“Slice” and other poems by Umang Kalra

How To Run Away

slowly pry away every hand that wields
the nails that dig into your skin, crisscross
scratches shaped into dry throats and the
taste of dust glistening through humid, hot,
sickening summer air sinking into your bones
use your fingers, use your words, unravel
the knots that hold your feet in place, that
nail your tired, broken skin to the ground that
has built your body with its dirt; wipe your
fingerprints off every surface you have touched
slit through every string that ties you to these
lives that have to bend and break to make room
for you, smooth and untouched pieces, clean
breaks all over the floor: dust off the empty
promises and send them somewhere better
scrunch up every muddy, murky memory into
your trembling fist – you exist, and they don’t
anymore – keep them safe somewhere in your brain,
for you will need bricks to build a new home



My heartstrings have been knotted
carelessly, messily, tightly, into place
in countless little corners of the world,
tangled in hi(stories), dancing, pulsing,
with the sound of hurried feet on stone
and sand and sleet, racing hearts and
fleets of fluttering eyes ferried through
streets of gold, dust upon dust upon
dust, upon stones that cover little bits
and pieces of the past, buried in the
corners that hide in the shadows but
sometimes glint like taunting eyes in
the yellow glow that covers the sky
on days that colour the air grey, laced
in sweet smoke, as sweat chokes me,
for every change in the weather, every
shift from seamless simplicity is (not
seamlessly) woven into me, there are
jagged bits of me that lay messily
scattered on pavements that couldn’t
know less of me, there are wisps of
air in hidden alleys that know my name,
lost among winds and blizzards that
break through walls and through me;
My heartstrings are rather fragile, they
sometimes tremble, and they crumble
onto me, and I am aching for something
resembling stability; there is much more
that I have left to see


For Shashwat

You come in waves, warm
  fluttering figures dancing off
of silhouettes -- flames licking 
  memories off of summertime's 
skin, you come in shadows, lost
  to my eyes but always shivering 
at the edges of my tired mind, 
  like waves that had last kissed 
the shore so very long ago but still
  carry the scent of its salt in their
curling forms -- you are the fire 
  at my feet at the end of a day 
spent carving blisters into my skin,
  you are the soft laughter in the 
depths of my pillowcase that holds
  me as I sleep, you are the little 
corner of memories I keep hidden 
  and safe and covered in gentle 
sighs and the hurried goodbyes
  that have coloured every inch of 
of our knowing each other -- I could 
  tell you the colour of your eyes and 
the way that they sparkle when they 
  meet mine and I could tell you of the 
way your laughter rings through my
  chest even though you're so terribly
far away, but I do not have words, I 
  do not have any language that could 
hold the weight of your existence, 
  I do not know how to bottle you up 
into a poem and pretend that it is 
  enough: you come in waves, you 
always have and always will, and I
  will be patiently waiting at the edge
of the sea

Home never felt like spring

strings tied, kites flying in the back of my mind;
colour seeps into my blood and sweat pools
beneath cotton that runs against me like winds
that carried sweet smelling marigolds and
rajnigandha that sang of nighttime, drums beat
and flowers sway in sunlight that soaks me,
head to toe in heat that had alway been uninvited;
my skin is tired, scathing rain and sleet have
scraped the edges off of me, the skies rumble as if
they are coming to swallow me and I
raise my arms waiting
to be taken, but the sun dapples shadows onto
my skin and a forgotten, crumpled thing resembling
bursts out of my chest, cracking like soil,
welcoming blooms and buds and softer, quieter things
than the angry thunder that winter brings;
I know now that
home will only ever feel
like spring


a mirror lies enough it does not	paint me a demon
	it does not	slice through me like the knives
that live in my throat	swallowed along with all of the
	fruit I stole from the		orchard I wished was mine
germination needs sunlight too	I could swallow the 
	ocean and it would not be enough	to grow trees
inside of my lungs

The Myth(?) of Sisyphus

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” 
	- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

One must imagine Sisyphus happy,
	clockwork crumbles under the weight
of stone and pelting skies and lines that
	cease to mean more than a smile that
never formed to begin with, and one 
	must pretend the tumbling skies are
untraveled roads, unturned stones, un-
	known folds within cloth and skin 
and stories spun from darkening nights,
	sordid sights, unsightly voices that 
sink to their knees and pull the strings out
	from below your feet – the clouds do not
move in planetary trajectories they do not
	curl in the shape of time, feet do not
rush after the turning hands of a clock, they simply
	turn and trudge within themselves, you see,
the sky is no great adventure, the earth is no
	endless sea, the ocean is waiting to swallow
the last bits of us, and our moments of breath 
	do not draw any more oxygen than
that which exists within the bellowing of thunder
	and the swaying, singing, shifting trees
that dig their roots so very aimlessly, one must
	imagine Sisyphus happy, or the voices
may someday win

Umang Kalra is an Indian poet and a student of History at Trinity College, Dublin. Her work has appeared in Tn2 Magazine, Coldnoon, The Rising Phoenix Review, Porridge Magazine, VAYAVYA, and others. She has previously worked with Inklette Magazine, and is currently involved in a year long mentorship programme for women of colour in Ireland, under the bilingual poet Doireann Ni Ghriofa.

“Slice” and other poems © Umang Kalra

%d bloggers like this: