Monday, 12 February 2018


Wang Jiqian (Wang, 1907-2003)
Cliffs and Boulders Contending in Beauty

A humble attempt to translate my father Anup Sethi's poem सामना (1985)

The mountain of grief stands tall, o child!
You will scrape at it with tender hands.

Not a scratch will you be able to engrave
Slashing at it for a lifetime.

A gravel of tear will float
And the whole world will sprawl into a blur before you.

Just keep your jaw clenched
And if possible, don’t blink. 

Monday, 22 January 2018


Self Portrait
by Andy Warhol (1966)

Is guilt my convenient conscience cleaner?
Like one of those acidic sprays off the shelf
No worries if a mess is made
I just draw out my handy friend
And wipe out my trail of stubborn stains?
It is, you seem to suggest, isn’t it?
You patient memoried surface of my spills and blows.

But it’s been far too long
And you’ve turned a bitter hue
With all the rubbing and scrubbing.

And me, oh so exhausted from this ritual
that has turned
that wretched blue bottle into a synthetic fifth limb.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Persistence of Memory (1931)
By Salvador Dali

Oiling mother’s tired hair
Withered under each day’s sun
Tangled hopelessly behind her deceptive bun.

I moisten it gently
Like the month of July
And then,
Like I’ve seen her sometimes
Loosening the tense soil of a potted plant,
I push my fingers deeper
Into her slowly softening scalp.

The hair lusterless all week
Slowly grows adazzle and sleek
The strands of black and hennaed brown
And even the few greys that make her frown.

I go on to part her hair
Like opening a precious gilded book.
And almost magically
Flanks and flanks of regal silver
Tucked within these unseen folds
Come into my full view.

Was it Time I was staring at?
Wound up and waiting
In the heart of my mother’s dense hair?

In any case,
I oiled it too, tenderly.
And then,
Braided it with the rest.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

August Mornings

Waves of Love (1896)
by Edvard Munch

The cloud of sleep dissipates.
I wake up free falling.

Eyes still shut
I begin to feel once again
That ache
Unrelenting in its grasp.
Much like how you reached out to me.
Shoulders first.

Eyes still shut
My nose tingles next
With the dust in the stale air,
Suspended lifeless
From weeks of fastened windows and dead skin.

Eyes still shut
I hear my heart
Dripping through my ear into the pillow
Setting my head a-ticking.

Eyes still shut
I can see already
The dark
Like waves
Lapping against me.

The cloud of sleep by now dissipated,
With eyes still quite shut,
I wake up sunk,


Monday, 15 May 2017

Cloud and Sky

The False Mirror (1928)
by René Magritte 

As day broke
and so did my dream
I woke up
With one weeping eye.

Still rubbing one
and wiping the other
I could not tell
cloud from sky.

Blue clouds and white sky.
But how could that be?
I focused and refocused my eye
The white surely exceeded the blue.

So it must be.
Unless this strange morning
There was too much cloud
on too little a sky.

But every time I blinked
They switched places.
Both seemed still
And both seemed afloat.
Both changed forms from beaks to boats.

Exhausted, I asked a friend
To look out his window
And describe me his view.
Despondent he said,
"All I see is grey"

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

He and She

He and She by Agata Zyclinska

He wandered under the sun
Baked a crusty brown.
Her pallor by now
Had merged into the walls.

Rode upon his shoulders
in his tattered sac
The tale of a floating hero, vagrant and blue.

Under her pillow
Hid dreams of ships
Taking flight with sails unfurled and crisp. 

He dreaded the dusty swirl, the dizzy twirl, the ruthless city whirl.
And She found herself petrifying
Sometimes into a beige upholstered chair
Or sometimes, into a hollow brittle vase. 

But some days they crossed each other's worlds.
He in her dark enclave
She on his street corner
And sometimes she brought a steady hand to him
And he, a bit of the sun into hers. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Soaked Almonds and Boiled Potatoes

Peeling Potatoes 
by Henry Hetherington Emmerson

Lately the world has lost its charm.

Except sometimes,
You know,
While peeling soaked almonds
And boiled potatoes.

A heart warming, feet dangling exercise,
In discerning
Spikes of medieval crowns
And skylines of ancient towns
And sometimes even the hemlines of ballroom gowns.

All in the uneven unskilled unravelling
Of almond and potato peels.

Apparitions of a personal puppet show
Entering and exiting
with not so much pomp
and just a faded glow.
But prompt as ever
As if they were standing in the wings
In a neat little row.

My mid morning pastime.