

and cast their glow on momphali wallas, 

a black rebel with a flowing black abaya, 

deftly maneuvering the sewing machine’s wheel

alongside two companions. 


She confesses to my mother her inability 

to read Arabi, yet proudly shares her accomplishment

of memorizing the Quran in Devanagari script.

Between the familial inquiries about her happiness,

she responds with a confident flick of her hijab,

declaring that with each adjustment, 

on her day of rukhsati, how she gently unlatched

the miniature gate of the cage 

for her rose-ringed parakeet.



As we journey through girlhood, our mothers caution us

about the apples swaying in the backyards of disputed homes,

You, the little girl, yearn to pluck them from their stems, to

taste their sweetness and share secrets at sleepovers. 


Green skins like any fruit in Shimla’s orchards, 

their pulp as sweet as the half-moons your grandmother once

sliced for you when illness befell. But one fateful day, the apple

scorches your throat. It was your birthday, You, the little girl,

returning home with a bone in your throat. 


The apple became a manchineel. Mama had warned you

of its treachery. The manchineel tastes of violation,

hands stripping away your pretty sundress. 

Manchineels wear the faces of your friends, 

the ones your mother warned against, 

gossiping in washroom whispers 

buttressing their rapist boyfriends. 


He penned essays on feminism. Until one day, 

That same fist shatters the bust of a clay goddess,

leaving you relieved, at least, it wasn’t your






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