Poetry & Prose
Maya Khosla 

Maya Rani Khosla

Vanishing Shorelines: Hunting Down Water in India - with poetry by Maya Khosla
Maya Khosla and Michael McClure
Maya Khosla is an Indian poet living in California. Her latest book Keel Bone is the winner of the 2003 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize.
Order it online from Bear Star Press.

Maya Khosla and Michael McClure
Maya is also the author of Web of Water , a creative non-fiction manuscript, and Heart of the Tearing, a chapbook collection of poetry.

Her poetry has also featured in America's Review , Permafrost , Poetry Flash , and Seneca Review .

Maya Khosla performs at the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival in Berkeley, CA

In 1998 Maya was writer-in-residence at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts.

Web of Water
by Maya Khosla

"Web of Water" is available for purchase online here. More about Web of Water.

"Heart of the Tearing" by Maya Khosla is also available for purchase online here.
  Maya Khosla and Michael McClure
Maya Khosla and 

Michael McClure

P&P Poem


Submitted to Steel Point Quarterly

Careful, keep singing

the mother tongue,

moon's voice is what

clears the clouds off

her face

if you stop and

the song withers

in your mouth, it

dies backwards

first it takes your tongue

then your voice

then your trachea

and lunglets

then the whole lung

(the other English lung

will be all you have)

but you won't know it,

just be breathing

heavier, rigider, stickier,

paler, artificialer

and all because

you didn't keep singing

that Bengali song,

that moon's laugh

breaking clouds

Oppenheimer quotes the Bhagwad Gita

Submitted to poetsagainstthewar.org

Oppenheimer quotes the Bhagwad Gita
"The atomic energy commission formulated its research policy in a series of meetings,
the most important one held at Bohemian Grove..."

I want to walk this new land.
Twisted iron. Fine, cream-colored dust
covers everything, the slippers I slip into.
They are melted together
like a woman’s wrist bones.
I did not ask to look.
But she lives in the umbra of silence
beseeching me, stump-arms lifted.

It has been years
since the night-clad car pulled up
alongside my stride.
I was barefoot, a refugee
with physics under one arm.

I was escorted to where tall redwoods
spoke with their thousand-year breath.
I wanted to listen to their story
of quiet moisture and verve--

but human voices swelled in crescendo,
begging me for molecular secrets,
for the white heat of light.
The redwoods swayed, turned skyward

as I do now. Rain pelts, fast and gritty,
turns ashen. Around me, faces, wet faces
so tranquil I could swear
it isn’t blood, but just sleep,
dripping from their mouths.

Now wind, my upturned umbrella:
ribs displaying themselves, open, captive,
under thick cloud-jaws.
Brighter than a thousand suns
I am become death, destroyer of the worlds.

I find water, drink. It lights up,
a fiery eye scorching sleep.


Fire: Two Voices

by Maya Khosla

You can count: I was, am,
two parts in all.

The one caught between flames

that boomed at shadows

a hundred and ten floors tall,

and the one who saw it coming,
sped away on time

to see the slabs heave inward

between faces of fire.

It must be at least five hundred watts.
Put it off, stop it from screaming at me

with its ripped-open, crimson face.

The walls around me seem to be made
of paper, they shake with light

I lie white, drowned in air

like an eye unable to blink.

Numbed, my footsteps make no sound.

I am a mouth speaking wordless words
I hear no one, not even myself.

Only the downpour:

miles and miles of ash so thick

I could smear the words

Maneuver past fear,
and hear my own whisper on the ground.


Maya Rani Khosla


Recall:  every volume of air taken in, 
is the sum of green leaves, mint, algae, fern, lichen,
red leaves, maple, thistle, sweetbrush, sage and Cedar

Wintertime Delhi

The three-wheeler sings like a high-pitched bee
Going uphill, quietens downhill, an open air blast
Smells of a thick-smoked fire, a small gathering
On the streetside, palms facing downward over the flames
Warm smell on an otherwise cold street
I have a scarf over my face, small breath-warmed airspace
With each breath, the ridge road cold with 
Fingers of fog inside acacia forest remnants,
Behind a cow eating paper from a scattering of garbage 
This is what reuse means here, it's two horns 
Painted blue, the same dusty indigo blue 
of a shirt I picked out the other day, 
the whole pile smelling faintly of sweet incense, 
the taste of south Indian coffee we drank
Still strong in my mouth. 
Space between women is different here, 
It is OK for an older woman to brush right by you, 
Jump the small line to the try-out room,
I can't speak hindi fast enough, my words like the rock dove
Trapped inside the glass bathroom,
Bright grey wings washing the mirror
With its strokes.

Let Me Tell You a Story

Read at a "Healing Pole (carved wood) ceremony" and published in Terrrain Magazine.

Let me tell you a story: 
Remember [the dead] pray their living force into the open earth that we are their continued flesh, their ongoing breath

- Michelle Clinton (The Names of Black Flowers)

As I lean against this yellow-skinned wood
I am bequeathing Chipko's women warriors

with the flowers of my memory, growing arms

like petals around bark

As I lean against these thousand years

eagles throw their sharp arrows of hunger

into the heart of a timeless listening

Leaning against this solid testimony of song over sounds

of destruction, slash and build,

I can still hear the sky darken and crack sharp 

while the leaves of these Cedars stoke thunderous  fire:

drops big as fists drumming loud over the skin and bone

of forests now gone, I can hear

hearts of blue moss feeding on raw drops coming down

I can hear my mother's bare feet, dancing in first rain,

the Bengali songs I was taught before electricity, before faucet water, 

before shipyard wood.

As I lean into the dappled sunlight of these wood carvings

green mists unfurl like flags singing their anthems:

of tannins, swordferns, birds flitting through

root-framed kingdoms, like sparks rising from coals that once burned, that 

still burn, that infuse the darkness of extinction with their light 

recalled into being

Any candle I hold has its flames conceived in the memory 
of this wood, 

from light turned into leaf, and leaf into soil, to waxes and oils

Recall this, in the raw winds, alone now among steep slopes, 

that wash soil by the ton into rivers every year, 

Remember to endow the chopped white bark, the crash, 

the loose, open soil, with your own story of recollection-

Keep in mind, it is only memory that can feed the eagle 

its spindrift power, its spiralling call

Always, endow these long-journeyed poles with the chorus 

of your spiralling  memory

Keep in mind, the way the crook of these curled green arms 

held salmon, mid-breath, mid-flight, to rest, 

Recall this, in the tiny tufts of grass you walk in the bowlfuls of sky 

emptying out their fogs to caress what once was, 

Recall:  every volume of air taken in, 

is the sum of green leaves, mint, algae, fern, lichen,

red leaves, maple, thistle, sweetbrush, sage and Cedar

Keep in mind, if we are to breathe at all, 

it is these thousand years we will breathe

they are the incense, they are the oxygen.

As I rest upon this tree, I am bequeathing the Chipko's 
women warriors with the flowers of memory

recalling silent battles fought to keep these empires

in memory always, recall birds tiny, bursting forth in a shimmer of wings 

faster than the hearts of shooting stars

 Recall, do not forget, their darting into the thick weave of minutes

may be all you have left

Recall spring leaves that glowed with the fire of their first breath

brighter than the old year's leaves,

keep in mind, how giant roots speadeagled their way

framing river bank, holding the mud from slopping in. 

Recall flocks of birds in vast sheets of water

reflected as they rose, seeking shelter in the depths of thick forests

Remember the huge green caves of light

fused an air no words could reach or measure

Remember, for this is the strongest testimony of song. 

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Maya Rani Khosla


Was it the shape of her hands you saw
in every flower's opening?
The shape of her unfurling hair
in wheat fields tossing the light?

P&P Poem

The Sun Has Begun

The sun has begun, this day
to kindle its high tide of crimsons and golds:

like bright wheels, the petals of rapture

circle time's enduring grace.

The birds have begun, this day
pouring out their high, cool voices

into the golden cup of daylight you drink from.

Wings wipe the air, as they flow

over the jewelled throat of a green summer

Yet these corridors of rosy lanes
and honey-heavy bees

came later- the first was a season,

a May much like this one

except that you woke one day

and all: phone calls, shopping lists

even classes, all slipped away

like needless pink silk

from the shoulders of summer.

If someone had asked you for truth then,

you might twist at the watch on your wrist

or simply gaze outside

while dusk hushed the sky's song into softness.

Was it the shape of her hands you saw
in every flower's opening?

The shape of her unfurling hair

in wheat fields tossing the light?

Or did you sense shy hesitation

in each petal's curling

like words half kept, half spoken

or a promise, newly woken?

Yes, the birds have started again
pouring out their long, cool voices

into the golden cup of days

you will drink from.

You have come far, beyond this point
pure shells of sound-

if you hold this day to your ears

an ocean of years swells ahead.

May every wave in chorus

wash back summers like this

in bright, bejewelled fleets

of love's promises, newly woken.


Steelheads, a Page of Extinction

She enters the one pristine reach-
wetsuit, gloves, steel-toed boots slapping in, 
angled over boulders, their medium 
dark as another language, the words pushing in 
on each other,
against her calves, that one torn patch in her suit
turned cold as gravel heap-hunched below color.

The river is a blue cave, she floats its palm, spine, 
reading the slur in it, the heaviness 
dripping in from far fields like defeat, 
the trickle of light along dawn's unrippled back. 

Her breathing is magnified,
pulled towards the rapids, sucked in, legs first, 
one rock-grip to balance the pull
where water opens its soft ribs
and there beneath the gushing, 
barely visible in a fog of debris, 
a whole school of them, beating one pulse
receding towards cover, bowing downcast,
like sad emperors of this ruined empire
their spotted fin-silk and noses bent
over stony worms.

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