Two poems by Ankur Betageri
Suddenly Injected with Hormones
Was there ever a time when I was not stupid
when the weight of the city didn’t weigh on my head like a loadstone
when I was lucid, and enjoyed,
the smell of women
the crunch of leaves under the shoes
and the benevolence of strangers.
Was there ever a time when what I felt – was truth
when I could go up to a girl and say:
Look, this is how I feel, not just in my heart and mind
but in every nerve of my body.
My feelings, haven’t they always been, clothes swaying on the clothesline
needing to be held with the clips of common sense
and how much truth has there ever been in them?
Haven’t I always felt like a sleepy village kid
walking under the trees and lounging in the great emptiness of fields,
suddenly injected with hormones –
How many times I have asked myself why why why
why should I like?
Would anyone have liked anyone if he weren’t going crazy
in the afternoon heat?
if the hormones didn’t make his mornings foggy
and in the evenings make his knees grow weak?
I don’t know whether there’s anything divine happening here –
Was there a time when I could see a rainbow
curving out of my iris and plunging into the dark pool of her eyes?
Maybe I have only seen sad mammalian eyes, swollen needy eyes,
full of the need to be loved, looking at me –
but why does the thought of my eyes also looking like that scare me?
With the thorn of desire pricking in my head
and with the scissor of duality working in my heart
I curse the god who constructed me like clockwork
but with a heart which yearns for divinity in love.
The milk that you drank in the morning
dances next to your heart as you walk
my eyes follow your body hidden in a shirt and a skirt
my legs follow too, stepping on the wet shadows
of trees lining the road.
The tree canopies crackle with an ethereal light
and madness begins to rain.
I feel chocked by the excess that you offer
to the air – from your shiny hair
– from the swish of your skirt
– from the way you turn your head and talk to your friend
your presence falls on my face and wrist
and disappears under my skin
and from there my being bleeds
a red sunlight
a red and incomplete sunlight
like the silence of a child full of questions,
(questions like: why doesn’t the milk that I drink
dance next to my heart like it did back then?)
a red and incomplete sunlight
which becomes a hot absurd sigh
as she disappears, like music, into the raging
clamour beyond the school gate.
At 22, I feel like Humbert Humbert
as I stalk my own childhood
watching the crisp-white back of a girl
next to whose heart dances the milk
her mother made her drink in the morning.
Ankur Betageri (b.1983) is poet, short fiction writer and visual artist based in New Delhi. His published works include a collection of poetry, The Bliss and Madness of Being Human (2013), a collection of short fiction, Bhog and Other Stories (2010); a collection of short fiction in Kannada, Malavika mattu Itara Kathegalu, (2011) and two collections of poetry in Kannada, Hidida Usiru (2004) and Idara Hesaru (2006). His poetry has been translated into Hindi (Basant Badal Deta Hai Muhavre, 2011), Bengali, Italian and Korean. Ankur has participated as Guest Writer at various National and International literature festivals including The III International Delphic Games (2009) at Jeju, South Korea and Lit Up Writers Festival (2010) at Singapore.
As a visual artist Ankur has exhibited his photographs at various places including ICCR, Delhi (2012); St Stephens College, Delhi (2012) and DelhiUniversity (2011). In 2012, he founded the avant garde public arts and social activist platform, Hulchul, advocating the use of Public Space (like road-side walls, public washrooms etc) and New Media for the dissemination, and democratization, of art and poetry.
Ankur holds Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and English, and is currently pursuing PhD in Philosophy from IIT Delhi. He is also the Assistant Editor of Sahitya Akademi’s literary journal, Indian Literature.