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3rd Place Poetry Winner: All the men - Jose Varghese

who were to be my father-figures

are dead.

I witnessed their burials in the lands they thought they owned. They were the last to know of funerals that earn real tears.

What they passed on isn’t worth a fraction of me. I’m thankful though for the double-edged sword of language,

the passport of imagination to non-existent homelands,

the peepholes through which

they let me see

slices of betrayingly beautiful webs, layers upon layers of power,

so well-woven in blinding colours

and laced with baits that their preys

won’t even have the time to question

the ways in which they were harmed.

All the women, a few men,

and everyone in between

who weren’t allowed

to stand on podiums and speak

through fifty microphones,

publish pages of ghostwritten rhetoric,


doctored data

as bona fide research,

fill the mindless with top class venom,

hijack TV time with hateful soundbites,

or to have the power to raise anyone,

were the ones who ended up

teaching me how to read poems

from those eyes that’re capable of

suffering and shame.

And though all of them couldn’t be

contained even in a hundred poems

this length,

they aren’t going to be buried

until their last gift of rebellion

is dried up in me.


Jose Varghese is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ and his short story manuscript ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the 2018 Beverly International Prize. He was a finalist twice in the London Independent Story Prize (LISP), a runner up in the Salt Prize, and was commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize. His works are in Litro, Under the Radar Magazine (Nine Arches Press), Joao Roque Literary Journal, Burningwords Literary Journal, Haunted Waters Press, Wild Roof Journal, Sunspot, Chariot Press, The Best Asian Short Story Anthology (2019 and 2021), The Best Asian Poetry Anthology (2021), Lunchbreak Zine, Cathexis Northwest Press, Khabar, Live Encounters, Dreich, Meridian – The APWT Drunken Boat Anthology of New Writing, Afterwards, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Kavya Bharati, Bengaluru Review, Muse India, Re-Markings, Unthology 5, Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, Flash Fiction Magazine, Chandrabhaga, and Postcolonial Text.


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