Thursday, June 17, 2010

Green Poetry by Janice Pariat

margherita june

summer afternoon,

languorous heat,
the monsoon a shift
of wind away.
ranjit mali says he can
smell it in the earth,
damp, rich and sweet,
sense it by pekoe birds
that fall suddenly quiet.
life here is wholesome
and lonely.

under the lichee tree

is where the world
first formed – watching
small green clusters
in upturned silence, grass
behind my neck. a tilted
view of patchy sky
through crazy tangle
of twig and leaf.

soon, tainted blush

and growing heaviness,
rain drums the earth
to time the season.
bats in their blindness
know when fruit is ripe,
ready to be torn from
papery shell. what’s left
is mine to peel and cradle.
life here drips quietly
from branch to soil.

army stops

driving through assam
meant check points.

obsolete barricades, sand bag
piles heavy as sin.

a slowing down of journeys,
and tightening of air. terse
dialogue in hushed voices.

sometimes they came upon
us suddenly, those clusters
of brown-uniformed men,
waiting like a lazy hunting party.

and we would have no time,
before we stopped, to rearrange
our travelling lives – blankets,
pillows, food basket, slipped-off
shoes. just our faces.

mixture of drowsiness,
and surprise, a steady gaze when
torchlight sweeps across the seats
– hard, brisk and piercing.

sometimes, seeing me (I was eleven)
they’d wave us on without checking
the luggage, beneath the seats, front
or back.

they always inspected the booth.

shadows fell like trees across
the windscreen, glint of barrel
in the queer moonlight,
metallic taste in my mouth.

always that moment of silence
before the engine came to life.
the slow shudder of movement,
suddenly the wind in my face,
an inexplicable feeling of escape.

forest without end

How to explain the forest
behind my house,
the one edged by trees
I climbed to sail
mad march winds
and pluck guavas,
hard, sour as the end
of childhood.

Yet then, it was day
after day of exploring
the stories in my head
In the midst of tall pine
- those undefeated soldiers -
and willows by the water,
fishermen searching for
a girl who drowned.

The moss, a springy carpet
from which to jump on
gnarled root and ancient
rock, fleeing from creatures
I imagined alone, in bed,
watching the stars
or the moon hang
at the edge of night.

How to explain the forest
behind my house,
the one where I avoided
crystal-clear portals
to an upside-down world,
and slipped past the storm-
wrecked cedar, damp, decaying,
smell of age and end of life.

Yet then, it was evening
after evening of chasing
fireflies that died in bottles
- I never understood why -
and searching for crickets
in bamboo thickets, until
light faded and left me
with sound and shadow.
the forest in my head.

Janice Pariat is a freelance writer currently based in her hometown Shillong, Meghalaya after many years of being away in Delhi and elsewhere. She is inspired by her mixed Portuguese, British and Khasi ancestry, literature, Shillong's troubled history, her childhood in Assam, everyday things, travel. Her writing has been published in Soundzine,Tongues of the Ocean, The Smoking Poet, Barnwood International Poetry Mag, Poetry Friends, Tehelka, The Caravan, Art India, Ultra Violet and Literati among others.  Janice has been awarded a 2011 Swiss Arts Council grant for a research residency in Lucerne to work on a short graphic novel. She blogs at
For more green poetry, interviews and guest posts, see the Dhaba's Voices page.


  1. I liked these poems. Thanks for posting them. Best we not forget the forest in our heads...

  2. @Sam--I missed this; thanks for stopping by! I liked them also.


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