Father

Father-
When you ask me
to decipher jumbled-up words
From the day’s newspaper,
I take a moment,
To memorize the half-smile
On your face as you take
the black-and-white sheet back.
I keep looking for that smile
In the arms of lovers and
the eyes of friends,
and only sometimes
do I discover it,
in the bathroom mirror.

Father-
I write about everyone
except us, lest you should
One day find it and say,
like always, that you
do not understand,
even without reaching
the end.
Each line that you don’t read
Sets us back,
A little more,smothered
by layers of conversations
About lunches and dinners
And the weather.

Father-
I have dozens of
shushed stories stashed away
with my childhood, enough to last
the rest of your days; and still,
every time you read someone else,
I abandon mine and wish to be
them, instead.
But,Father,
My writing and I
are not quite the puzzles
you imagine-
I think
we could still figure out
all the garbled sentences
that have been scratching
our silences for too long,
if only we take
one jumbled-up word
at a time. You could still be
the best story I ever live.

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Dear Fellow Traveller,

Like me, do you sometimes sleep through

the safety demo on flights,

firm in your belief that your flight,

of them all, will never land on water,

because nothing ever happens to you anyway.

On other days, do you map out scenarios,

of potential seas and oceans along the way,

and what temperature the water will be,

and if, in the melee, you’ll choose

not to slip the life jacket on?

——–

 

Are you just as fascinated by red things-

tomatoes, boys in ragged capes,

Danger signs, life jacket tubes?

Do you check under the seat with your toes,

to see if they are telling you the truth-

and then laugh wondering if

your life-jacket lovers will ever be

this close when you feel the urge to jump?

——–

Sometimes, when your throat gets

a little too tight, do you reach for

the oxygen masks they aren’t dropping yet?

Is it only you feeling the pressure a little too deeply,

as you face the choice between being a cloud

and longing for solid ground?

When the shadows start getting larger,

and the bottom falls out from under your stomach,

do you, like me, always land a little more blurry

each time? Do you still manage to keep your head

amidst the clouds?

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.