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Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP
Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP

Free Verse | Anjum Hasan


For nothing but throwing bottles or bodies into,

the ocean is overkill.

I haven’t seen an ocean in years, but I know one’s

out there, poised

like a cassette tape tucked into an answering

machine nobody’s calling.

I speak low, a foghorn diffusing on ocean,

carry home, a barge

carrying on ocean home. I imagine ocean as

an undulation,

like traffic or gravity, what appears heavily then

recedes again into itself—

There’s so much more I could tell you. Maybe you

know enough

already and are wary of disclosure. You can’t trust

anyone anymore

what with poor God dead, but still I reach for you,

and you don’t answer

for so long, it’s as if I’m mimicking the old-fashioned

kitsch and flow

of prayer, but still I reach for you and your mute face

as if this might stretch and smooth the crease in

my brain

where the self accumulates. I want to tell you I’m

guilty of so many things

but these aren’t the worst of me. I want to tell you

my story is long

and filled with moments of absolute irrelevance, but

still I go careening

over summer’s muggy surface, under winter’s blanket


Still I hurtle through the fortnights and small eras of

the city,

the Geiger counters about their steady, nuclear


the air unrelenting so that I and the architecture

erode a little each day

in the damp build of weeks till the solstice, and I

wake up every morning

in an extraneous light, national light, periscope light

of the sun

ricocheting down through tall buildings, and say into

the flat planet

of the mirror, I’m the one sent to replace you.

Excerpted from Phantom Camera (Hachette India, 90 pages, 399

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