Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Chicken Claws at Midnight

Chicken Claws at Midnight

Annie Zaidi

There is no cause to be sad tonight.
If you are not young, you still have 
the fugue of a remembered time

when you wanted to sing and be wooed

by a film star.

Tonight, photograph a lost girlfriend

outside a film star’s fortress. Tell her to smile,

that little girl who used to cheat on you.

Laugh at her jokes.

Laugh so hard you suddenly want to leak.
When you have spent an hour trying to catch

radio Rainbow, when her cheating underbelly

is swollen so hard she mustmustmust go soo,

find her a fused-bulb loo with a plastic door.

Order a coffee you don’t want.

Outside the restaurant, the dogs will be sad

with relief, gnawing steadily at a pink pile 
of chicken claws, scrubbed clean and raw
as your heart.

Flick ash. Stare at the dogs unhappily licking
the sturdy remains of the feast day.
Nurse your coffee down to a stub.
Tell the girl not to be sad. Tell her,
remember when you were eternally hungry
for her film star laughter?

The dogs will be too busy to howl and she 
will worry they’re choking on chicken bones.
Tell her, it’s alright. Tell her, they’ll live.
Tell her, good night. 

Tell her to smile although you can’t afford
to fill her belly with hope even now. 
Even now, she will settle for a taxi ride, 
heavy with song.


Annie Zaidi writes poetry, essays, and fiction in English and Hindi. Her first collection of essays, Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, was shortlisted for the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards. Other stories and essays have appeared in anthologies such as Mumbai NoirWomen Changing IndiaJourneys Through Rajasthan, and elsewhere. Her most recent book is Love Stories # 1-14, (HarperCollins India).

Annie Zaidi

Sudeep Sen