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‘When Death Came Knocking’ and other poems by Arundhathi Anil

By: Arundhathi Anil

When Death Came Knocking

When Death came knocking at my front door,
I put on a cloak,
Stepped out and cast a final glance back,
For I intended to go.

Through his lanky arms
I laced my hands
Like a belle and her beau.
With swaying hips we walked off

As if into a ball.
The door still open wide behind
My mother cried and my father stifled
A groan. My sisters in hysterical grief screeched

Like barn owls,
As if I had eloped with a rogue
In youth’s sinful fiery desire.
Not, though, wholly untrue

For I had flirted with Death
And went too far. Deceived
By his oaths of blissful oblivion
Of Afterlife.

As Death came knocking,
As per my design- by my leisure
The place and time,
I dared not keep him waiting at my front door.

For I intended to go


The Seasons

Through Autumn I ran
And stopped by winter
For a cup of earl grey.
Then a coup of flowers
A revolution indeed
By March was led
And Sun’s sweet mistress
With a honeyed laugh
Did descend from the gilded sky
And the little lads screamed
In silly mirth of wasteful youth
“Hoorah! Summer’s here
The season of Gods,
Men and Love.”



My mother
She kills me at times
At times she gets me
riled up and angry. Mad
at life and its innocent weeping
wailing and brattish crooning.
My mother
She loves me at times
At all times she trusts me,
Lifts me swiftly. Dad
Gets me better but works me
Into a messy missy and I swear
Way too much to be healthy.
I swear
Fuck you, fuck everybody
And Life fucks me
Mommy daddy get me. Bad
Days they pick me off the floor dripping
Blood and gore, metaphors of course,
Like saintly Samaritans picking
Litter off public roads in cities.
My mother
She dropped me off in time,
In my prime, in a city
Of less crime and very pretty.
But she rings me thrice: at sunrise
Noon and sundown. Her voice cracks
Through static like the brush of her hands
Off my shoulders dropping.


I See Light

“I see light!”
Cried he

Like the North
Star glued on to the black

Black night,
We saw the light

Burning a hole
At the end of the long

Long tunnel
Where trapped we were

For four months.
We starved and died

And came back to life
Like Plath’s Lady,

Like an old favourite playlist,
Played on repeat.

The same old time
Left scars

And bruises
Now somewhere between

Black and purple.
In this perpetual

We saw the light

And we hailed it
Like the Albatross.

“Oh save thee us”
We cried

In unison.
Our hearts whispered

“I see light”

Flooded our eyes-

Those prankster twins,
How can one trust them?

But how can one not?
Thus we battled on

And on unto death.
The fear

Of being wrong
And wronged

Clashed heads
With pious hope.

The light remained
An ethereal spectator of

This pathetic fight,
Like a silver


Full of pity.


Song of the Seasons

Of cold Autumn drizzle and caramel scented wind
And the crunch of gold leaves on breezy car parks
Of long lonesome walks and crisp woolen scarves
The feathery feet of poesy sing

Of green glassy lakes and blue mountain peaks
And the frost on ancient stones and frozen cobbled streets
Of grey wintry skies and bare-naked trees
The feathery feet of poesy speak

Of budding birdsongs and the mirth of young flowers
And dancing drunk weeds and sun kissed bowers
Of sky clean and dear, free of them showers
The feathery feet of poesy reek

Of slack summer dresses, straw hats and slippers
And vibrant ice cones, novels and pink melons
Of naïve little girls and crooning crickets
The feathery feet of poesy dream


At the Lake

At the lake you stooped over me
And placed an adolescent kiss on my cold peeling lips;
A flickering stay of your Old Mariner’s gaze
Set roses, raspberries and red lilies ablaze.
Hands circling my untouched waist
I blinked; you threw me in the lake.

Popping ears like popping bottles,
Mossy floor slipping and sliding beneath my feet,
Weightless steps and voiceless cries,
And eyes that stung like twin gaping wounds.

I learned to swim in the village brook,
I learned to cuss in the village school,
So, I rose like the sun above the lake
And swore wile things alongside your name.

Since then I oft stroll by the lake
Of hurt, of innocence and of spiteful lust,
Oft by its shore I sit and wait,
And look in with Echo’s sardonic eyes,
And underneath its stoic stillness spy
The corpse of a young, doting maid.



Glares back.
Too young
Too pure
Too soon
Mom says.
School days
Cruel halls
Young brain
Too vain.
Strokes on
White page.
Best friend
Black eyes


The Sinking Ship

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings,
But this is a sinking ship.
All you will,
But this is a sinking ship.

The ship shall sink.
You all will drown.
Drown you all will.
Die you all will
For this is a sinking ship.

What are you to do about it mate?
What are you heaving and pulling at?
Isn’t this a sinking ship?

Lay me down,
Down I lie
And watch the sun go down
And watch the valiant sails fight
And watch the orange of a weary day
Meet the violet velvet of the victor night
And watch the birds’ black silhouettes above
Do they not fear the height?
Into that good night I go gentle
And gentle I go into that good night.


Chasing Sleep

Sleep eludes the best of us
And I chase after him like a missed bus,
And as he seems to slow his pace and might indeed stay
With impudent gasps I run to him.
He looks me in the eye this once
And holds my gaze with old seafarer’s eyes-
Hypnotic orbs of some antique shade
That soothes my skin like a coat of fleece
And cuts through the soul like a blade of steel
His breath now lingers on my eyelids drooping
His silhouette stands over me stooping
As if he hopes to plant an adolescent kiss
In the barren earth of my cold peeling lips
Eyes lowered in a bashful fit
My gaze diagnosing the broken cobbled street.
With renewed courage I raise my face
Expectant lips and a scandalous visage,
To the thin air of a December night
The Big Ben struck midnight
My wily lover was out of sight.

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