The city is a smoker’s lungs grieving its ways.
The motorists on her lanes, Lilliputians under
a dulled sun, almost machines. They evolve
into mouths that gulp breathing apparatuses,
skin that embraces the white cotton of sickbed,
eyes dulled, watching hospital ceilings tiring
from holding the guardian angels. At the
traffic signal, the wrath of the one behind the
wheel grows into a forbidden smoke tree. It
bears fruit, red as the signal light: hawkers,
hijras, beggars, young mothers with soiled
pouches holding infants in drugged sleep. Do
not roll down the window to taste the fruit.
The eye of the runaway is the seed of pain.
If sown, it infests like the weed, becomes a
green translation of fire by the earth. A fire
of self-immolation, incessant like the beedi
that you shared beneath the village railway
under bridge. Those loving lips that left the
republic of remembrance, now torpid below
callous eyes that watch the runaway perched
half-naked, half-alive on footpath railings.
His kidney bartered for shabby currency notes,
caste certificate laminated by the tanned skin.
The runaway sits on the railway track, unsure
where to go: a goat tied to the sacrificial stone,
waiting for the clinical cut of a victory march.
Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His work has appeared in literary journals of repute and was nominated for literary awards, including the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.