The balcony is dotted with green spit stains;
the gush of monsoons will wash these away.
Women lean over, resting their bosoms,
loosely wrapped with yellow and milkshake pinks,
careless strings on their backs,
ruffled hair smelling of stale aftershave.
Mouths like peaches, red from chewing paan
blow ringlets of smoke into the smoggy sky.
Cigarettes: their reward from trouser pockets
checked by doubting hands of wives every night.
Some spit sipari like loveless thrusts
of hungry men. Hennaed feet tap to Asha Bhosle;
hips bruised by foreign fingers sway for more
to feed the babies, now asleep, next door.
The Azaan calls men to prayer
while some enter through creaking doors.
We chew it like animals in the wild,
spitting the dry chunks of straw-like strands
into a bowl between us.
Our throats dry from July’s heat
soften and moisten with every drop.
Not even our shadows on the wall care
that we’re sticky and wet –
innocence projected by lanterns.
Nabila is a support worker for disabled students and has been published by Poetry Review, Bloodaxe and Stand magazine.