Linda Ashok







Our Language


This little girl

sells cow-dung cakes


Knows a thing or two about languages

The other day she came to me


with a basketful of sores

and I was allowed to pick up

the most painful ones


The others were healing

in which her stories cannot be read


Grape-like, she dropped one by one—

her everydays that bloom along the walls


on which she stamps her cakes

Light, she said, can only translate


the leftover. Her plate is clean

since birth. She can only feel warmth—

a spiny hedgehog


She knows she can translate

the dung into fuel


and save the village from dying

Each pain was a little documentary


that melted on my tongue

in which her missing eyes have no record


of the passing world

the time-lapse

that encapsulated us




Our Daily Pain




I walk to the foothills of a dream

that was once a language

spoken by the winds

and the local pines

Sometimes trekkers

with altitude sickness

would come this far

and wonder how horses

they spoke so well once

are now forgotten from the belly

This is a dream, you remind me,

and I open my eyes in disapproval

If this was once a language

then it remains so—just the sounds

are lost. That too in want of love,

in search of Urdu; a muslin

even in anger, is sugar.




You cross the water body

that spread itself like amoeba—

the closer you are, the wider it grows

until in the whisper of a pine

you learn that the only way

to reach the other end

is to pluck the tongue,

fold it into a boat

and wade across

till dawn would

bleed from

the gums




I am hungry.

What have you for me?

Languages never paid for anything

but fire in love or in war.

Even those pines

The wind

They set ablaze many a home


Your tongue restless

craving to reply

but you speak in your body

if I would like some pain, gluten free?






I love listening to you talking about trees

and guessing the kind of bird by the sound

of her wings. You say it is an art of a canvas

leaving her colors and brushes as bouquets

to her painter.


Many a time, you know, I just wanted to keep

quiet and let the morning’s spider light weave

me love that I feel when I hear you talking

to the trees and meditate on their wisdom

that runs light years deep.


Tell me, did a canvas ever refuse you, have you

been isolated in an island of birds, have you

ever walked strange countries and taken aback

by stories of your homeland on sale?


How did you feel? Did you walk up to them?

Did you hear if they spoke the language that

the bird left in your tongue? How did you feel

being auctioned not in person, but in grief?


Many a times, you know, I love listening

to you, I love seeing you naked and take

pride in this belonging. So that if a sudden

impulse handcuffs my life, you would know

that a peace-treaty is already signed.



(appears in whorelight, Hawakal Publishers, Aug 20, 2017.)












Author of Whorelight, Linda Ashok is the 2017 Charles Wallace India Fellow in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Chichester, UK. Linda’s  poems and reviews have appeared/forthcoming  in several publications, online and in print, including Crab Orchard Review, The Common, The McNeese Review, Poetry Kanto, Friends Journal, Axolotl, Skylight 47, The Big Bridge Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poets, Mascara Literary Review, The Rumpus and others. Linda is the Founder/President of RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts (2012) and sponsors the annual RL Poetry Award (since 2013). More at:


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