Four Poems

Rajiv Mohabir

Illustration by Cody Cobb

Indo-queer I

toke naam deilas gandu aur faggot
toke aisan paki aur antiman pukaarat

The mark of mehendi on your palms betrays
you just like the jaggery cleft of your palate.

The night you tore into the world, the pandit
opened his book and placed a star along your spine.

Yuh limin' sunburned sting of salt and silk,
those pretty-boy white fags cyan't lick yuh peppah,

can't tread the wild Caribbean brine
in your tongue, can't mend the cutlass gash of your eyes.

Before Her Majesty's letters spelled out homo
you tied saris and danced launda ke nauch.

Now the white Christian fag wants to tie you up
in his basement, he wants to tear open your throat.

They call you names like ass-fuck or faggot
They call you these things: Paki and antiman.

Shame in Mathura

ratiya mein radha ke paas jaiela kanha
magar rukhmini ke gaale mein dalal jai mala

Madho, you shook like the earth, thrashing and
foaming at the lips the night you sipped Malathion

to expel field insects from your guts. The elders
and priest hungered to tie your dupatta to your bride's

sari. You writhed on the bedclothes that
sponged the sweat of last night's men, setting free

your "oh gods" to the air to take flight. The doctors
mined your chest; excavated your wild desire, cast

the queer catch into the sea and it grew a macaw plume.
The fourth time you drank poison, your father

tied you to the bedpost gagged, dragged you bound
to the mandap and clipped your flight feathers.

At night it was Krishna who went to Radha,
but it was on Rukmini's neck that he placed the wedding garland. 

Indo-queer II

          for Sundari

dudh rahe dudh aur pani rahe pani,
urdat pakshi ke rang kaun dekhsakela.

Hear your Aji talk, "Beta, you na get sense?"
Hear your Nani say, "Chach, you head na gi'you wuk?"

When the elders gather they will all clap their hands,
they will beg for your rainbowed silks to wave and wave.

I've seen it in Queens, at the Rajkumari
Center in curls, in kajal, in a lehenga.

You dance-walk to buskers' beats down Liberty
the A train and E, to rum an' Coke and your wine,

with five countries in your migration story.
You still "na get shame," your father has sewn his lips,

though your mother cries for two years straight after
she finds another man's underwear in your laundry.

Milk remains milk, water, water,
who can make out the flying bird's colors? 

The Mimicry of Men

kuch kuch jhare punkne hamar baap sikha del.
kuch kuch ham aur aapan se khojke bhi sikhli.

Forget the fasts of Navratra and Phagua.
Drink the Johnny, sip the 'Badian rum, sugar is sweet,

my love. You are caught in a triangular trade.
Black and blues all along your back but not as sweet as

They took your sohar, mauran, khelwan,
and chutney; gave you Jack and Jill went up the hill.

They knifed your ka—kha—ga—gha—nga, and forked
your tongue into a mimic tongue against your mother.

Dis English country, speak English. You admonish
her, wrapped in three piece wool pinstripes.

At dusk you will clutch a bottle of El Dorado
tight-tight, you will sing rum 'til I die until you escape.

Some of this magic my father taught me,
Some I searched out and learned myself.