2 min read



Sun set; light lingers still…

In the absentness of my loss,

Your presence.


To be in love 

with you

was to read a poem, 

crafted beautifully…

And be overwhelmed

with despair: 

I could not write these words.


If a book of my poems

was flung airwards

and fell.

On dewy grass.

Would you wish

a love poem 

was muddied? 

Or a poem about 

revolution, stained?

What if the wet grass tried 

to add in a word? 

Or block out a couplet? 

What a way to edit poetry,

don’t you agree?


All these words I write, why do they never sound like mine? 

An absence of me—just your voice—echoing around like mine.

Stop, Watch

If a million clocks stopped working,

rebelling against the passage of time:

The hands demanding compensation and rest, 

for every ceaseless second spent moving.

The quartz tired of convulsing each moment,

with shock after shock of electricity.

And you looked up from the screen one day,

finally noticing, this excess of volition 

by tiny metal pieces, molded to be cogs.

Would you use stronger battery,

Or assault them with indifference?

A mere faulty clock doesn’t stop time.

My phone says it could take 3 more hours—

or a hundred days— from the border to Delhi.


In the loss of my voice, 

there was violence, unpunctuated—

The force that would cause 

a tight-wound string inside a piano, 

to quietly break midst a live concert.

And the violence of its brokenness 

would echo in the tapping of the key—

Each time, with a bit more wasted force. 

Till all the keys, and the piano, and the stage, 

and the world that began at the edge of it, 

went mute – and all you could hear, 

was that violent note, unheard by anyone else.

          — And so, I was silent when you died 

                   after all that – unpunctuated

A Ghazal for Translator Sahib

Sahib, this language you learn with discipline, do you not intend to love?

Rushing from prose to poetry, seeking meaning—no time, to lend to love?

Why do you have such disdain—a scowl covering your face, eyes judging?

Does literature’s burden weigh too much—for you to transcend to love?

A bolt of lightning—flooding velvet skies white—just for you to see.

That is poetry—a brisk moment of clarity—helping you ascend to love.

Lost in words of greats, long dead of loneliness—you hunt for jewels.

In translation, one word that barely covers a breath, you extend, to love.

He who wrote ‘Ask not for the love which once was ours, my love’ also said,

‘Not enough to be accused of hidden love’—for beliefs condemned to love.

Myriad love-words (their difference beyond words) flow in the forked river

Of my mother-tongue, but at the English sea, they just descend to ‘love’.

These different ‘love’s—did their real meaning not differ in the original?

A rainbow, penned as ‘white’—the fate meted at Sahib’s end, to love.

What is this little charade Kartikay? Pining for love’s lustre lost in English,

Yet always ready to steal—short-changing that tongue you so pretend to love.

Kartikay Agarwal is a 26-year old bilingual poet from Kanpur with his heart by the sea in Mumbai. Returning to poetry in 2020, he has been writing with The Quarantine Train – traversing voices, themes and forms in English or Hindustani. His original work has been featured in Narrow Road Journal, The Alipore Post and deCenter Magazine, while the Usawa Literary Review featured his English translation of a poem by Hussain Haidry.

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