Arun Kolatkar

Topics: Poetry, Mumbai, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Pages: 37 (8104 words) Published: October 31, 2012
A game of tigers and sheep

Who has the tigers and who the sheep

never seems to make any difference.

The result is always the same:

She wins,

I lose.

But sometimes when her tigers

are on the rampage,

and I've lost half my herd of sheep,

help comes from unexpected quarters:


The Rusty Shield Bearer,

neutral till then,

para-drops a winning flower —


and irrelevant —

on the checkerboard

drawn on the pavement in charcoal,

cutting off the retreat

of one tiger,

and giving a check to the other;

and quickly follows it up

with another flower —

just as yellow

and just as irrelevant — except

that it comes down even more slowly;

a flower without a search warrant

that brushes past her earlobe,

grazes her cheek,

and disappears down the front

of her low-cut blouse —

where she usually keeps

her stash of hash —

to confuse her even further, with its mildly


but very distracting fragrance. 

Arun Kolatkar

An Old Woman

An old woman grabs
hold of your sleeve
and tags along.

She wants a fifty paise coin.
She says she will take you
to the horseshoe shrine.

You've seen it already.
She hobbles along anyway
and tightens her grip on your shirt.

She won't let you go.
You know how old women are.
They stick to you like a burr.

You turn around and face her
with an air of finality.
You want to end the farce.

When you hear her say,
‘What else can an old woman do
on hills as wretched as these?'

You look right at the sky.
Clear through the bullet holes
she has for her eyes.

And as you look on
the cracks that begin around her eyes
spread beyond her skin.

And the hills crack.
And the temples crack.
And the sky falls

with a plateglass clatter
around the shatter proof crone
who stands alone.

And you are reduced
to so much small change
in her hand. 

Arun Kolatkar

Chaitanya 1

Sweet as grapes
are the stone of jejuri
said chaitanya.

He popped a stone
in his mouth
and spat out gods 

Arun Kolatka


sand blasted shoulders
bladed with shale

cactus thrust
up through ribs of rock

lime stone loins

cactus fang
in sky meat

with rock cut steps

sun stroked 
thighs of sand stone

pelvic granite
fallen archways


Arun Kolatkar


This is the time of day I like best,
and this the hour
when I can call this city my own;

when I like nothing better
than to lie down here, at the exact centre
of this traffic island

(or trisland as I call it for short,
and also to suggest
a triangular island with rounded corners)

that doubles as a parking lot
on working days,
a corral for more than fifty cars,

when it's deserted early in the morning,
and I'm the only sign
of intelligent life on the planet;

the concrete surface hard, flat and cool
against my belly,
my lower jaw at rest on crossed forepaws;

just about where the equestrian statue
of what's-his-name
must've stood once, or so I imagine.

I look a bit like
a seventeenth-century map of Bombay
with its seven islands

not joined yet,
shown in solid black
on a body the colour of old parchment;

with Old Woman's Island
on my forehead,
Mahim on my croup,

and the others distributed
casually among
brisket, withers, saddle and loin

- with a pirate's
rather than a cartographer's regard
for accuracy.

I like to trace my descent
- no proof of course,
just a strong family tradition -

to the only bitch that proved
tough enough to have survived,

first, the long voyage,
and then the wretched weather here
- a combination

that killed the rest of the pack
of thirty foxhounds,
imported all the way from England

by Sir Bartle Frere
in eighteen hundred and sixty-four,
with the crazy...
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