Romi Jain


Sometimes life fails our embedded assumptions.
Even the coffee in the costliest cup may not be savory.
The eagle, so high and flying with grace,
might be wondering at the dexterity
with which sparrows accomplish shelter building—
in close proximity to humans who eagerly observe and listen to them–
and enjoy some flight that needn’t be measured in terms of highness
that lacks a definite yardstick.
And the moon, intrinsic to folklores
and a symbolic benchmark for exceptional human beauty,
may not be happy amid stars that converse with each other.
And no wonder the world has cornered pleasures of ordinariness,
unaware that people with exceptional talents and stations
share in its dream.

Old Age

Some of us think old age is not for us
and when it comes
it is hard to believe.

And some people are gentle enough
to remind us
‘one is young by spirit’:
it becomes fuel for our drive to bold experiments
with dresses and pursuits.
But let’s refrain from guessing the opinion of opposite sex,
and not be concerned either,
since some in youth doubt their youth,
some claim the crown of cherry blossoms in autumn,
some are smart enough to summarily reject the words of the young,
claiming in Asian fashion authority over wisdom.
And there are those who don’t proclaim superiority
of any phase.
They’re tourists, capable of appreciating each landmark, even a street,
trusting the steerer:

passing through playgrounds, wedding processions,
difficult terrains, zigzag routes from hills to valleys,
from vales to hillocks, from nurseries to the path of denuded trees,
and never minding a final seat in a cemetery.

The Quagmire of Quickness

So persnickety about management of time,
we need fresh research into a normal heart rate.

We need to determine if the earth is slowing down
and has incentive to rotate, when we happen to treat
days and nights alike.

A dear I asked for her mailing address for my handwritten letter.
She preferred an email, saying: “That would be instant!”

The verbena with which I had embossed
the periphery of the fragrant paper
and the hand-drawn smiley circumscribed by stars
must have felt inferior to the efficient e-mail text,
which I spruced up with a couple of emoticons.
The soul of the letter I couldn’t replicate
as I set down regretting
the wastage of time over careful calligraphy.

And in the early morning, the grandma’s portrait fell down,
as if she had her own complaint:
“I have been grappling with understanding RIP!”

Monkeys and Mischief

The arrival of their gang throws us into a tizzy:
they come howling, jumping from roof to roof.
They ravage antennas; swing by phone and cable wires;
sneak into buildings, open up refrigerators
and steal fruits and pudding!
We rush to take roses and newly sown plants inside,
yelling for help at idle spectators in the family.
We’re quick to remove clothes from the line,
knowing it pretty well though
that nudity monkeys don’t mind!
We drag our defiant kids into the house
pulling their slender wrists, as they try to break away,
“Monkey”, “Monkey!” shouting with thrill.
The brave among us dare drive them away.
And the tensed neighbor is quick to yell:
“Toward our side, don’t send!”
The abandoned streets, the deserted roofs, the solitary playgrounds:
to us monkeys are dacoits who plunder an Indian village,
and villagers are quiet, indoors.
But we don’t care to find out
why monkeys are mischievous, why they rob.
They aren’t after your marigolds and roses, ladies!
We’ve denuded forests and stolen their food!
When monkeys carry their starving babies clinging to their chests,
can you feel the pain that you do when your child goes hungry?
They aren’t after our cables, dears! And our phones are of no use to them.
They miss the branches of trees– the shelter, the abode of merriment–
that we have cut down for our businesses to thrive.
Yes, to us monkeys are a nuisance.
Have we wondered what we are to them?

Don't Call Carnal Pleasure Divine

With an inexperienced person like me
a male shared unabashedly:
“Carnal feeling is akin to being proximate to God!”

Hearing his unsolicited sermon on the pleasures of flesh,
I cried within, wondering:
“God, I thought you resided in the heart!
But humans have pushed you down—
how do you feel now?”

I might be inexperienced. But one thing I state defiantly!
Elevating carnality to divinity is like calling "coal" "elixir"
or urine a fresh shower!

Men, now listen what I say:
“The lower order of your body shall remain lower
like a poor person doomed to poverty,
and no amount of ecstasy you feel
can claim divinity
which is born at the altar of the
victory of spirituality over sexuality!

A Lone Female Celebrity

They say I conquer men’s hearts
with my charm and glamour.
Ah! Does this conquest yield
the smallest of piece where exclusively
I dwell?

Men make me feel I’m a goddess
who receives offerings
befitting their status:
red roses, costly perfumes,
flashy cars, magnificent bungalows;
coming as nauseating cookies
the compliments
that I have had enough!

I manage to ask some: do you love me?
They say: You’re the nymph of heaven!
I repeat: Do you love me?
They say: you have beautiful eyes—
who won’t love them?
And I dare not ask again.

To admirers, I tell again:
I don’t own what I have conquered!
Those hearts are conquered each day
by a number of damsels!

A Bed-ridden Mother to Her Daughter

As a child you asked me where the dead go
and whether they come back.
I replied: “Beyond these stars in the kingdom of God.
Yes, if you call and are dear to them!”

That was for my little girl who is now in her teens
who, I’m sure, knows her mother might never return
and who’s strong enough to bear it.

Our relationship is not the purpose why we
came to be united as a mother and a daughter.

It wasn’t for the sole delight to hold you in my arms
and feel proud when you would trust my embrace.
It wasn’t to have you as a support in lonely days when I’m old.

The seed that was sown in my womb
hasn’t yet borne the fruit!

May Aristotelian Entelechy be your map
as you work on realizing your potential.
And I hope this wouldn't be “enjoyment” of youth.

When you first parted with your blanket to keep stray puppies warm,
and emptied your piggy-bank for hungry kids,
I sensed your capacity for compassion. Pick the thread from here.

And look after yourself well—
you’re your own pillar to fall back on,
you’re your own shed to lie calmly under,
you’re your own defense, and the world should never see in tears.

Forgive your mother who can’t walk you through the dense forest
but is confident her daughter will chart a path of success!

Copyright © Romi Jain 2013

Romi Jain is a published poet and novelist. Her creative works include: The Storm Within (2008; 2011), Poetry! You Resurrect Me (2011) and Voices of Rocks in the Dusk (2012). Her poems have appeared in international anthologies and literary journals such as The Journal of Poetry Society; Off the Coast; Touch: The Journal of Healing; Aquill Relle Magazine; Munyori Literary Journal; The Criterion; and The Tower Journal.