Semeen Ali


Fingers dipping in bottles of paints
The three muses looking away 
Sitting modestly inside the frayed painting
The fabric holding itself together bravely
Holding on to the rusted nails in the four corners
Chaar diwari
Painted thirty years ago with a tree now missing. 
A cat decided to tear it down with its claws
Ripping through the trunk and the fallen leaves

Ek azaad rooh ki talaash mein
ek patte ne apne maa se naata tod liya

The stub of a finger can make a straight line
How long will it take to heal me? 
The fissures are filling up with paints

                   Massage your feet with coconut oil
                            Such dry feet
                  Do not walk bare foot on the grass
              The bacterium will enter through your cracked feet

I walk on newspapers absorbing the spilled paints
Acrylic and oil 
It hurts
It heals

“Har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai”
A favourite line from a sher on the loop
The men gather to revel in their shortcomings
Pulling others down/sizing up  
They clamour to vie for the patriarch’s attention
“anjaam-e-gulistaan kya hoga”

The finger pauses
The lines are fresh 
The paper is jammed
Jammy jammies colours 
I try to squeeze out a kaleidoscopic brain

                      Look at all these lines on your palms
                             Criss cross criss cross
                  As if someone slashed your palms with a knife
                             Here, look at mine
                                 So smooth
                              Hardly any lines

I pour out the paints 
Drown my palms in the viscosities
No lines
No more butchered palms

Ek bandh kamre ne
Mujhe mere wajood se mila diya
Dr. Semeen Ali has a Ph.D. in English Literature from University of Delhi. She has four books of poetry to her credit. Her works have featured in several national and international journals as well as anthologies. She has co-edited four anthologies of poetry/prose that have been published nationally and internationally. Apart from reviewing books for prestigious journals, she is the Poetry editor for the literary journal Muse India and Editor for Opinion pieces (Cultural) as well as Co-Editor (Book Reviews and Translations) for literary journal Parcham. She is on the Council Board for the Literary Arts Council, Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI) for the year 2022-23.