Three poetry

    by Mrinalini Harchandrai

    Battle Number

    He took a swing at her
    a whiskey-tinged record flew
    in circles, Benny Goodman tom-tommed
    in encouragement
    like a Tom and Jerry scene
    with hammer and chase.

    Minor chords blinded his heart
    he played her cheek
    as the alto sax drew blood
    over jazz standard strokes
    teardrops fell on the deaf ears
    of a self-obsessed clarinet.

    The tenor of those evenings
    we recorded in our gut
    punch, thump, shake
    rattled, she’d run into the street
    but returned like the jitterbug
    chorus, Sing, Sing, Sing
    and he played that song over
    and over.

    Wordy Naka

    After snagging mirrors and skimming fenders
    at a jammed junction
    the man in the next car goes on the offensive
    with the slow seethe of embers igniting
    his eyes launching
    flame arrows in my direction
    like a tan-ta-tan Indian god
    on a TV saga where missiles fly
    through panes.

    “Lady driver!” his complaint palpable
    in his grimace
    I send him a hex
    eye voodoo.
    Around us scooterists, cabbies, chauffeurs, bus
    drivers, truckers, tempo wheeler dealers,
    — all non-lady drivers —
    cut lanes, don’t signal, cut signals,
    blare through hospital zones,
    barrel through no entries,
    overtake rules.

    In this rush hour tangle the gentleman
    driver’s lip throbs, his stare fills
    with smoulder, his palm abuses
    the steering wheel, expletives
    in fluent honk.

    So I rev the engine
    in repartee
    and on a closed fist
    place a one-finger salute
    with ballerina-on-pointe grace
    like a lady driver.

    Paper Backed Fiction

    Government forms tell half-truths
    after putting down the surname
    your father bequeathed
    where is the line for
    the maternal legacy
    that outlines you,
    find the invisible checkbox
    untagging you as his
    possessive pronoun
    they omit the right
    for other halves to fill
    the dash after
    husband of_________
    his-and-her hyphenation
    is a squeeze, falling
    off the page
    like a maiden name
    appellation options fail
    to reveal our
    millennial tattoos
    instead of square-pegging
    us in roundly hole roles
    of Mrs, or miss
    the human being,
    sexing our thumbprints
    beyond self-recognition.

    Mrinalini Harchandrai is the author of ‘A Bombay in My Beat’, a collection of poetry. Her poem won first prize in The Barre (2017) and she was a finalist for the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize 2019. Her unpublished novel manuscript was selected as Notable Entry for the Disquiet International Literary Prize 2019. Her short fiction has been longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2018 and Columbia Journal Spring 2020 Contest. Her work has been anthologized in RLFPA Editions’ Best Indian Poetry 2018 and The Brave New World of Goan Writing (2018, 2020).

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