Each time Max approaches my Rs-800-only-cane-bookshelf-bought-on-the-roadside,
I know what he’s really doing, even if there’s a bit of cane caught between paw and tooth.
Max has been eating poems. He tries very hard to repeat them through the night,
letting his wavering notes bounce off the green walls in the flat. Asking to be heard.
He’s loud enough to wake me and if I tune my ear correctly, if I listen right by the door,
I can hear the metaphors, garbled but genuine, I can even count his protracted syllables.
The weight of poems is such that Max has to spend the afternoons fighting sleep,
stretching his legs until his claws come out, his eyes warm with verses he must remember.
I know what he’s really doing, when he climbs onto my chest one night and looks right at me.
As if the quiet will not do, as if he requires an audience, as if the poem is only alive if it is
Max has been eating poems. That’s why his food is always left over, a perpetual late lunch
he often loses interest in. His canines glimmer with simile, his whiskers longer with enjambment.
Restlessly pacing on his tiptoes, his fur expanding as his tail quivers, calling out a section of
Whitman, then whittling out some Faiz. He confuses Keats with Mehrotra, mixes Dickinson
He pauses over Plath before he stumbles into Sappho, wrestling with himself until the only way
out is tearing at another piece of cane. I know what he’s really doing. I have looked into his
Even if he’s only been here for two and a half days, a new sort of friend, folding himself like a
page that has sailed under the bookshelf at random. Another bit of cane between his teeth, his
eyes weary, an almost fugitive, an imprecise thief, heaving until he’s spinning out by the door.
Max has been eating poems.
Chamakan Lagi – a History
(intro: siddheswari devi’s voice ~ like smoke, rising)
You say, there is a song that makes you feel like you
are stuck in the wrong body, in the wrong year, in the wrong century.
(chamakan lagi bindiya)
A song that makes you want to be a curve, a swirling line, draped in a saree,
dotted with a bindi, swaying your hips as you walk down the lane.
(lagi more bindiya)
You tell me this on the phone, humming its tune, sounding out the words,
trying to imitate the thumak of the tabla, to catch her voice in your own.
Every queer life,
(chamakan lagi more bindiya)
The past and the body, collapsing on each other,
without any absolutes, and your mouth moving
dark red, stained with song, as you plant yourself somewhere else in time,
(lagi moreeeeeeeee bindiyaaaaaaaaaaaa)
a feminized thing, a flowing thing, a thing with no name,
no question of penis or vagina,
no gaze to deconstruct, no family to disappoint,
(laaaaaaaagi more bindiya, chamakan bindiya, lagiiiii more bindiya)
drawing my gaze wherever you go,
historical and endless,
your pallu trembling
in the breeze.
(outro: tabla disappearing into siddheshwari’s voice)
Urooj (they/them) is a twenty-five-year-old queer writer and artist based in Delhi. They’re working on an upcoming docuseries project and they write poems when they can. When they’re not busy breaking gender or looking after cats, they make zines, take photos and hoard books. They hope they’ll keep their houseplants alive this year.