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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Babitha Marina Justin

Aakkulam Lake1

First, the water hyacinths

were charred

to white ash.

And then up floated droves

of dead pot-bellied fish.


Bulldozers clawed

their way through the slush,

chasing away egrets

and butterflies.

Trucks tipped in

smooth hillocks

of fine sand.

In two days, Aakkulam lake

was dead flat, bone-dry

and all set.


Months later,

I can still hear

murmuring mermen

warped in rotting reeds,
warbling in the depths

of a lake that

loved the sky.


A receding fringe of green

wages a war

of resistance and resilience

while a heart-shaped swathe of water

beats a tremulous tune,

mirroring the last shards

of sky.


[1] Aakkulam is a place of Thiruvananthapuram metropolitan area of Trivandrum city, the capital of Kerala state in India. It is about 10 km from Thiruvananthapuram city center. It is well-known as a picnic, backwater destination having the Akkulam Lake joining with the sea.

Your Orchards!

(For Chander M. Bhat)


I will come to see your orchards,

your valleys freckled with fear.

I will come to see the beauty

of terror budding on

your saffron fields,

armed men breaking and keeping peace,

history bathing its body

with blood and tears.


I will come to see your tremor

when they shout for a freedom

that can kill, exile and

strip down your skin

with shame.


I will come from the land

laced with palms

and the smell of cloves

to see your saintly peaks shiver

their silver crowns sutured

with pine-thorns of pain.


I will see those ruins

huddling in silence

to be awakened by a distant rustle,

the bustle of your valleys which

exiled happiness long ago,

I will walk your mountain passes

stalked by messiahs of death.


I will come to your

bullet-burnt skies

bleeding in the brim

like a framed traitor.


I will come to see

your mustard fields

where your women

dread to walk alone.

I will haunt your

shikharas every summer to

to smell the scent of

your wanton youth.


I will come to your valley

to write a handful of verses

for your chinar trees,

your walnut trunks

ripe with folklore, to pick

your water chestnuts

before they are buried

under memory’s snow,

our nation’s forgetful snow.


Babitha Marina Justin is Assistant Professor in English at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, a small city town in South India. Her poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, Adolphus Journal, Silver Needle Press, Ogazine, The Four Quarters Magazine, Taj Mahal Review, Kritya and Journal of Post-Colonial Literature. Her first collection of poetry, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills, was published by the Writers Workshop in 2015. Her most recent publication is From Canons to Trauma: Essays in Literature (Bodhi Tree Books, 2018). She divides her time between teaching, research, painting and poetry. At present she is getting ready to release her international anthology on grandmothers: “Silver Lining: Remembering our Grandmothers” (Readme Books) and her first novel Maria’s Swamp. She has translated The Guide to Sexual Harassment by ILO from English to Malayalam.

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