Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘New Delhi, Beyond the AQI’, a poem by Anannya Uberoi


    New Delhi, Beyond the AQI


The king’s lane, papayawhip-paved.
                    Smog on the lemonade children.
By November, everything underwater. Crop-burn and tobacco clouds
on evening sounds: fast-car honk, tin snips on sheets, railroad tracks.

Old canard that the city drowns in its own black cloud.
Not even the Ganges-sister, in her tar-pits and flying foam
              moves. The khirni tree, old and full-grown,
ever standing by white marble, cuts its days short.

In the Ridge, a macaque threatened by a fruit-eye.
Discovered in the fog lights, a silhouette
its dangling child, crossing the asphalt. Wind whistling
        through a crunched hole on the ground.

Our car stops,
mile on mile of nothingness. A barn owl shrieks. Layers of
        mink-ash air, like breaths tucked in a gray-haired blanket,
coarse and scratched, surviving for a day and a day more

        yet going on winter after winter without question.

Candle flame like a watercolor ghost, burning, smudged
steps ahead. We become children of the shadows save
tooth and nail,
        cornflower white, dug into the dust of the sun.