Selected Published Works
I do not find myself
Dangling from your fingertips anymore
The cigarette that you could put
Forever to your lips
One end to suck from
The other end glowing because of it,
So full I was of loving.
You drew in love
And blew out smoke.
I have curled like wisps over your head
And then you tapped the ash, drew the last drag,
Flicked me out with your nail.
The passer by, a starving old rogue
Put me to his lips and then spat
I was brown waste in his mouth.
Those wisps of smoke that hover around your eyes
Are new, but don’t forget, burnt out ghosts
Come and claim their dead. See your fingers shake
And know this. My blue-eyed lover,
My black-lipped hero,
© ABHA IYENGAR, 2010
My Mother Always and The Winter of My Discontent in Song Book Circa, 2011. (Unisun Reliance Time Out Writing Competition 2010-11)
The Way Out (reprint) and Torn and Stitched in Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poets, edited by Menka Shivdasani, 2013
In This World in The Unsettled Winter, the RLP Award Anthology (2013), and long listed for the prize
Poems Suvarnarekha: An Anthology of Indian Women Poets Writing in English (The Poetry Society of India, 2014)
Turbulence in Trainstorm: An Anthology of Alternative Poetry (Poets Printery, October 2016)
Main Aurat Hoon and its English translation, I Am A Woman in Women, Wit and Wisdom, International Multi-lingual Poetry Anthology of women poets (Authorspress, 2017)
City and Overwrite in The Grand Indian Express: Poets’ Travelogue (Authorspress, 2018)
You Cannot Tie Me in the Best Indian Poetry 2018 (RLFPA Editions, 2018)
Three poems published in Equiverse SPACE, an initiative by WE-India (2019)
Two poems in Indo-Hungarian Poetry Anthology (2019)
Five poems in The Lie of the Land: An Anthology of Indian Poetry in English (Sahitya Akademi, 2021)
Three poems in The Kali Project (Indie Blu Publishing, 2021)
The Indefinable Moment in The Shape of a Poem, the Red River Book of Contemporary Erotic Poetry (Red River, 2021)
To Make You Understand What Shame Is in Witness-Poetry of Dissent from Red River (Red River, 2021)
The Marshlands, DNA-Out of Print (2015)
A Broken Mould, Firstpost magazine (2018)
India's Covid Crisis, Khabar magazine, U.S.A (2021)
Beautiful Gazelle: How Running Changed My Life, Consortium Books, U.S.A. (2002)
A Star is Watching, Real People; Real Stories,
edited by Arlene Uslander and Brenda Warneka,
R.J. Buckley Publishing Co.
Some Things Just Go On And On, Knit Lit (Too), Three Rivers Press, U.S.A. (2004)
I’m Flush with Life,Chicken Soup for The Soul, Healthy Living Series (Menopause), Health Communications Inc., U.S.A. (2005)
I Still Wear Red Lipstick, Chicken Soup for The Soul Healthy Living Series (Arthritis), Health Communications Inc., U.S.A. (2006)
Of Wine, Women and Song, Chicken Soup for The Wine Lover’s Soul, Health Communications Inc., U.S.A. (2007)
The Power of One, The Ultimate Teacher, Health Communications Inc., U.S.A (2009)
Going Under the Tent to Inhale, Chicken Soup for the Indian Mother’s Soul, Westland, India (2010)
Chef Supreme, Chicken Soup for The Indian Bride’s Soul, Westland, India (2011)
A Girl of a Certain Age in Knot For Keeps, Harper Collins India (2018)
Origami Birds in The Indo-Australian Anthology of Short Fiction
Birds of Prey in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction, Kitaab (2018)
Stuffed Mouths in The Best Asian Crime Stories, Kitaab (2020)
It is New Year’s Day, and in Banaras, it’s not the eve, but the first day of the year that is celebrated, for it being a new beginning, a good beginning, and rightly so. I seem to have begun the year with stories of death and of the dead. Stories of Aghori Babas, who walk around with chalk-smeared bodies and long beards, wearing nothing except some beads around their throats and wrists; carrying the trishul, the sign of Shankar Mahadev. They sit for long hours stoned, lost in dhyaan or meditation.
We are on a boat, being steered in the night from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Assi Ghat. It is cold, there is smog on the waters, we cannot see beyond a few feet. It is almost as though ghosts are travelling with us, or it may just be my imagination playing tricks.
I look at the man telling me the tale.“ Aghori Babas have strange powers,” Rakesh says. He leans back, “The Baba then said to us, ’ Give me the skull of a Jaiswal’.”
The boat rocks in the dirty green waters of the Ganges, mother to us Indians. We bathe in these waters to purify ourselves… this water into which the sewage waters pour from the city, this water where people wash dishes and clothes and throw the ash of the wood from the burning corpses.
“You know why the Baba asked for the skull of a Jaiswal?”
I nod, wondering what is so special about a Jaiswal skull. All I know that they are the Banias of Banaras, it is a common surname here.
“The skull of the Jaiswal is big, and it is hard. It is a hard skull and does not crack easily. That is why the Baba wanted me to give him the skull. It is big, so the Baba can cook a good meal in it, and it is hard, so it will last a long time as a vessel.”
“So why did you not give it to him?”
“Well, a Jaiswal skull is hard to crack,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. It was obvious that he did not want to give the Baba what he wanted. This Baba was his father’s friend, or acquaintance. Maybe he did not feel obliged enough to do what was required. A shiver ran up my spine. There was more to come, even as the fog enveloped us some more, and the boatman rowed harder, the oars moving slow against the water current.
Read the entire story here.
© ABHA IYENGAR, 2017