Grant me a little child
I can hide
When the mullahs come home to pray,
When planes are birds of prey.
Smaller than my thumb
I can put in my pocket and run.
(‘The Little Mermaid)
It hurts to walk on new legs:
The curse of consonants, the wobble of vowels.
And you for whom I gave up a kingdom
Can never love that thing I was.
When you look into my past
Weeds and scales.
Once I had a voice.
Now I have legs.
Sometimes I wonder
Was it fair trade?
The Story of a Mother
(‘The Story of a Mother’)
To hear your shot child gasp for breath,
Her cradle rocked by old man Death;
To wake into a world of road-blocks
Where time has nothing to do with clocks;
To go out into snow or sun
To watch them crouch and shoot and run;
To see Death enter through the door;
To know Death and then to know more;
To fear that all this is the sum
Of God and of Freedom.
About the Poet
Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist who regularly writes columns for The Hindu. He describes himself as “an Indian writer who writes in English but lives in Denmark.” Born and educated in a small town of Bihar, India, Tabish Khair is the author of various books, including the poetry collections Where Parallel Lines Meet and Man of Glass, the studies Babu Fictions: Alienation in Indian English Novels and The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness, and the novels The Bus Stopped, Filming, The Thing About Thugs and How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position. His honours and prizes include the All India Poetry Prize (awarded by the Poetry Society and the British Council) and honorary fellowship (for creative writing) of the Baptist University of Hong Kong. His novels have been shortlisted for nine prestigious prizes in five countries, including the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Encore Award, and translated into several languages. Other Routes, an anthology of pre-modern travel texts by Africans and Asians, co-edited and introduced by Khair (with a foreword by Amitav Ghosh) was published by Signal Books and Indiana University Press in 2005 and 2006 respectively; he has also edited or co-edited other scholarly works.His writing has appeared in various anthologies of poetry and fiction. Khair now mostly lives in a village off the town of Aarhus, Denmark.