Three Poems

​Except that we were gesso
and the painting a war scene --

Tommies golden in their red tunics,
horses unhinged, turbans in mud.

Except that we lay flat (placenta-blue)
under the screams,

slashed chests, fringed howdahs, elephant
stampede. Except that a souk under the stars,

a scrunched manuscript, a kiln
rotund like a ready womb,

or ablution in ink (cherry prayer
beads for me, calipers for you)

is what we would have chosen to gesso.  
Except for that, the gallery was dim, in perfect temperature.

Malabar Hills

​A Raj-style chair
  Moon’s bovine calm
 Mirror leaning
  emblazoned on the verandah
The old calendar hangs
  (Discolored sinewy horses
  galloping above April/May)

There is a kneecap in the word diction
  where memory collects
We walk on the unsayable

Such as:
  Honey tipped knife
Cancer cell pluralizing
Parched and hanging
Never tear the calendar

Let it always be early
 spring. Bring your sugared
tea to the foot of the stair

such as the weight of salt on a flame

such as the long surviving flower
in a bottle of cream
soda, the strategy
of termites, song of melting ice,
a brush
living for seventeen years in nail paint,
such as the voice we use for taxi drivers,
such as please,
I must migrate
It is spring and I can hear in the wind
the wings
of my fellow-butterflies.

SHADAB ZEEST HASHMI is a Pushcart prize nominee and her book Baker of Tarifa won the 2011 San Diego Book Award for poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry International, Vallum, Nimrod, The Bitter Oleander, The Cortland Review, New Millennium Writings, RHINO, The Citron Review, Journal of Postcolonial Writings and is forthcoming in Spillway and other places. She has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence. Kohl and Chalk is her new book of poems.