The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Minal Hajratwala’s “Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment”


The Goddess of Lemons
                      After Eugenio Montale’s “I Limoni”

Listen, my poet laureate.
If tonight I make a fool of myself at the piano
do me a little favor: applaud wildly, or scat.
Ride—for me, for love—astride the swift, verbose,
fossil-dove of peace between us,
medium-loud, secret ragtime,
to soothe my scratchings:
shame of twisted fingers,
pride of perfect pitch,
this desire for tea with honey & lemon
that comes from a night of throats.

Meet me under the balcony
if you want to be my blue sky:
We’ll paint chiaroscuros
to the goddess of eggs, sing arias
to the god of hopeless quests,
dig up fistfuls of earth
& sleep in a sweet unrest.
Let’s enjoy this passion
like a miracle of war,
let’s feel richer not poorer this year
because of the odor of lemons.

Come, embrace my queer quickening,
abandon your shield & your wine
which conceal your last secrets,
risk my talons
like a scorpion of Nature
                for the moment of death of the world, the moment we do not have,
                the final abrogation when we will fall mute
                in the middle of a squall.
                Let’s prepare for lightning,
                our minds for discord,
                not the perfume
                of a journey of just language.
                Song & silence can’t fail the test
                of the ultimate Divinity,

                Desire: my illusory mouth & the time of riposte,
                rumors of blue doves that dance
                solos for piccolo, piano, cithara.
                The priggish stance of the earth, toward sun; one movement
                against the tedium of winter;
                the light in your locs—love lives.
                When a journey ends like this
                cut short
                you can be sure it’s the goddess of lemons:
                tart sherbet of her heart,
                petty scrotum lust,

                that naughty story about yellow
                she tells the sun when they’re alone.

This selection comes from Minal Hajratwala’s book Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment, available now from The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. Purchase your copy here!

Minal Hajratwala ( is author of the award-winning epic Leaving India: My Family’s Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents (2009), which was called “incomparable” by Alice Walker and “searingly honest” by the Washington Post, and editor of Out! Stories from the New Queer India (2013). Her latest book is Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment, published by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a collective of which she is a co-founder. She graduated from Stanford University, was a fellow at Columbia University, and was a 2011 Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar. As a writing coach, she loves helping people give voice to untold stories.

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Chautauqua, Redivider, Rattle, Word Riot, and elsewhere. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.


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