They played Ashtapada

peace dove

a muslim with his eyes blinded
was recognized by the direction
his face lay turned towards the qibla1
bloodstains whispering war on his cheeks

like line breaks of a romantic ballad poem
his last prayer very carefully spoken as he was
heaving, breathing being dragged from the arms of
his kohl-eyed lover, before they made her a corpse, her

unarmed uterus pierced since she dared to be
with a man whose language was vulnerable, as he
tenderly spilled words of Urdu into her Gayatri mantra2
she recited it again and again and again, as they squished life
fully out of her, she gently massaged her rising belly, her baby

tapping a red bindi with her finger, she
waited, wondering when they would come
come again, till her finger could tap no more
confused, a hill boy wearing a snug woven cap lay
with his chiseled cheeks stunned still, profiled by a gash
on his forehead —
in his notebook was scribbled
a couplet3 he had heard his dada mutter in broken breaths

Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday
Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe

his eager youth was recklessly spattered, shattered
scattered on the streets of the city, he wanted to explore
the hills and valleys of his country howled then growled
like the rabid dogs that had roamed unshackled, as evil prowled

a flaming tattoo of stench streaked repugnant on the chest of a city
oil spilled and loathe filled from a begging night
monsters with ribs and intestines gagged cusses into the mouth of its men
Pandav’s, and Tughlaq’s and Suri’s and Lodi’s and Khilji’s4
in their graves


Qibla 1– modified compass used by Muslims to indicate the direction to perform prayers

Gayatri Mantra2 – a rig veda mantra dedicated to the Sun deity/five elements and cited widely as part of daily rituals in Hinduism and is believed to bestow wisdom and inspiration.

Couplet3 from the Sikh Holy book – Guru Granth Sahib

Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe

Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday

Translated as

God created light of which all beings were born

And from this light, the universe; so, who is good and who is bad

Pandav’s, and Tughlaq’s and Suri’s and Lodi’s and Khilji’s4 – Ruling dynasties of India/Delhi

Ashtapada5 – An Indian board game that predates chess


Kashiana Singh is a management professional by job classification and a work practitioner by personal preference. Kashiana’s TEDx talk was dedicated to Work as Worship. Her poetry collection, Shelling Peanuts and Stringing Words presents her voice as a participant and an observer. Her poems have been published on various platforms including Poets Reading the News, Visual Verse, Oddball Magazine, TurnPike Magazine, Dissident Voice, Feminine Collective, Spillwords, Poetry Super Highway. You can listen to her reciting her work on Rattle Open Mic sessions, Songs of Selah podcast and Poetry Super Highway episodes. Kashiana lives in Chicago and carries all her geographical homes within her poetry.




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