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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 and filmmaker. His work has been nominated for Toto Awards and Kumaon Literary Festival’s Fellows of Nature, and one of his short stories appears in a course syllabus at SOAS University of London. He is the founding editor of Mithila Review, with media appearances around the world.
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20 Sep 2021

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