Catabolic Woman by Arundhathi Subramaniam

We’re bound for the ocean 
and a largesse of sky, 
we’re not looking for the truth 
or living a lie. 
We’re coming apart, 
we’re going downhill, 
the fury’s almost done, 
we’ve had our fill. 
We’re passionate, ironic 
angelic, demonic, 
clairvoyant, rational 
wildly Indian, anti-national. 
We’re not trying to make our peace 
not itching for a fight, 
we don’t need your shade 
and we don’t need your light. 
We know charisma isn’t contagious 
and most rules are egregious. 
We’re catabolic women. 
We’ve known the refuge of human arms, 
the comfort of bathroom floors, 
we’ve stormed out of rooms, 
thrown open the doors. 
We’ve figured the tricks to turn rage 
into celebration,  
we know why the oldest god dances 
at every cremation. 
We’ve kissed in the rose garden, 
been the belles of the ball, 
hidden under bedcovers 
and we’ve stood tall.  
We’re not interested in camouflage 
or self-revelation, 
not looking for a bargain 
or an invitation.  
We’re capable of stillness 
even as we gallivant, 
capable of wisdom 
even as we rant.  
Look into our eyes, 
you’ll see we’re almost through. 
We can be kind but we’re not really     
thinking of you. 
We don’t remember names 
and we don’t do Sudoku. 
We’re losing EQ and IQ, 
forgetting to say please and thank you. 
We’re catabolic women 
We’ve never ticked the right boxes, 
never filled out the form, 
our dharma is tepid, 
our politics lukewarm. 
We’ve had enough of earnestness 
and indignation  
but still keep the faith 
in conversation. 
We’re wily Easterners enough  
to argue nirvana and bhakti, 
talk yin and yang, 
Shiva and Shakti.   
When we’re denied a visa 
we fall back on astral travel 
and when samsara gets intense 
we simply unravel. 
We’re unbuilding now, 
We’re caterwauling,  
           catabolic women.  

First Published in Love Without a Story, 2019.

Arundhathi Subramaniam is a poet who has recently won the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2020, for her book When God is the traveller (2014). She has authored a number of books and won multiple awards and fellowships. She has been part of a number of numerous anthologies and journals.


Bodhi Tree by Sumana Roy

Bodhi Tree. Courtesy: Creative commons licence

Here you can come without brushing your teeth –
the Buddha and the fig tree have never needed toothbrushes.

The myths that surround places are like ambulance sirens –
patients, pilgrims and tourists are all the same.

One comes to trees to escape the pornography of waiting.
There must be something about sitting under a tree,
in the bandaged conflation between shade and shadow.
Other men chose exile in the forest, vanwas –
Rama, the five Pandava brothers, their wives.
Only Siddhartha came to a solitary tree, to escape desire.
A forest is a hiding place, where men compete with trees.
So Gautama stopped walking and closed his eyes.
The uselessness of eyes, of legs, of combs, of words –
all this the Buddha learned from this tree.

Today, only bombs are living Buddhas.
When one went off in Gaya, everyone ran,
everyone except the trees.
For death also demands walking.

Now, after the fret of flowering,
I only seek the tree’s heart.
Guns are seedless fruits,
the gardens full of traitor trees.
Now I am free.
Only I know that the tree is Buddha.
And that the Buddha was a tree.

First published in Granta Magazine


Sumana Roy is the author of How I became a Tree, a work of nonfiction, Missing: A NovelOut of Syllabus: Poems, and My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories, a collection of short stories



Malayalam Poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Shylan


The silencer disengages
From the motorbike on the ascent.

The routes resonate multi-fold.

After stripping off 
The celebrated name 
That stuck by chance, 
May be my resonance too
Would turn glorious. 

Shylan (b.1975) is a poet and film critic. His poetry collections include Vettaikkaran, Nishkasithante Easter, Ottakappakshi, Thamraparni, and Deja Vu.

Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His work has appeared in international journals and anthologies of repute and translated into Malayalam and Arabic. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.




Tagore Songs in Translation

We salute Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) for his inspirational writing and ideology. Here, we have attempted to translate/transcreate his songs while retaining the essence of the spirit and flavour of his lyrics.

Gitabitan, houses 2232 songs by Tagore. Some of the songs on this page are a part of this collection.

The first song invokes for us the joy of losing oneself in an imaginary world that the poet revels in… the result of the creative stillness he experiences in his mind…

Losing myself...
(A translation/transcreation of Kothao Amar Hariye Jawa Nei Mana, 1939)

There is no bar to losing myself in an imaginary world.
I can soar high on the wings of a song in my mind. 
Weaving fantasies into vast tracts of lands and unexplored oceans, 
I lose my path in the distant shore of quietude —
I get acquainted with the champak blooms in the parul woods in my mind.
When the sun sets, I gather flowers in the sky amidst the clouds.
Mingling with the foam of the seven seas,
I reach the shores of faraway lands —
I knock at the closed doors of fairyland in my mind. 

The creative stillness, or quietude, experienced by him takes the poet further into a perception of the world where he empathises with nature and feels the tides rush through his veins.

The Star-Studded Sky 
(A translation/transcreation of Akash Bhora, Shurjo Tara, 1924)

The sky replete with sun and stars, the Earth brimming with life,
In the midst of this universe, I have found my abode.
Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. 

The infinite, eternal waves that create planetary tides 
Resonate through the blood coursing in my veins.

As I walk to the woods, I step on the grass. 
Heady perfumes of flowers startle me into a rhapsody.
Benefactions of joy anoint the universe.

I have listened, I have watched, I have poured my life into the Earth.
Through knowing, I have sought the unknown. 
Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. 

The poet as a visionary perceives the world in a different way, breaking class and caste barriers — he embraces humanity of all strata with affection. Here is a song about a young girl called Krishnokoli, who worked in fields and lived among cows.

Rendition of Krishnokoli in Bengali by famed singer, Suchitra Mitra
(A translation/transcreation of Krishnokoli, 1900)

I call her Krishnokoli* though villagers call her dark.
On an overcast day, I saw in a field, a dark cloud with sable deer eyes. 
Her head was bare, her hair, unbraided, streamed down her back. 
Dark? However, dark she is, I have seen her sable deer eyes. 

The clouds closed in, as the two ebony cows lowed, 
The dusky girl came out of the hut with hurried, uneasy steps.
She looked up with arched brows at the sky, heard the clouds rumble.

Suddenly, a gust from the East sported a wave through the rice crops. 
Alone, I stood between the fields, there was no one else in the expanse.
Did she look at me? That is a secret only the girl and I share. 
Dark? However, dark she is, I have seen her sable deer eyes. 

They remind me of the kohl-clouds that waft from the North-east each summer,
Of the soft dark shadows that descend on the tamal grove when the rains start, 
Of the happiness that unexpectedly fills my being on a monsoon night.

I call her Krishnokoli even if others call her by a different name. 
I had seen her in Moynapara meadows, a dark girl with dark deer eyes. 
As she carried a pile of bamboo on her head, she had no leisure to be shy. 
Dark? However, dark she is, I have seen her sable deer eyes. 

*Krishnokoli: An indigenous name of a flower in Bengal, also can be seen as associated with Krishna, the dark God. Koli in Bengali means bud.

Tagore wrote intense and non-intense songs, though his raphsodic connection with nature even tinge the lighter songs with a unique lyrical beauty. Here is a song that is often used to depict joie de vivre and plays beautifully on a piano as the tune borrows from the Scottish tune of ‘Ye Banks And Braes’. It is a part of a what is popularly known as a dance-drama, called Kal Mrigaya by the maestro himself. The story was based on an event from the Indian epic, Ramayana.

The Swaying Flowers
( from Phoole Phoole Dhole Dhole,1882)

The flowers sway in the soft breeze.
The river waves and gurgles as it flows.
The birds in bowers trill a tune 
I cannot fathom the yearning that fills my being.

We wind up this section with the transcreation of a song written originally in Brajabuli, a dialect based on Maithali that was popularised for poetry by the medieval poet Vidyapati. Composed in 1877. it became a part of Bhanusingher Padabali in 1884. This song draws from the lore of Radha and Krishna.

Against the Monsoon Skies… 
(from Shaongaganeghorghanaghata, 1884)

Against the monsoon skies, heavy clouds wrack the deep of night.
How will a helpless girl go through the thick groves, O friend?
Crazed winds sweep by the Yamuna as clouds thunder loud.
Lightning strikes: the trees have fallen, the body trembles
In the heavy rain, the clouds shower a downpour.
Under the shaal, piyale, taal, tamal trees, the grove is lonely and quiet at night.
Where, friend, is he hiding in this treacherous grove
And enticing us with his wonderful flute calling out to Radha?
Put on a garland of pearls, a shithi* in my parting,
My odni* is flying as is my hair; tie a champak garland.
Don’t go in the deep of the night to the youth, O young girl.
You are scared of the loud clapping thunder, says Bhanu your humble server.

*shithi: Ornament worn in the parting of the hair.
*odni: A long stole or scarf

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941) was a brilliant poet, writer, musician, artist, educator – a polymath. He was the first Nobel Laureate from Asia. His writing spanned across genres, across global issues and across the world. His works remains relevant to this day.

(The first four songs have been translated/transcreated solely on behalf of Borderless Journal by Mitali Chakravarty with feedback from Sohana Manzoor, Meenakshi Malhotra and Vatsala Radhakeesoon. Only ‘Against the Monsoon Skies…’ was first translated by Mitali Chakravarty and published in SETU).




The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1938. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has managed to bring out just two anthologies of his poems, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

The Word 

We begin with the word 
With the word we end 
Blessings and Salutations 
To the Apostle of the word! 

The word is God 
The very existence 
And the guiding ocean of time
The word brings forth 
Freedom and providence 
Prosperity and ruin 
Mountains trembles with the fear of the word 
Who could put out the ever-leaping flames of the word? 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the chasm of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes speak it out! 
The word is freedom 
End of oppression 
Light and radiance 
Beauty and bliss
The word is Socrates’ free-spirited paramour 
The ember glowing in Mansour’s fervent heart 
The harbinger of a new dawn 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the depth of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes, speak it out. 
The Word brings forth 
Freedom and providence.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.





Poems inspired snapshots of nature by Penny Wilkes


If I’m hiding

search for me

in a spider’s dream

or web of twilight.

You might find me

in shadows gone

ladybug on a lemony

sway of eucalpytus.

Consider me in

the moon’s crackle

above the pines.

I’m there just before

stars prickle 

with the promise

of what we

need the most.

Memory’s Rhythm

Scenes tickle, rumble, roar

across the mind’s landscape,

While bird song soothes the breeze.

Solitary shadows sparked scrambles in

scenes of friendships’ foundations,

Collages mesh with fierce echoes.

Rose scents and tangerine recalled 

times of immediacy where sunset

bore a backdrop for fireworks.

A box filled with toys enticed,

while eyes explored a roadway

winding into kinship sharing.

Magnolia branches climbed to the clouds,

brought bark stings against a knee,

marked how frustration does not delay.

Heart shapes amble and circle

across the page, as fingers clutch 

a fountain pen in a cupped hand.

Beyond life’s aches and ashes

a smile uplifts to reveal mountain

moments do not relent to time.


Penny Wilkes served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist. Along with short stories, her features on humour and animal behavior have appeared in a variety of publications. She has published an anthology of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her poetry collections include:Whispers from the Land, In Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. She publishes a daily blog onThe Write Life:




The Shadow of Disappointment

By Smitha Vishwanath

The shadow of disappointment

is long and grey

it lengthens

when expectation rises -- like the sun

and shortens

when it meets the horizon


The shadow of disappointment is darkest when it's closer

And lightens as it goes farther

lingering ominously, over everything in the path of light

Casting a veil of darkness on all in sight

dulling the brightness, reducing the sheen

of every living and non-living being


The shadow of  disappointment allures  

Turn, turn away, towards the light

And let it follow you -- silently into the quiet of the night

For that is where the shadow -- Erebus, 

child of Chaos resides, 

enveloped in the love of Nyx*”

Lay it at rest there so it no longer disappoints.


*Erebus – As per Greek mythology, was conceived as a primordial deity and represented darkness

*Chaos – was believed to be the father of Erebus. A state of void preceding the creation of the Universe

*Nyx- is the night as per Greek myth

Smitha Vishwanath is a banker turned writer. A management professional, she embarked on the writing journey in 2016, with her blog, poems and articles have been published in various anthologies. In July 2018, she co-authored a book of poetry: Roads – A Journey with Verses.




Pirate Blacktarn and the Rainbow

A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls

Pirate Blacktarn was sick of the weather.

His big green hat with its red parrot feather

Was all sodden and wet and soggy and droopy

With the rain that kept falling and driving them loopy.

“I’m tired of this weather,” he grumbled again,

“All it does is rain, rain, rain.”

“Never mind Captain,” called Mick with a shout,

“Look over there, the sun’s coming out.”

“And look beyond,” cried Fay with joy,

“There’s a rainbow shining. Rainbow ahoy.”

The rainbow shone red and orange and gold,

Blue, violet and indigo and green and bold.

“What a wonderful rainbow,” the crew all cried.

“Humph!” said Blacktarn, “I’d rather it dried.

But wait a minute, there’s a tale I know.

Now what is it that lies at the end of a rainbow?

Gold! Yes of course, a crock of fine gold.

Below that rainbow there’s wealth untold.

Well come on crew, turn the ship,

Start to steer for the rainbow’s tip.”

“But Captain,” said Bob, “we can’t reach the end of a rainbow.”

“Of course we can,” said Blacktarn, “come on, let’s go.

I’ll be the richest pirate on all the Lemon Sea,

I’ll eat chocolate for breakfast, dinner and tea,

I’ll wear ten gold rings in each of my ears,

And wear cloth-of-gold trousers for years and years.”

“Well I think we should have some of this gold too,”

Said Bosun Mick to the rest of the crew.

“Well, maybe I’ll let you have a coin or so,”

Said Pirate Blacktarn as he paced to and fro.

But the crew felt annoyed and muttered and mumbled.

“It’s not at all right,” they sulked and grumbled,

“We do the work, why should Blacktarn have it all?

All he ever does is growl and bawl.

But first we must find this mysterious rainbow.

It’s very odd how it seems to come and go.”

All day they searched for the rainbow far and near.

But when they thought they were close, it seemed to disappear.

And when they reached the place where the rainbow should be,

There was nothing to be seen anywhere on the sea.

Everyone thought they knew the best course to take.

And each yelled at the others, “THAT way, for goodness sake!”

“Steer to starboard!” “No, to port!”

“No you fool, it’s the other way I thought.”

So they all grew crosser and crosser and then began to shout.

Until at last a horrible fight broke out.

And everyone joined in, with fierce kicks and punches.

And poor Tim’s feathers were pulled out in bunches.

But at last they grew weary and bruised and battered

And their heads were hurting and their clothes were tattered.

Then they heard a strange sound wafting over the sea.

“What’s that?” they asked, feeling rather panicky.

“It’s the people of Mer,” said Fay feeling sad,

“They’re laughing at us for being so silly and bad.

And do you know what’s happened now?

All the time we’ve been quarrelling and making such a row,

The sun’s gone down and the rainbow’s vanished.”

“Oh no,” cried Blacktarn, “my dreams of wealth are banished.”

“I’m very sorry,” said Big Bob, the cook.

“So am I,” said Rakesh with a shamefaced look.

“I didn’t really mean to pull out your feathers Tim,”

Said Bosun Mick, holding out a hand to him.

“And I wasn’t really trying to peck off your nose,”

Said Tim with a sigh, “or even gnaw your toes.”

Then they cleaned each other’s cuts and rubbed each other’s bruises.

And then they agreed that they’d all been losers.

“But look at our poor Captain,” cried Rakesh, “over there.”

For Blacktarn huddled by the stern, muttering, “It’s not fair.”

And he looked very miserable and gloomy and dejected

For all his hopes of gold hadn’t gone as he’d expected.

“Serves you right,” said a voice, “for being much too greedy.”

And Neptune himself rose from the deeps of the sea.

“We’re feeling very sorry,” said Stowaway Fay.

“So I should think,” said Neptune, “what a way to spend a day!”

But Big Bob the cook baked a great big cake,

The very best that he could possibly make,

And Blacktarn had the biggest piece with a nice cup of tea.

And Rakesh sang a song to try to make him happy,

Until at last he smiled again and seemed to cheer up,

While Neptune reminded him, as he took a cup,

“You can never find the end of a magical rainbow,

As every good sailor on the Lemon Sea should know.”

“Well of course I knew that,” said Blacktarn cheerfully,

“I was just testing the crew here, you see.

But now we’ve steered a long way off course.

It’s time we set sail again, to catch the salt-wind’s force.”


Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).

Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.




Observance & more…

By Michael R Burch

The Poppy Field near Argenteuil, 1873 by Claude Monet. Courtesy– Creative Commons
Here the hills are old, and rolling
casually in their old age;
on the horizon youthful mountains
bathe themselves in windblown fountains . . .
By dying leaves and falling raindrops,
I have traced time's starts and stops,
and I have known the years to pass
almost unnoticed, whispering through treetops . . .
For here the valleys fill with sunlight
to the brim, then empty again,
and it seems that only I notice
how the years flood out, and in . . .

("Observance" has been published by Nebo, Piedmont Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Verses, Setu, Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse and in the anthology There is Something in the Autumn.) 

At Once
for Beth
Though she was fair,
though she sent me the epistle of her love at once
and inscribed therein love’s antique prayer,
I did not love her at once.
Though she would dare
pain’s pale, clinging shadows, to approach me at once,
the dark, haggard keeper of the lair,
I did not love her at once.
Though she would share
the all of her being, to heal me at once,
yet more than her touch I was unable bear.
I did not love her at once.
And yet she would care,
and pour out her essence ...
and yet—there was more!
I awoke from long darkness,
and yet—she was there.
I loved her the longer;
I loved her the more
because I did not love her at once.

("At Once" has been published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, The Chained Muse and Grassroots Poetry)


Michael R. Burch has over 6,000 publications, including poems that have gone viral. His poems have been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by eleven composers. He also edits The HyperTexts (online at




Spring Poems

By Matthew James Friday

William Blake at Felpham, West Sussex

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

From ‘Auguries of Innocence’, 1803

An unfurled question mark 
answers the point where infinity begins.  
Standing on the beach at Felpham, 
studying the way the sea scars the horizon,
clouds pouring out in smoky angles,
cracks creating all kinds of illuminations; 
shafting bolts of light and gloom. 

No wonder Blake stood here 
and thought the sea was talking to him,
tongues of sunlight and wind and cloud 
fluttering through his mind. Here 
at this unremarkable, passable place
where Human and Nature face each other, 
taking turns to question and yawn,

the world turning under you, tides tugging 
at that grander part that belongs
to something renewed every day, before
being, waves pounding, reeling 
back again, a swell and releasing gift
unknown in its giving. Gulls cry you 
back to when you saw worlds in the sand,

an eternity of assembling castles by hand,
then the cheering grief of waves taking
away your creation. Here is the heavenly 
line drawn between times, stretched beyond, 
suggested in the shallowest of curves. 
The future remains uncertain, questionable  
For now the horizon is enough.

When The Flowers Return

Those first snowdrops spearing coyly,
the speckled smiles of daisies, winks 
of colour on leaf-laden forest floors.

Seeing them you are suddenly relieved
of your guilt: the thought that empty
fields will harden, deadened skies

be your last mirror, the spindly creak
of declining conversation, no summer
to talk of. You can be rejuvenated again

and pretend Nature does this for you,
that your witness is what gives worth,
that a poem is what spring needs.

Universal Knots

This is a struggle worthy of any split atom.

You’ve probably forgotten
how many fingers you needed,
how many hours of quantum patience
lost looping those string universes
around each other 
only to end up entangled.

It’s a bit tricky, says a Kindergarten girl
and then she almost gives up.
Luckily, Mom is there to keep
the orbs moving: nearly there!

For what galactically important purpose?
So you could wear tied shoes?
You never asked your gods for that.
So Mom or Dad would stop stooping down
to your level, enter your orbit.
Who wants to grow up?

A Kindergarten boy starts with one shoe
and starts to bow the skill
around the black holes of immature
fingers. Getting there, says Mom.

Einstein had to learn.
Here is E=MC2 perseverance.

Both Moms ask their stars
how is it going?
Thumbs up, Milky Way grins.
Optimism, the gravity of learning. 

Matthew James Friday has had poems published in numerous international magazines and journals, including, recently: All the Sins (UK), The Blue Nib (Ireland), Acta Victoriana (Canada), and Into the Void (Canada). The mini-chapbooks All the Ways to Love, Waters of Oregon and The Words Unsaid were published by the Origami Poems Project (USA).