From Lockdown Garden

By ARVIND KRISHNA MEHROTRA

Left untrained,
the bitter melon’s taken over
the mulberry, dusting it

with small yellow flowers. 
The females will shrivel,
then elongate with the goodness

of bitterness. The males
will drop by the wayside
no sooner than they’re touched.

Had they wings, 
they’d have turned 
into butterflies and joined 

the fantail-flycatcher
making figures of eight
at the other end of the garden. 

*

It’s quiet on Sunday afternoons,
a time to watch pigeons walk across
the street as though they were crossing 

the sky. The mango trees bordering the lawn
were planted the year psephology 
came to India, but the golden rain sapling 

planted last month is catching up,
putting out new leaves
the colour of buried copper. 

*

Crushed by the cluster fig’s lopped branch,
the hophead Philippine violet didn’t recover.
But in an unvisited corner of the garden where the marijuana’s
invasive and dead wood rots, a new one’s come up.
It’s still young with flexible spikes,
and already looks to escape
from hazardous garden to safe bushland.

*

Its guavas inedible
and the trunk a broken stick
on which it leans, it holds fast
to its one branch 
as I do to my father
who planted the sapling,
his photograph fading on the wall 
along with the Fifties hairstyle.

*

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s books include Songs of Kabir, Selected Poems and Translations, and Collected Poems. Ghalib, A Diary: Delhi 1857–58, a chapbook, is to be published by New Walk Editions in spring 2022. He lives in Dehradun, India.

[Purchase Issue 23 here.]

From Lockdown Garden

Related Posts

Image of an old radio.

My Grandmother’s Radio

CAREY BARAKA
How do I explain to you how much my grandmother loved KBC Radio’s death announcements? Every afternoon she sat there, her face full of impish delight, waiting for her enemies to die. The disembodied voice on the radio shared in her delight.

DeMisty D. Ballinger

New to Liberty: A Conversation with DeMisty D. Bellinger

DEMISTY D. BELLINGER
They’re trying to take hold of their own lives and define life for themselves instead of having the rest of the world do that for them. Desire is a big part of it too...In thinking about my own work, so much of it is about desire and love and a need to define oneself.

Image of Nathan Poole's headshot and the Issue 23 cover (piece of toast on turquoise background)

Podcast: Nathan Jordan Poole on “Idlewild”

NATHAN JORDAN POOLE
Nathan Jordan Poole speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his story “Idlewild,” which appears in The Common’s new spring issue. In this conversation, Nathan talks about doing seasonal work at Christmas tree farms and the workers from all walks of life he met there.