As if you haven’t asked yourself umpteenth time already
they keep asking over and over
why poetry, of all things?
After all, poetry is what
just a signature on winds
a possible legacy
but mostly love’s labour lost
cause’ money is still crap

You want to take their hand and
put it on the belly of heaving monster
so they might feel what is invisible to the eye
so vast that it can’t be touched all at once
but you invite them for a walk instead
till the end of the road to see
what lies beyond the bent

Every time you step off the edge
to wander into the underbrush
you get to choose a different reason
pure hedonism for one thing
it’s a licence to get high on love and other stories
tipsy enough to speak the unspeakable
be provocative or maudlin
blame it on muse later and
all is forgiven the next morning

You write poetry to get away with shenanigans
or so you thought until Kalburgi
you know better now
no ink can get away as well as Karni Sena did
terrorising school kids to defend the honour of Padmavati
no more a stray group of ignominious right wingers
fringe is mainstream now
growing out of sundry cracks on pavement
until it disappears under the thicket
liberty is now conditional
catering to the whims of jingoists

You write poetry to construct
a new plot for your story
unsullied by the values of patriarchy
where the honour of an entire clan rests between
thighs of nubile girls to be owned and controlled
by men who believe that worth of women lies in their vaginas
you refuse to play goddess of convenience
invoked at will only to be sunk in wet dreams
after days of revelry

You write poetry to birth new gods
commingling’s of yearning and hope
in dystopia where secular is the dirty word
Washiqur Rahman couldn’t get away with
and Gauri Lankesh paid for it with her life
no land with a thousand flowers is pure enough
for those who addled by complexity
take refuge in false piety
you refuse to be part of ritualistic cleansing
of chaotic, multifaceted composite you actually are
and embrace your mongrelizing
even if it is the last thing you do

You write poetry as unofficial civil disobedience
because you do not count if silent
and your personal freedom does not mean a thing
until all men and women are free
to live and die with dignity, something
Mohammed Ikhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid
were denied in Republic of Lyncherdom
you write every time the monster heaves within
threatening to rip you apart if you do nothing
you write to save yourself
it’s as basic as that