Abha Iyengar – WE ICWP Prize ’20. Longlisted for WE Kamala Das Award’20

The Banks of the Brahmaputra

Your voice has the lilt 
Of the Brahmaputra’s blue waves 
Soft and gentle they flow 
Over me 
And drench me with longing. 
And I lie in stupor 
As I dream of you.
Today you are angry,
 The river is in flood. 
Your eyes dark and black, 
Shiva, you rise   
From the waters 
And coil around me 
Your serpents of desire. 

Do not tell me that this is right.
 I will not understand. 
Your dark side makes me  
 Shrink and withdraw 
For I cannot withstand   
The power of your waves 
Dark with fury.
I only want to know the gentle caress of your voice— 
The call of Krishna’s flute 
On the banks of the Brahmaputra.

Red Hawk Country

Bacardi and tongue
 The songs we have sung
 In the backs of canoes 
Without our shoes 
And red hawks have hovered 
Over waters undiscovered 
Where coconuts hang heavy in the sun. 
This love has just begun

Perceive Me

I am not the furnace wanting to consume you 
I am just the bowl of water waiting to be drunk.
What gave you the idea that you would lose yourself in me?
I am the one that needs to be taken sip by sip 
Put me to your lips and see whether you burn.


Some good things do come out of ferment, 
A loaf of bread and a draught of wine.
 Break bread with me stranger, 
And drink the wine. 

Share your thoughts and I’ll share mine. 
We shall sit in the sun and let ourselves glow. 
Lift ourselves from the set mould 
Burst our skin to get the juice to flow. 

Stranger, there is nothing like 
Telling your story 
To someone who does not know. 
There is nothing like
Drinking a wine you did not grow. 

Break bread with me stranger, 
It is leavened by my sorrow. 
Sit with me in the sun, 
We will speak of a tomorrow.

A Table, Two Poems

What we have is 
A table. 
Two poems. 
And a conversation 
That neither of us began. 
But as we speak the lines 
We say everything in between. 
We spill 
Over the distance of the table 
That separates us. 
We move our legs back 
Under and behind our chairs 
Scared of touching 
That which lies beneath the lines. 
Knowing that we will overflow 
Over and above

Abha Iyengar is an award-winning, internationally published poet, author, editor, and British-Council-certified Creative Writing mentor. She was longlisted for the WE Kamala Das Poetry Award ’20. Abha won the Kota Press Anthology contest (U.S.A., 2003). She was a Featured Poet at Prakriti Foundation’s Poetry Festival 2010. She has eight published books to her credit, and her collection of poems is titled, “Yearnings”.  Her poems have been included in various journals and anthologies, most recently Sahitya Akademi’s, “The Lie of the Land” (2020). “Parwaaz” (her poem-film) won the Special Jury Prize in Patras, Greece.