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 Her unpublished novel manuscript was selected as Notable Entry for the Disquiet International Literary Prize 2019.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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