Pantry Prose: The Chimera Narasimha Epic Battle by Balu Swami

Chimera was having a bad day. A string of bad days, in fact. She thought it was the goat overgrazing the hair on her back. Actually, it was a monkey on her back. The monkey was telling her to go East. Places to conquer, enemies to vanquish. Of late, she had been seeing visions of lion-like beasts – just like her – in distant lands. She was itching to match her strength against theirs and wage do or die battles. Could another creature match her speed and strength? Is there another being that possesses her prowess – a fiery breath that could destroy an entire forest, a serpentine tail that could inject poisonous venom, and a goat on her back with enormous horns that could spear an enemy to death in an instant?

She listened to the monkey and headed east. She crossed many rivers, climbed a number of mountains, swam across a vast body of water for days on end until she saw land on the other side, land vastly different from hers – arid and dry. Along the way, she stopped to hunt wild hogs, hares and birds on land and buffaloes, turtles and crocodiles in the water. The goat grazed on grass on land and survived on sea weeds in the ocean. The snake survived on rodents, rabbits and birds. Once on land, Chimera went looking for a mountain and found a kopje. The kopje was surprisingly thick with vegetation. She found a low-hanging canopy and went into hibernation. Months later, she awoke to the smell of humans. She roared and breathed fire. The humans scattered making shrieking noises. The next day she set out hunting and found all sorts of kill neatly lined up at the edge of the canopy. She understood the feast to be a tribute from the terrified humans. As days went by, she started to feel anxious again. This time, she saw a vision of a shape-shifting beast whose head alternated between that of a lion and an eagle. Within days, she heard a thunder louder than any she had heard followed by torrential downpour. She could sense the presence of a monster being somewhere close by. Chimera switched to war mode and went out looking for the beast. She found him/her in a pasture. The beast had a human face and the torso of a lion. As Chimera got closer, the head turned to that of a bird with a long beak and the torso turned into a bull’s. The bull developed wings and one of the beast’s spines turned into a tail. The form shifting was so disorienting that Chimera had difficulty focusing on the heightened sense of danger.

The two beastly beings fought with everything they had for two nights and a day. Every time, Chimera had the other beast cornered, she/he would fly up in the air and attack Chimera from behind. Chimera’s fire breathing did nothing to faze the enemy who doused the flames with waters from the sky. Finally, Chimera hit upon the tactic that won her the battle. When the enemy landed behind her, instead of whirling around to face her, she duped the enemy into thinking she had been fooled. When the enemy got close enough, she unleashed her tail and stung the enemy several times. The venom instantly killed the other beast. Chimera’s victory roar travelled to the end of the earth.

Narasimha heard the roar. As an avatar of Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe, the half-lion, half-human Narasimha recognized it as the roar of a heavenly beast. Narasimha had descended on earth for the sole purpose of killing the demon Hiranyakashipu, who, armed with the powers given him by Lord Brahma, the lord of all creation, had begun terrorizing Gods, Godmen and God’s devotees alike. After killing Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha, in a fit of rage, had drunk the demon’s blood. As a consequence, Narasimha had turned into a demon himself and had begun to terrorize the world. Having terrorized nearby villages, he had set out to rampage villages on the foothills of the distant mountains. It was then that he had heard Chimera’s roar.

Narasimha set out in the direction of the roar. Excited by the prospect of battling a worthy challenger, he raced, leaps and bounds, up the snowy mountains with heavenly peaks, the abode of all beings celestial. He trudged in the snow for days and nights until he reached a pass and waited there.

After slaying the form-shifting beast, Chimera had started towards the world he came from when the monkey commanded her to go further east. In a vision she had that night, she could see Narasimha waiting for her at the pass. Chimera left the arid land behind and reached the snowy mountains after many arduous days.

Narasimha and Chimera could sense each other’s presence even from a very long distance. Eventually, they met in the middle of the pass and the epic battle began. It was ferocious from the start. Narasimha’s advantage was his speed. He could move at the speed of light, so he manifested himself in several places at the same time. Chimera would see Narasimha near a tree, a rock, a twig, all at the same time. When wind kicked up snow, Chimera saw Narasimha in every particle. But Chimera was bigger and stronger and had more weapons. Their roars echoed in distant valleys. The fires they breathed melted snow on the peaks and started avalanches. Hundreds of villages at the foothills were destroyed. The melting snow swelled up the rivers that flooded the plains a hundred days away. The holy sages who had gone into meditational trances many moons ago, awoke to the sound of thunderous booms, bangs and blasts. They beseeched the Gods to intervene and put an end to the death and destruction caused by the demons.

On the 10th day of the battle, Lord Zeus, the king of the Hellenic skies, appeared before Lord Indra, the king of Indus heavens, to plead with him to end the battle. Lord Zeus said he himself was helpless since taking Chimera’s powers would mean breaking sacred vows: powers ceded to Chimera shall remain hers until her pre-ordained death at the hands of Bellerophon, the slayer of demons. Lord Indra confessed to his own inability for the same reason. Even though Narasimha was his brother, he had no control over Narasimha’s demonic powers.

The two Gods went to see Goddess Pratyangira, the personification of all energy, good and bad. Pratyangira gave Lord Zeus power over Narasimha and gave Lord Indra power over Chimera, thus ensuring that no vows were broken. At the 11th hour on the eleventh day of the battle, Lord Zeus took away Narasimha’s lightning speed and Lord Indra took away Chimera’s ability to advance. Narasimha became disoriented and started backing away. Chimera wanted to advance to make the kill, but her legs kept retreating – the tail had taken control of the body. Soon both demons headed towards the lands they came from.

Mission accomplished, the Hellenic God entered into a pact with the Indus God to seek each other’s assistance henceforth in battling demons that threatened heavenly order. The pact ensured peace on earth for a long time to come.

Balu Swami is a new writer. One of his pieces is in Flash Fiction North.

You can find more of Balu’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Has the Train Arrived?: I Have Your Skin On My Mind: I Long To Be Loved: Our Hair Reposed: Quatrains by John Tustin

Has the Train Arrived?

I am sitting here alone, hair shower-wet,
Carefully digging the pebbles out
From the bottoms of my feet
(Where they’ve been embedded)
With the little sharp digging tool
Found folded in a cheap nail clipper.
I think about breakfast in the morning,
Wondering if I will wake up to make it,
Wondering if I will wake up to eat it.
Then,
Going to the window for the tenth
Time
With three questions in my mind –
Has the rain arrived?
How furiously will it fall?
How long will it linger?

I Have Your Skin On My Mind

I have your skin on my mind.
I have your sadness in my eyes.
I wear your apprehension, a pure white cloak
I work day by day to shed.
I hold you in my imagination.
I want you the way I have always wanted.
I long for you and the twisted smile
I see when I close my eyes.
I see it grinning over me as you ease me in.
I see you going slow on top of me.
I feel you dripping down each thigh,
My hands in your hair,
My mouth on yours.
I want to make you happy.
I want to see you smile just like that.
I know you know this wish to make you content is all about me.
I feel your hands going through the hair on my chest.
I shiver in compliance.

I would feel better with your body up against mine.
I have your skin on my mind.
I have your scent in my imagination.
You have me on a string.
Please pull me toward you.
I closed the door.
It’s just us.
You can still be invisible, just not to me.
I promise.

I Long To Be Loved

I long to be loved
And understood
And wanted

And that is why

The moon, the sun, the dirt beneath them

The wind and the clouds
And the depths of the ocean

The splashing on her rocks and sand
And the falling of the rain
Will always be more powerful

Than I

Our Hair Reposed

Our hair reposed on the same pillow,
You face away, I face toward,
My fingers clenched on your hip,
My body heaved to yours.
Smelling the evening in your hair
And on the back of your neck.
Just glorious.
No more worried lonesome blues.
You sigh and turn to me
And our mouths meet again,
Tasting hot and wet,
Just like the first time.
I grow hard against your leg
And your breasts strangle into my chest hair.
Now it’s hands and eyes locked
And tongues and lips,
Bodies moving as one.
The chains fall,
The music begins
And the room is burning
Like a star.
It’s time to show each other
What love feels like
Again.

Quatrains

In these poems I read
I see women compared to the moon, the sun,
A lovely spring morning
And even the ebb and flow of The Milky Way

But whenever I think of you
I just see a beautiful woman
Who is unaware of her power,
Uncertain of her beauty.

Not a force of nature,
Not a season or the impetus
For the growth of crops
Or the cycles of the ocean tide.

No, It’s just you –
A human woman so indescribably gorgeous
Whether waking from sleep or sitting alone
Or looking back at me with such kindness

And unfathomable love.
To me, that is more astounding
Than the movement of the tides
Or the aligning of the stars.

You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.

List of John’s work.

Poetry Drawer: Composting: Early November: An Aah Poem: Taxi: Lake Harmony, May 2020: Camping, the Safety in our Numbers by John Grey

Composting

Earth’s been composting for centuries.
Ted just hastens it a little.
That wire-mesh bin is at the heart of it,
five-sides and shiny wire,
cut and assembled it himself.
Twigs and roots, grass and rotting fruit –
he stirs it together like making broth.
Sure the smell is fierce
but he’s the kind of man who’s invigorated
by foul odours.
His nose connects them to plump red tomatoes,
golden turnips, melons fat as pregnant sows.
Indeed, the stench is a bridge
from his nostrils to the kitchen table,
from sweaty brow, strained hands,
to the McCreedys gathered together
for a delectable Sunday dinner.
So earnestly, he hurries nature along.
All for growing family in its own good time.

Early November

My breath-smoke greets yellow leaf
with silent echo, invisible ripple,
just this whisper made mist
in clusters of cold.

Keep moving through pallid light,
wild-honey froze tree trunks,
by cold metal fences,
blood and air, a crisp, wary mix.

There, in the distance,
the sniff of a chimney,
the pucker of faces
through window’s frail shine.

The onset of hearth,
the dusk hoops of flame,.
the flight of ash, the hug of fire,
and a house thawed of indifference.

An Aah Poem

Stream constant
in its flow,
its sounds,
no wonder I fall asleep
on the banks.

My nature incursion
pauses in a patch of soft grass.
And I don’t breathe as much
as swallow a long draught of air.

There’s a tear
in the clouds, the treetops.
Sun shines through inexorably.

Taxi

Taxis ignore me
on a dismal, rainy night.
No matter how far I stretch my arm,
the cabs speed by,
blurs of yellow indifference.
Snug in the back seat,
warmed by engine air,
that’s all I ask.
A short trip to my apartment.
five miles at most,
that’s all I need.
And I’m even willing to pay.
Look at my face,
dribbling with water.
my shirt, drenched
to the chilled skin.
Doesn’t that say big tip to you
in every language.
Finally, a taxi does stop,
a miracle.
but a woman appears out of nowhere.
pushes me aside
with a brusque “Excuse me. sir,
but I’m in a hurry.”
More rain, more soaking.
Patience will be lucky
if it doesn’t catch pneumonia.
Only a rush, a dash, keep dry.

Lake Harmony, May 2020

Daylight mops up after rain,
puddles ripple faces of drinking sparrows,
grass glitters, trees glow like glass,
new growth, flush with moisture,
welcomes sunshine into its fecund mixture,
the afternoon rolls out like a towel
drying its way into coming darkness,
where the moon waits behind Earth’s curve
ready to launch the night.

Camping, the Safety in our Numbers

They’re out there somewhere,
bears, wolves, maybe even a cougar.

The fire is dwindling down
so the cold also joins the pack.

But we have the tent, the bed rolls,
and the body heat that moves between us.

Protection comes down to your kiss,
my hug, your hair spilled on my shoulder.

A coyote howls. A great horned owl hoots.
You’d think they’d learn.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.

You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Man Out Of Time by Ray Miller

Man Out Of Time

Here’s where I get it, stood in the playground
next to parents who attended school
with my eldest, or when the new teacher
enquires if I’m her granddad.

Here’s where I get it, taking the youngest
to the cinema, bumping into an ex- colleague
I’d not seen for ages, who assumes
I’ve embarked on a second marriage.

Here’s where I get it, at the G.P. practice,
explaining Foetal Alcohol Syndrome,
quickly adding, that of course, she’s adopted –
otherwise what would they think of my missus.

Here’s where I get it, on Christmas morning
when she stops me from unwrapping
the present with Daddy written upon it,
because it’s intended for her real father.

Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.

Poetry Drawer: Worcester Airport: April 2021 by Robert Demaree

Worcester Airport

In the ’80s you could fly
Piedmont into Worcester, Mass.
Weary Friday-night salesmen joked,
Helped the attendant pronounce the name.
This was my parents’ penultimate
Summer in New Hampshire,
My father agitated,
Convinced they had left
Without packing, and hoping
He could get a shave
At the barbershop in the lobby
Of a Days Inn motel,
My mother, exhausted,
Glad someone else would drive
The rest of the way.
The other day I bought a postcard
On eBay, outbidding someone
Who must have wondered
Why anyone else
Would want a souvenir
Of the Worcester Airport.

APRIL 2021

1.
On television every day
Several people tell us
That the images we are about to see
Are disturbing.
Shocking.
Dispiriting,
Though that is my word,
Not theirs.

2.
On our street at Golden Pines,
Red lights flashing more often now:
We’ve been here 15 years.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

You can find more of Robert’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: You Woo Me: Nostalgic: Lucia: The Lamp by Dr. Susie Gharib

You Woo Me

You speak of a coast that’s so pristine,
where the sand is decked with shells and pearls,
where the fish that venture into the air
are safe from spears and goring hooks.

There the trees that hum to the eager wind
have never been bled, or to fires fed
and nestlings whose parents fly all day long
are safe from fangs that crave for blood.

The ripples that lap its ancient rocks
know not the taste of flotsam or waste,
have never been whisked by engines whose grunts
can agitate the souls of the deep.

There I would romp with my shepherd dog
and walk barefooted along the bay,
and feed the dolphins as I do the swans
every urban but blessed weekend.

You woo me with a notion,
I scrutinize my map,
but startled wake up to the alarm clock:
my dog has been departed for over twelve months,
and your headstone is covered with ivy and moss.

Nostalgic

Castle Street,
the shop where I used to purchase my pint of milk,
the telephone booth that conjured up my next of kin,
the oldest house in Glasgow that nourished my medieval bent.

On Cathedral Street,
our window commanded an imposing view
of the historic cemetery where the gentry repose,
shielded by monuments of stone,
which are now a metaphor for tranquility and hope,
my shelter from a never-ending war;
the inn where I consumed my very first scone
with a Scot who wore no kilt
but was Celtic to the bone,
my very first friend in Glasgow.

Sauchiehall Street,
the window-shopping of gorgeous stores
the Glasgow Film Theatre whose exotic films enthralled
aided by John Doyle’s jellies and popcorn.

Lucia

She sat in a cage matted with wood shavings
opposite a cat who pranced with fright,
I wondered why he had placed them thus.

I was walking to escape our dose of darkness,
a three-hundred-minute power-cut,
periodically robbing evenings of work and fun.

A whimper then a scream of remonstrance
made me retreat to the very same spot
I always avoided with utter disgust.

With a stick, he was terrorizing his products:
rabbits, chickens, and all sorts of birds
to be docile and curb their wants.

I shun all dealings with whoever trades with lives,
but gazing into her eyes, I was utterly mesmerized,
a seven-month Loulou Spitz, mere merchandise.

He made me pay double the price she brought
for alarm was resonant in my voice
that had a pitch in the presence of abuse.

I called her Lucia, she brought me light.
Her name’s pronounced with the Italian tʃ sound
as in charming and cheering, the traits of my new friend.

The Lamp

The lamp that illuminated your pensive face,
kindling freckles that dot unadulterated benignity,
gilding the auburn that crowns your head,
rippling above a well-nurtured suavity,
cascading over your variegated lips,
suffusing wan cheeks with cordiality,
imbuing each iris with fiery rays,
redeeming each dilation from obscurity,
has been auctioned for sale.

Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.

You can find more of Susie’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Books From The Pantry: My Father’s Face by Chandra Gurung reviewed by Kev Milsom

The way my mother’s countenance glitters
When from a land far-off
I return home

from ‘Mother’ by Chandra Gurung

Chandra Gurung is a poet from the remote village of Gorkha in Nepal who grew up in India, where his father was stationed in the Indian army. 

His childhood was happy, yet he states, ‘the bad things were the geographical distances between my family members, especially with my mother. That made me experience solitude and loneliness as a child, and I was often deprived of many social connections.’ 

As a sensitive and shy boy, he preferred to remain alone; turning to his pen, words and books for comfort. He says, ‘to this day, these early emotions are still some of the strongest urges in my writing.’

With such a background, Chandra writes mainly when he is travelling and alone. He writes, ‘It is not that I write poems about just anything that comes to my mind, but I write only on those topics and themes that are of most interest to me, such as social and political issues and the predicament of human life. These are the subjects of many of my poems, as are the present deficiencies of humanity.’

Many of these subjects are contained within a 2020 publication of 47 of Chandra’s poems entitled ‘My Father’s Face’; written in Nepalese and translated into English by Mahesh Paudyal. 

From his poignant words, it’s clear that Chandra’s love of his native Nepal and the people he has met within his life are of paramount importance to the poet. 

Some, such as ‘Lovely Moon’ can be imagined as written by the poet simply seated and observing the world revolving around him.

The Moon,
Appears atop a hill
And stealthily descends
Slips into the well
Lands on a riverbank
Perhaps, it is looking for its love
Inside the night’s bosom

At other times, Chandra focuses upon his deeper social and political thoughts, as eloquently expressed in the poem, ‘Patriotism’.

He picked
The Sun and the Moon from my sky
And wrapped them in a piece of cloth
Dyed it in my blood
Washed it in my sweat
And said:
This is your national flag

He packed my faith
And my trust into a bundle
And placing the same in front of a statue
Said:
This is your national deity
This is your national religion

Reading through the collection of poetry, the main aspect that leaps out towards the reader is the beautiful simplicity and directness of the words that Chandra employs on every line. 

Here is a man of simple truths and thoughts. 

Here writes a poet who observes this material world and seeks enlightenment from everything he senses.

Chandra writes about the world as if he is portraying it through the lens of a camera. Nothing within the book is overly complex, nor does it need to be. Multiple adjectives are not required in order to express the notion of a tree, a landscape or a person. 

This is perfectly expressed within the poem, ‘An Old Lamp Post’.

Beginning simply, we are the observers of a typical street scene, as witnessed through the ‘eyes’ of the lamp post.

An old lamp post
Stands quietly in the corner
And witnesses –
The kids playing on the road
The fatigued porters conversing at the square
The chitchat of the housewives on the adjoining veranda
And the friends meeting at the tea stall’

A scene adeptly expressed, as if we were right there in the street – maybe leaning on the lamp post and simply observing. 

However as the poem nears its end, the energy of Chandra’s words have altered to a more sinister and darker level, following the introduction of some rioters who have pelted the old lamp post with rocks, which now stands alone.

It is unattended like a home abandoned in famine
Like a village devastated by an earthquake
No new bulb has been hung
No new paint has been applied
And my nation stands in the darkness of time
As does this old lamp post

Chandra has the simplistic talent of expressing his soul via language open and available to all; regardless of where they exist within this world. His words are like paint upon an enlightening easel, such as this poem called ‘Land of the Old Boatman’, beginning with a wonderful, descriptive tone and ending with an onomatopoeic flourish.

Dil Bahadur Majhi, an old boatman
Rows his days on the surface of the Narayani
Enjoys in the village of its water
Roves along its aquatic streets
Devoid of colour
Devoid of taste
Devoid of form
Lives a life like that of water

Like in the chest of the old boatman
This country aches in hearts
Countless in number
Plop…plop
Fizz…fizz
Plop…plop
Fizz…fizz

You may wish to get your own copy of Chandra’s book here.

Poetry Drawer: Maverick by Ray Miller

Maverick   

She’s stubbed out her last cigarette,
we marvel that she managed it;
a sixty-a-day inveterate,
a Marlboro-mad smoking stick
who craved not only nicotine
and the repertoire of motions,
from hand to mouth and back again
essential to devotions,
but had augmented the habit
to flatten flames that burnt within,
by applying lighted nub-ends
to the stubbornness of skin;
to steady flight and cushion fall
and obviate oblivion;
to moderate the mercury
indifferent to Lithium.

She caught us glancing at her arms
for pale uneven patches,
rolled her sleeves and turned the palms,
her burns exchanged for slashes;
the scars of broken beer glasses,
scores of jewelled and jagged edges,
brooches, blades and coloured plastics,
crampons spiking every crevice.

At the weekly self-harm classes
we will sterilise her weapons
with a sigh at further damage
and an eye upon infections.
She plays the part of maverick
and scoffs at antisepsis,
seeks the tear of fraying fabric
and heightening of senses.
She’s courting her intrusive thoughts
when she doesn’t take the tablets,
like the thrill of sexual intercourse
without the prophylactics.

Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.

Poetry Drawer: Simple by Robert Allen Beckvall: Answer to Simple by Vera Wang

Simple by Robert Allen Beckvall

I have a simple life
A simple wife
A simple kid
Some simple strife

I like a simple meal
A simple book
A simple look into the workings of the USA

I have a simple outlook
A simple philosophy
And, simple friendships

Simple man, not simpleton
Simple mystery of life:
Be kind to all, and to all a good life

Answer to Simple by Vera Wang

The simple man has simple demands,
Get me a simple beer, and
Get me a simple bag of chips,
Get me some simple crackers, and
Some simple cheese!
Ah, a few more to add on,
How about some simple chocolate and simple ice cream?
“What, you are not?”
“All I ask is every Friday some G. D.
simple treats!!”
Why?
“Because I’m simply a simple man with these simple demands, and
If my simplest list is not fulfilled
I will simply yell and scream,
Amen!