Ishaan Chawdhary

Ishaan Chawdhary (he/him) is a queer poet from New Delhi, India. His work has been featured at national level festivals and events, such as the Great Indian Film and Literature Festival, Spoken Fest, Songbird Sessions, and Contemporary Arts Week. He is a co-founder of the performance collective, Slip of Tongue. He studies Literary Art at Ambedkar University Delhi, and is currently working on his first chapbook. One day, he will write a poem taller than the Qutub Minar.


In the end
everything must go –                

all the letters and photographs
locked in boxes like mad intemperate animals
that still have all their teeth,                                  

the plants, nameless and making sincere pacts
of decay with the light
that grew them: windowsill funerals,

even our cities are built like paper swans,
meant to fold into themselves,
into glowing concrete mash, glorious rubble

myths, golden and clawed out of living.
It is all boundless,
save only for the harshest edges

of ourselves,
carving the world as dirt carves us: images,
collapsible; bodies curling into fists to fit the bed at night.

I am sleepless
and I am not a strong man.
I bring my body the summer

and it shows me brown scars
from a life lived in the dark,
unkindly and by myself;

is breaking second nature to living and is it all that makes our bones?
Is it deliberate how we forget the space in between our feet and the floor?
When we rise does the height not terrify even the best of us? 

There are many answers to Everything:
Antidepressant sunshine. Infallible, Magnanimous Market Gods.
Comparisons of Fortune. Antidepressant Antidepressants. Ever Elusive effort.

I struggle with them all –
it is a degenerative inheritance,
all myth and paper swan tongue; my grandfather was a storyteller.

Had he been the last man on earth,
he would tirelessly speak an entire city back to slow miserable living
just so he had someone to talk to.

I am his blood trussed tight by dreaming, wilting
before my time and ready for the taking, but
still looking for something to live for.

The weather turned warm again last week
and my bed (linen waterfall; rainforest spring; hot-tub time machine)
fell short of my dreams again;

in the end
everything must go.
For once I would like to go with it,

push the Earth off its axis to
tremble to the rhythm of its crashing.
Even the orbit is only a figment of movement; all we have is dancing, 

the rest is bedlam.


So much occurs
and does not remain.
Morning’s blue
makes this room
look less.
As if we have lost
a dimension          waiting
in, patched
with shades
without clocks
to give them names,
water never falls
to the floor, plates
are never cleared, yesterday’s
newspaper is today
‘s tomorrow
‘s next year
‘s affair,
mynah peck
at the windows, fearless
visitors in a concrete
gallery, today,
their nest will hear
how the fifth-floor exhibit
waved and whistled, how
it was to see
the mannequins move
how they move.
They will not stay
for my greeting,
off to throw shadows
over clouds
the way dust gathers
from the cloth that cleans it,
frame by frame,
floating in a sun that never goes,
like ghosts
clenched beneath sheets,
waiting to be summoned,
we hardly come out,
the lizards behind the dresser
never leave the plants
that live forever
It is always blue.
I will seep
through today too.


I am older and wishing I felt no shame for the way my
body looks lesser than what the world was promised; I do
not want to be cradled, I want to be played with. I am
discovering Delhi, looking for its tombs strewn like warts
across its map. The dead here were born to conquer, living
in confident luxury; rich in the satisfaction of inherited
squalor. Inside the ground, it is unquestionably, silently
grey, but in Delhi, their faces are marble beacons.
Men shake rattles in honour of their memories with
unbounded fraternity, a determined tug of war between the
earth that holds them and the arms that want to keep
them; I am discovering solidarity and it feels like leaving a
morsel of myself behind at every grave I see.
This is the last time I remember praying, smoke plucking at
my neck, planting sweat in their spotless courtyards,
hoping the ghost of some poet might taste me and trace a
couplet in my name. By the time I step out of their
devoted chirping, ears tolling, I cannot decide how much
of myself I am missing. I am older and unable to imagine
what would have been had I not been, still searching,
wishing my words were more than what the world has
made of them so far; I want, so badly, to be somebody.
Even if my being defeats me.