Mihir Vatsa is the 2014-15 Charles Wallace Fellow at University of Stirling. He is the author of the poetry collection Painting That Red Circle White (Authors Press 2014) and has received a Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, and a Toto Funds the Arts award in Writing. He grew up in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, and studied English at University of Delhi. He an editor for Vayavya, a journal of contemporary poetry and art.
Touch Me Not (Dear Darkness)
Like a thigmonast,
I shut myself
from the touch of the city.
In the room, the towel
hangs in a corner
over a bottle empty of its contents—
not yet confident to face
the moisture of the night.
Awake, I look through the window,
my eyes a latch to pull another
sleepless soul out of its walls, and ask,
do you also see the ochre in the sky,
even after sundown?
The beginning of night
in the ritual of streetlamps.
Only the moon, timid behind
the heavy clouds nods:
a short relief of reflection over
the nearby stream.
I’m not alone in my dread
for dungeons in the hills,
not alone in the ruins
left for me.
I’ve heard you are falling in love
again. You are dilating your eyes,
learning to hold a gaze. I’ve heard
you are considering your old plan
of working at a nostalgia store.
Like a sun-baked pot at the shore—
attractive at the neck which also
lends its texture to the most artful
pattern, your only heart— you are
wearing your charm on your body.
Therefore, you should know that
in this plateau, birds from north
have arrived looking for warmth
in our winter, carrying their same
desire for home in noisy beaks—
they are investigating our sky, my
friend, contemplating touchdown.
A few miles from here
is a bridge of war below the castle.
The river rushes under it,
the water rough against the medieval piers
& whatever it is that’s kept
every building stone in its place.
So many battles hidden amongst
the trees, meadows, and mist,
that when the sun appears, it brings with it
unexpected presents like guests do
when visiting our homes.
I press the heat in half-read books,
store it in souvenirs spread over my table.
Bookmarks and postcards.
Train tickets. Bronze coins
useless in my wallet.
In the night, my flatmate and I
discuss the temperature,
and every word forms a thread
of smoke in the chill between us.
I tell him I’ll be stripping in stages
on my way back— jacket off in London,
sweater over Amsterdam, thermals
over Istanbul— to prep my body
for the heat in Delhi. I might just melt.
I know I shouldn’t say things like this.
Things averse to the fabric of being Indian.
Rather, I should be nostalgic, craving
my food, missing turmeric on my palm
after dinner, sulking at the charm
of my mispronounced name—
like the true displaced character
wistful for home— but I don’t know.
Don’t know which city would end in a lake,
which airport merely a terminal.
Imagine you and I
busy with our things,
occupied with the urgency
of our work,
that even if we see
each other every day
there’s a hardly a word
Now imagine a text
from your mother
anxious if you have
on a Friday night,
and imagine you miss it
because indeed, you have.
I don’t live
to weigh your faults
in my balance. But imagine
the rain in the most
sunniest of days, and imagine
the two of us taking shelter
under a tree unaware of
our flickering friendship.
Would you speak with me
then? Would you
accept my desperation
to put my memory
in your time?