Ode to consent

*Written in response to Nandini Varma (Airplane Poetry Movement)’s prompt “Shall I compare thee…”*

Shall I compare you
To a cup of tea?
And wait for his reply,
“But I only drink whiskey”
Or shall I liken you
To a monosyllable “No”
To be called arrogant or
Plain old boring, just so.

Shall I signal with my frantic eyes
Until he blindfolds himself between tries?
Or shall I scream, and shout, and claw my way,
Losing a familiar ally in an unlikely fray?

Shall I tell you
What you have sometimes meant?
I lie against his body bent,
And after a while, he does relent.
Then I get up to make a cup of tea,
And pen down clever thoughts of consent.

My Grandmother is still not dead

In my dream,

We’re still in the hospital.

There are more people coming,

To pay their respects to the last

Of my grandmother’s shallow breaths

They have enough of their own

To waste in platitudes

They insist that saying goodbye

Is the only proper thing to do,

(for closure)

I tremble as I touch a hand

That raised me to know sunlight

A touch I can remember now

When I hold snow for too long

In my dream,

She’s always alive as my hand meets

Her oxygen mask

And because I know how it has to end

I do it.

In my dream,

She dies.

Is it because I killed her?

 

It’s been seven years since she last breathed

And my grandmother is still not dead.

Watch

Watch your mother gaze at the ridges and bumps

On your sunshine-stained face, wondering where

she’s gone wrong in sculpting her personal

Mona Lisa. Watch your father hit ‘Love’ on your

social media profile, only to lean close to you and

whisper, “You need to get your skin fixed.” Watch

those hassled parlour attendants voice a question

that is certain to drench you in a little pool of your

melting insecurities. “Why don’t you take care

of yourself?” Watch those cucumbers on your eyes;

Watch for an entire calendar year the brownies on

someone else’s plate. Watch the scars as they jeer

at exotic creams advertised in between your mother’s

favourite daily soap- Watch the women in those same

daily soaps jeer and shame each other. Wash your face

with soap, for the fifteenth time. Watch your face

in the mirror. Remember the time you spent watching

a slideshow of old pictures of yourself. Watch that serving

of forbidden food in front of you, lest you relive the pictures.

Watch yourself, trying so hard to hide your scars. Watch me,

trying to tell you that if the Grand Canyon were unblemished

land, no one would give it a second thought. Watch yourself-

You, as magnificent as a rain-clad horizon. Don’t watch at

the window for acceptance that comes only with clear skies.

For just a moment, watch with love, and watch

your favourite constellations shine

With your light.

 

In memoriam, childhood

It is not right to make a mockery
of childhood memories.
To take kaleidoscopic dreams
and sort them by size
and discard those that do not fit
their idea of blue.
Blue is not an idea; it is a memory,
My memory.
Of the old lunch box I ate from
all alone, and
that slide in the park I never climbed.
Blue just is,
like I just am, still waiting
for them to see,
That happiness doesn’t come in only
checks or stripes
that one size doesn’t fit us all,
And that’s alright.

Grandfather

I once had to write an essay in school,
and I put together bits and pieces.
From my father’s occasional statements
and my aunt’s ramblings full of appreciation,
and I carefully constructed you.

You, who’d take long walks without telling anyone
when he’d be back, who’d get annoyed at people
who didn’t use logic. You, who sounds so much
like me. You, Grandfather, who loved
my sister, and never even knew me.

It seems unfair that some people should have
stories, and that I should have to make one up.
They say I’m a good storyteller, Grandfather,
did you know? Did you know that there would be
a walk you’d never return from?

Did you know that your wife would teach a child
to converse like you did, and find you in her again?
And years later, your blood would amble along
those very streets, in search of the home
you never came back to.

It makes for a good story, doesn’t it, Grandfather?
Deep down, I think you’d approve.

I am

“I am, I am, I am” , wrote Sylvia.
“I”, fluid de-oxygenated blood in my veins,
when I turn my ears to your song.

Am I my hands, that trace the sequence
Up and down, down, down, up,
As they strum through your hair?

Or am I the warmth in the pit of my soul,
when I don’t have to speak the words
for you to hear them glow in the dark?

Am I the contours of my mind as they morph,
Shrinking and growing with your questions
and my quest for answers that match yours?

I am, yes. But who?