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The thelawallah’s cart resembles a war field:

his carrots blaze like Red Fort
but his radishes come
with a cool shade of leaves.

I swallow my spit—suppressing
the desire to eat the street.

"Whoosh! Whoosh!"

a little shehzada pulls ahead of me
fighting djinns and rakshasas
clearing the road to Fatehpuri.

On both sides:
an infection of crumbling sights
plague old refurbished buildings

—a dirty tricolored flag sprouts
from the rot like a peepal tree.

On a shaky rooftop

a young photographer adjusts his tripod
while his friend points her lens
to the old city from the edge of her seat:

Shahjahan’s drunk elephants
are marching the open road
to be partitioned into two countries.

I burn my field notes with my father’s remaining skin:

his relatives are always eating
off leaf plates washed with haoma
and stitched with funeral pins.

The ghat is across the border.
(The border is always sealed.)



Salik Shah is a writer, filmmaker, and the founding editor of Mithila Review, the journal of international science fiction and fantasy (2015-). His work has appeared on Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, and The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction (Volume 2). Twitter: @salik. Website: salikshah.com.
Current Issue
17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills, chatters and shivers. The near becomes far as the far comes close.
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