Pigeons have no tenancy laws.
She placed her squabs on my sill.
When I protested, she gazed at me
with looks which were a hybrid
of hesitancy and hostility.

At night, the pigeons cooed.
Throughout the day,
the exhalation of their excreta
wafted across the apartment.
During feed-time, their twitter
was louder than church bells
annunciating crisis. But I was helpless...

Soon I decided -- to be kind to myself,
I had to be cruel.
I opted to evict them.
But there are no courts for this.
No legal machinery.
Only feelings.

Feelings have always failed me.

Soul Scan


Shells of silence underneath my skin
burst in a rash of run-ons.
Clear as mud, carp the critics.
But I soldier on like an infantryman
bulwarking his nation’s border,
hoping to be helpful
in an era of nuclear warfare
or bombardments from the Net.


In my growing years I wished to be famous.
Parents gave value to visibility.
It was reassuring for them
to have others accept their issue.
When their pressure ended I realized,
I am best in my booth.


Without strain of the perfect gargle
or granules of pitch
I sing sweetest for myself.
Skills of a soloist
I have not gathered.
I thrive when my skin trills for itself.

Garrison Report

In the calmness of cantonments living
quarters sprawled like the thighs
of a diva on a double spread.

There was a barrack here, a bungalow there, cluster
of condos, the church, clock tower and space.
Gaps seemed built-in as in a good dream.

Windows were latticed with gauze.
Blaze of lights obscured the exterior,
from the outside indoors were lucent.

During adolescence twilight turned me
into a traitor. In that era, in that environment,
these windows were our porn.


As a barfly I learned early to humor the waitstaff.
The boy at this perky hangout has been pouring
my pegs with precision which forced my eyes
to skid on his frazzled neckwear. As pourboire
I offered to pay for one.

The next session, while inspecting his brand-new
accessory, our eyes intersected. I don’t know
if it was goodness of my heart or the quality
of doctrines I was digesting but I needed him
to own another.

He was wavering. I hurled the concept
of choice. When my voice-over fell flat
I asked, space issues? No, it is easy to store,
was his accismus. He didn’t know, I know,
baggage is not spatial.


I understand your need for crispness.
You curtly quieten me when I stretch.
What gets to me is your sharpness
about this shortcoming.

You play in seriatim an unabbreviated
version of your seasons with trappings
of a mountebank, stories best wrapped
in gossamer of goodbyes.

That is my argument against academe.
They forget. But I hear you.
My oohs and aahs fresh as first time.
It’s a ritual you and I do not tire of.

Or maybe like me you know but are not keen to put
the kibosh on my charade. Laps of loneliness swim
across the unwritten pages of your festschrift. Age
does this. It tutors us to accept our limitations.


There never has been a go at noblesse oblige
but bills of other kinds have been hounding
me with haste. Legitimate or illegitimate
a bromide allows us to believe, pain pinches
the wearer. I like clichés. They remind me
of childhood and the lessons I never learnt.
Like first love.

Thirty-six years later, you were in my siesta
geared in my garments, with freshness of flowers,
cuddling my now chubby cheeks which our
grandchildren ought to be playing with.
Your nectarine skin, nicer than all the cookies
we couldn’t nourish. The tanginess of your tone
reminiscent of the tamarind tree and my ruing
the raiments we never wore. Your cavernous
eyes holding the harmonies we never caught on.
Energized, I get back to the drill of daily existence
happy you chose a summer home in my dream.


sanjeev Sethi


This Summer and That Summer [Bloomsbury]