Six poems by Rishi Dastidar, consulting editor at The Rialto magazine and a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective, under World Poetry/Prose Portfolio curated by Sudeep Sen
My desire is zaftig
It is only when I get to the
old Midland Goods Shed —
hello you vaulted cathedral
to liberalism and capitalism —
that I realise as much as I should
tell you about how the tension
inherent in the figure is a synecdoche
for redemption, or how it is a figurative
representation of what a superintelligence
we engineer — because we can — will
do to us, actually all I want to say
is (forgive me):
my desire is zaftig
today; I need to remind my head
that it is not always dominion,
and pleasure is somewhere
between liberty and control;
let me unwrap you, change up
the angles, melt us together;
remember seduction is a type
of justice too.
It was to celebrate that we built it,
a South London folly to launder the booty,
capture, to indulge the risks of spicy
piracy and other synonyms for sex.
In a fit of enthuness I asked, ‘Who
is my defender?’ and you both answered
in the manner of William James versus
Pirate King Tology Angrier; two protectors
with 44 guns each and the Bombay Fleet.
But the blades of my heels began
quickening in the Malabar sands. Not
that I wanted to get away you understand,
but I realised that our space lacked
purpose, except for six-cornered fights
and apoplexies in repeated memoriam.
I had to remind you both that Indian summers
have nothing to do with the subcontinent
and everything to do with St Martin,
old ladies and gypsies. It is October
now, and I assume that one of you
still loves me, at least.
A shark comes to dinner
Well it’s not a shark as such, more the nebbish simile
Woody Allen used in Annie Hall, the one about how
Marshall McLuhan has to keep moving forward to
massage the message. Anyway the dorsal fin is frantically
stirring the pot fretting that the lobsters, squash and carrots
haven’t been chopped finely enough according to the proto-
hipster aesthetic because, would you credit it,
him with the teeth is afraid to bleed.
‘Potluck Kinfolk style’ she’d said, and he’d flapped a happy yes
not knowing what two out of those three words meant, but hey!
what did it matter? He’d seen enough Masterchefs to know you
just had to do a journey, a chocolate fondant and some Alpine
microherbs, then your life changed. Imagine the shock
when he discovered that an induction hob could be as dangerous
as a pedestal, and she wasn’t going to undo her apron for any
old Jawsy-Come-Lately brandishing Elizabeth David’s come hither
Mediterranean words. ‘Calm’ she commanded, as she swept him
on to the table, and bade him wait upon her homemade pastrami.
He looked over and tried to drool attractively. You’ve never seen
a mammal wish so fervently to tell Linnaeus to stuff himself,
become a slice of rye bread, gherkins, English mustard on the side.
Let’s pull down a structure without purpose,
or whatever we call our relationship,
and then in a fit of enth-u-ness
move to where we can hear the drip
of the lazily jaunty, piratical sea,
and chase down dreams of living free.
Your heels will sink in Malabar sand.
Like that matters, when my hand is on hand.
Somewhere between Goa and Mumbai
we’ll devote the days to finding wonder,
celebrate an endless Indian summer
and coming down from runner’s high.
None of this will sound absurd
when you set feet on Suvarnadurg.
When I am as rich as Carnegie,
but lacking his pious exhortations,
I shall give you a bridge
made of snow and diamonds and onions,
all designed to echo the golden glow
as the sun sets on two cities, and us.
And what of it that I stole this dream
from an advert I saw?
Where else am I to find gifts for you?
The problem of becoming English
wasn’t, as I was supposing,
of whether the ethnicity
would accept my race;
but rather one of posing
in a top hat for publicity.
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