The first word you said was not 'love'.
The first word, when you lay, eyes shut,
In a darkened afternoon room;
When you stood, looking down at me,
Meteor in midnight leather;
When you knelt, on a yielding carpet,
Your mouth an unstereotyped rose;
When your hair caught in my lips
And had to be gently unwound;
When you came, at the start, and before
You spoke, your first word,
Your first dream, whisper it, cry it aloud,
Shine on me, rain on me,
Rise slowly on the horizon, and say,
When I ask, the same syllable, bless
Me with simple things, ring me
Round, will me to be found - yes -
yours - yes, and again, again yes.

Ruth Vanita, Professor at the University of Montana, former Reader at Delhi University, India, was founding co-editor of Manushi, India's first nationwide feminist journal, from 1978 to 1990. She is the author of Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination (Columbia UP, 1996), Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (Palgrave, 2005), Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Culture and Sexuality (Yoda, 2005), and A Play of Light: Selected Poems (Penguin India, 1994). She edited Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society (Routledge, 2002) and, with Saleem Kidwai, Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History (St. Martin's, 2000; Penguin India, 2008). She has been awarded fellowships by Cornell University's Society for the Humanities, the ACLS-NEH, and Fulbright. She has translated many works of fiction and poetry from Hindi and Urdu to English, and has published essays on Shakespeare in several journals, most recently in Shakespeare Survey, 2007. She is currently working on a study of gender and urbanity in late eighteenth-century Urdu poetry. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761