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Harbour Line - ENTR’ACTE, by Deepankar Khiwani

Publication Year : 2006​


ISBN 10 : 8190298127

ISBN 13 : 9788190298124​

Some responses :


‘Deepankar Khiwani’s first book is unexpectedly assured, its tone one of oceanic nostalgia for the present. These poems achieve a formal transparency of language and intent, but they are animated by secret narratives of loss’

-Jeet Thayil

‘The world collapses around Khiwani in slow motion. Everything is greatly slowed down in his perception, as though duration had to be redeemed from the contemporary and translated into a phenomenology of scrutinized moments. A poet falls, drunk, from a chair on a lawn; a mirror cracks, leaving the man shaving in it bewildered by the multiplicity of his faces, selves……….This is a devotion to things that are transient, ephemeral and fleeting, yet make us fully conscious when we retrieve them from time’s inexorable kingdom, translate them into the realm of the finely crafted image.’

-Ranjit Hoskote



‘Deepankar Khiwani sticks to the rules that divide poetry and prose. He has new ideas to put across, and above all, his verse passes the first test of good poetry: you can read it again and again with added pleasure.’ 

-Khushwant Singh



‘This is poetry of formal assurance that refuses to engage in any flamboyant displays of virtuosity. The poet returns time and again to the exploration of the blurred divide between self and other, reality and art, equipoise and decay, loss and longing, violence and love, volition and compulsion. What makes the reader trust this enterprise is a quality of restraint.This enables Deepankar Khiwani to probe the shadowy areas of between-ness in ‘The half-written mis-spelt life’-its ambiguities and betrayals, as well as the unbidden moments of searing clarity’

-Arundhathi Subramaniam



‘These are poems fortified by a rare and fortuitous blend of colloquial ease and astute, almost processional formalism; poems rooted in cadence, yet haunted inexorably by the rootlessness of existence, the incorrigible otherness of self. Mirrors, airports, vases, friends, lovers and fellow-poets collide and collate themselves within the richly fragmented landscape of this book, like irreconcilable entities, gleaned and brought together, as if against their will, by the search for a higher order of speech.’
-Anand Thakore

A Note About The Author :


Deepankar Khiwani was born in New delhi in 1971. He read Economics at Bombay University and obtained post-graduate degrees in accounting and in business management. He lives in Bombay, where he works for a Paris-based technology and outsourcing firm. His first book contains a selection of his poems written between 1995 and 2005

Selected Poems from ‘ Entr’acte’:



so I
my darknesses across this space
and wait:

come, you must stick to the lines.
I need you.

Study of a Vase


In the end it is only something that can break,
this fragile porcelain vase in delicate blue
with a gilt edge.  Carefully I take
it from the topmost shelf of the cabinet, and into
my room and set it down upon my desk. Now here
it stands, eight inches high, cylindrical; and I,
sharpening my pencil, suddenly find it clear
I do not wish to draw another lie

of what is and what is not.  Art destroys
the sureness of the thing.  Perhaps this small
chip off the rim will stay unseen; if drawn, a choice
addition or faithful flawism - and yet all
create a symbol that forgets the symbol that this
has been, found in my grand-aunt’s wooden chest,
holding her letter to a child born dead. It is
a sign of the dying that seek the dead’s long rest;

yet, put quite plainly: nothing.  I can forget
the past and have the will to leave behind
vases and words that were or could be. Yet,
something sometimes compels the desperate mind
to understand the nature of itself;
to seek an image from the light that shows a shape
filled with the colour borrowed from a shelf,
as if to other blues one could escape.

: Man in white T-shirt looking at a vase,
holds it to light, eyes focused on despair,
seeks an image and remembers how to pause
and smile to find himself reflected there,
unclearly in its varnish; tries to choose
medium and message for his study’s sake;
taught in tradition, schooled in how to lose –
though at first it only seemed a thing to make.

Night Train to Haridwar


Now past midnight the train stops with a jolt.
Twelve twenty-two. My friend sleeps, unaware
of both this journey and this sudden halt
and gently smiles, as if he could not care;
As if he knew no halt to smile about,
nor ever had a journey he could doubt.

I smile at myself: Journeys, Halts indeed!
I should have been a poet, adrift at sea
asking the questions that could nowhere lead
except to more uncertain ways to be.
All it could be is engine trouble that
detains us, or some station we stop at.

We should reach there tomorrow – by, say, eight.
The first time there, for both me and my friend.
Perhaps an unconscious unacknowledged wait
now hopes its sleepless questioning will end…
I close my eyes, as if to lose my will,
then realise the train is standing still.

In this air-conditioned quiet compartment, lit
by dim white light, I stretch, then try to see
what is outside the window, but find it
impossible to look outside of me:
there in two panes reflected, clearly seen,
two panes of glass, with a vacuum caught between.

Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Woman


When no one’s looking, he steps out from his room
into the garden walled in with mossy brick.
The swing awaits him, expectant as the noon,

still, suspended, like realities 
unrecognised but insurmountable. The cacti bristle,
turgid as metaphors. A hesitating breeze

picks up. He seats himself upon the rusted swing
with closed eyes: She is in the gardens
now, that lurk behind those closed walls, imagining

this impulse to push oneself back, and to gain
the moment of the present, her life beginning
to rust.  She picks up speed; he propels himself again,

till, opening his eyes, the world is just a blur
of mossy walls – now far, now closing in – and he, in tears,
is this woman who clasps the chains that rescue her.

From within the room, the forty-year-old maid
peers through the parted curtains as he sobs;
then, shaking her head sadly, steps away.

Photograph at the Lodhi Gardens


I have that snapshot in my album still –
That pale blue sky, which doesn’t really tell
How hot it was and how you fell quite ill:
You held a book, and smiled hard to look well.


I wasn’t posing then, but now I find
This photograph shows more of me than of you:
My eyes drawn to the ruined tomb behind,
I shot you less in focus than we knew.

For Robert Rauschenberg


In 1959, the artist Robert Rauschenberg asked Willem de Kooning to provide him one of his drawings as part of an art project. de Kooning, older and more established than Rauschenberg agreed to participate and gave Rauschenberg what he considered an important drawing. It was a drawing executed in grease pencil, with heavy crayon, ink, and graphite.


Rauschenberg spent a month on the work, erasing it completely. Then he placed the erased drawing in a gold frame and inscribed the date and title on the drawing: "Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953".

Faint marks of ink and crayon linger on the paper, which measures 19" x 14-1/2".

Start from the end with a pencil, and cancel out that line.
And now (you will see) you have a somewhat shorter space of nine
left standing(?). Sounds vaguely at first like that Christie novella
of the ten about to die, the plot’s edges flaming in to a denouement.
But did you intend to leave those stains? Two more lines. And: We are Seven.
Hold on – to loss? If all it takes is giving up: is hell then really heaven?
No: what we need to do is to learn how to blank it out..
The canvas itself hangs of course, spotless as pure doubt,
and de Kooning’s smile hovers above, uncertain as all art.
It is the end, obviously... that really marks the start.



Fireworks at the Gateway


Tonight, I have matched a loss to what is lost,
betrayed the disloyalties of innocence…
Paid with the light all that the darkness cost,
and watched them both fade out, like confidence.

Now that this broken silence breaks no more,
I seek celebration in these splintered skies!
But as this light bleeds through the darkness that it tore,
I watch, and wish that I could shut my eyes.



We Can Dissect Her Now


We can dissect her now; slit her neck,
the pale breasts, the curious heart beneath;
or examine the hands that – but enough of that. 

The smell of blood is of course
faintly revolting; but remember
an autopsy is quite essential

to understand the nature of the body,
and what undoes it.  I mean, how long
will you shy away from confronting your malaise?


So come on now, and take that scalpel up –
and cut it out! that anguished look, my friend…
You never can kill her until you do.

Patient Waiting


They’ve managed to stop the bleeding. At this time,
Six twenty-six, the light is cold but tender,
softening the dull white sheets, calming the roses
(so bruised and aware it is time). Pausing at the ivory door.

They’ve managed to stop the bleeding. Yet the pain
seeps through the sedatives, pulsating steadily.
Surely unbearable if I had not to bear it, I think,
feeling its heartbeats regular in my head.  Six twenty-eight

in red and squarish numbers on the bedside clock. At eight-thirty,
Doctor will be here again, talking to the day nurse, smiling at me.
They all smile, looking perfectly at ease
as they change the bandages about my head.

Next week, perhaps, they will let me see myself.  I’ll grip
the steel arm of my chair, and stare into that framed myself.
The colours cruel, and the light indifferent. 
A modern-day earless van Gogh staring back.  The roses

– die – so gradually. Then surely there will be
the holding of my hand, hushed steps, the sympathy
with disfigurement seen in a portrait, unrecognized
as of oneself.  And with that dull incomprehension,

the incomprehension that I will mirror too,
will come the acceptance of that face, that change.
Except for one whose eyes will now be silent
and who will only hear the voices he is deaf to.

So I know that next one day they’ll open the door
to find the palette cracked in two. And a man gone very blind,
who will look no more at the roses. That he cannot see.
How else can it end?  The mind’s savage addiction


to the aesthetic integrity even of its ugliness…
that then pares us so very perfectly...
whetting its scalpel as we turn into
the dying roses, bandages, the blood.

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