Statutary Republic

Mine is bigger than yours,
said every man
vying to be head of the clan.

In serpentine queues,
the promise of growth was flung,
to privilege and riches it clung,

Beneath diaphanous skin
the farmer’s bones rose like pilgrim hills
maps caught a flu of names, forests turned to mills.

Unity remained a theory in school,
a word reserved for rote,
the free quill was crushed if otherwise it wrote.

On stolen land, bronze watched in vain,
by a river dammed, it stood tall, ‘tallest of all’–
Iron Man, by the irony appalled.

– Sumeet Keswani



‘The seas are rough’
Flail. Swim. Fail.
‘You must build’
Hammer. Nail. Wood.
‘A ship of will’
Bow. Keel. Stern.
‘To survive this love.’

‘Find an island’
Compass. Sea. Lost.
‘Make a home’
Hammer. Nail. Wood.
‘You are alone’
Yearn. Long. Crave.
‘On this forsaken land’

Paris, mon amour

So here I am

Leaving you behind –

The train lifts its skirt and runs

Before I can change my mind –

Wondering who,

If anyone, can ever conquer

This memory of you.


I’d stay and save

Myself the mediocrity.

If you’d let me have

You for eternity.

But you’re a fickle lover,

O Paris, mon amour,

Let’s not linger

On this goodbye.

My time is up! Au revoir!


The canals in the new town

Reflect my parting blues;

In a concert of cities

Who would want to follow you?

O Paris, mon amour,

Let’s not fake niceties now.

It’s not me. It is You.


You invited me over

For a drink or two;

Before night fell, I was in love,

You had had your someone new.

Your streets are full of lovers gone mad

Artists, they call them,

Victims of cobbled-street voodoo.

O Paris, mon amour,

Let me go

Before I’m a prisoner, too.


No corner cafe will ever smell the same

The streets won’t sing again

Church bells will never promise

The stunning spell of Notre Dame.

What have you done?

O Paris, ma chérie,

My heart is now a homeless refugee,

My soul is yours to claim.


I’ll be back another night

For one more forbidden affair

Between my pen and your rues.

Until then,

O Paris, mon amour,

Grant me this final farewell kiss,

Bid me a fond adieu.



104 degrees


She checks my temperature,

“Scarily warm,” reads the plight-

Sterilized mercury stick

Dangling from parched mouth,

Reeking of the black night,

And pills that made

Skin the shade of auburn

Monsoon into sheets, her arms,

Memories of another summer-

When spring birds sang out of turn.

‘Do you need anything warm?’

Warm warm warm

‘How are you feeling?’

Feeling feeling feeling?

‘Still under the weather?’

Hot and humid, with a chance of thunderstorm.

The white coats arrive in armies,

Carpet-bombing the dermis in their foray,

A steel briefcase of needles

Preying on veins, probing

For signs of foul play.

‘Tis a pity they don’t stick one

Into my atrocious excuse

Of a heart.

I don’t remember

When the blackness sank in,

Walls painted with despair,

Closets filled with pain;

There’s no more room for sin.

The forecast every March is January-cold,

Cold as the wind that bites

My monsooning skin.

~ Sumeet



Rain drapes everything
In a veil of wistful longing,
A yearning for something lost
Many moons ago,

About the same time
Solitude became more
Pleasing than company,
Silence, a friend, and conversation, a woe.

There’s nothing quite as soothing then
As a song on love and its follies,
Windows rolled down, the years fleeting
Amid arrows of melancholy,

“I’ll have a cup of tea,
Please. Brewed to a burn-
The skin of lovers put out to sea.”


Where Forevers Begin


I seem to have lost my words;

They left in the middle of the night-

The day I forgot to swallow my blues,

A mouthful of addiction, memories on flight.


I seem to have lost my blues;

They left on a train of thought

While I was willfully drowning

In a fight I had never fought:


The light of your caramel mornings

Seeping into a world forgot.


~ Sumeet Keswani


The steps are smaller

Than my nimble feet remember.

I climb them two at a time,

Skipping memories

Like minefields.


The koels are still here

With their songs;

Masked bee eaters, spoonbills and sunbirds-

The season’s flavour-

Now add to the evening clamour.


Termites have built abodes

With the dust of abandoned dreams

And unused melancholy

On derelict walls –

Nostalgia has the nicest friends.


The house still stands tall but

Home has misplaced its landmarks;

There now lives

An abstract familiarity

Where a boy once scraped his knees bloody


Building worlds

Of implausible possibilities.


~ Sumeet


The world is inherently ugly,

Dull as the thud of death

Muddled in everyday indifference –


The very reason poets

Look to the sky,

And madmen (like I)


Cannot stop

Scratching the surface,

Scarring parchment skin,


In hope of striking scarlet gold,

Buried away by leprechauns

With sorrows old.



Bleed now,

My dearest.


For the world depends

On the declotting

Of this sentiment.



What are we
But waves abandoned
On a silken shore,
Feverish in our attempts
To find home.

What is love
But this pristine
Between vowels frothing
At the lips of nameless lands.

I found mine in you-
The belonging of a nomad
To a castle of sand.

~ Sumeet

The Squab


Darkness descends
Eventually. Inevitably.
The empty day is swallowed whole
By dusk, emptier still.

What do you call a baby pigeon?
(The cavalier question floats into the night)
A diminutive feathered corpse lies motionless
Peaceful in this last light,
Eyes never opened- not once.
Not even to witness the end.

Death arrives in the most precise
Not a second early, not one too late.

But what of those that never
Get to live, to age, to wait.

10-year-old Giulia in Italy,
Buried alive by a quake;

Omran, 5, of Aleppo
Covered in the grime of war and prime-time fame,
13 other kids bombed
In the country with no names;

A little girl blown to pieces
In Afghanistan fields-
Landmines don’t get along with soccer;

Hundreds of migrant childhoods
Washed ashore- lungs filled with the ocean,
The only kingdom with shelter to offer.

Death arrives in the most precise moment.
Not a second early, not one too late.
But what of those
Left behind to ache?