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The Stage

 

The stage hated her with a passion that

seared red-hot against her soles.

It sank its scorching flames into her feet,

peeling back layers of skin with a

gripping force that made her bleed,

melting flesh until soon,

there would be nothing left of her.

 

The stage was stealing her soles.

With each step that she took,

they were bleeding wet and red

across the burning stage,

creating a trail of bloody footprints

that never seemed fade.

 

She was dying now,

and nobody was realizing it.

not the musicians

who were yawning as they

idly tapped their fingers to the drums,

not the audience members,

who were shifting in their seats

and rubbing their eyes.

 

She could take it if she tried,

but her passion was not strong enough

to own the stage.

Her limbs were disintegrating,

her body being torn apart.

She was dancing on the sun now.

 

The stage was killing her now.

She was burning to death.

an excerpt from my short story “Loving Properly”

Kavita[1] wrapped her arms around Hasini, smoothing out her hair and wiping away her tears. The engagement ceremony was just two weeks away.

“Do you want me to talk to your parents?” Kavita asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, Kavi,” Hasini said, head in hands.

“His skin is so white it must have blinded them. That’s why they can’t see clearly,” Kavita cracked. Hasini normally would have chuckled, but this time she barely smiled. “Money and caste make our world go round,” she spoke more seriously this time.

“I’m a disgrace. A shame. My own parents don’t believe me.”

The next day, Hasini nearly jumped when she saw her best friend standing there in the doorway. She knew instantly what Kavita had come here for and dreaded what the outcome would be. She pleaded with her eyes but Kavita, like always, was resolute. Hasini’s mother was at the dining table with a large metal bowl of green beans, each of which she took into her hand and snapped the ends off before placing in another bowl. She sprang up at the sight of the young woman, who was like a second daughter to her, and with both hands led Kavita to the dining table.

“Come now, Kavi. You shouldn’t be walking around to and fro like this,” Hasini’s mother scolded. “When are you due?”

“Next month. And don’t worry, Aunty, I can handle myself. I’m fine,” Kavita assured her. “Is Uncle here? I need to talk to you guys.”

They all sat at the dining table. Hasini looked down and started drawing imaginary circles on the wood surface. She couldn’t even concentrate on what Kavita was saying, only on how earnest her voice sounded, how strongly and clearly she spoke. A dark, irrepressible fear was stuck inside her throat. What was the point anymore? She knew Kavita wanted so desperately to help her, but there was nothing good that could come of this.

Abruptly, her father slammed his fist down on the table. She flinched. “You’re in love, aren’t you? That’s why you stalled marriage, isn’t it? Stalled and stalled because you’re in love. Who is it? You fell in love with some untouchable bastard, didn’t you?” The word ‘untouchable’ fell from his mouth like a curse. His chest heaved up and down, and his face was red with anger. Hasini’s mother gasped in horror.

“No, Nana[2]! I’m not. I swear I’m not.” Hasini watched as her mother breathed a sigh of relief but still clasped her hands together in prayer, perhaps has a pre-caution.

Hasini’s father looked at her and shook his head gravely. “Shameful. Such a lucky match. A safe future ahead of you. And here you are…I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” He stalked off to the family room with her mother trailing behind him.

“I’m sorry,” Kavita said, holding onto Hasini’s trembling hand. Her voice was doubled over in defeat. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”


[1] KUH-vee-tha

[2] Dad or Father

Your cold, lifeless eyes can manipulate.

What they say of you is true, that folklore.

You play around, calling people your “whores.”

Your sweet smile and charm, they inebriate

Innocent folks, but don’t exaggerate.

You’re not perfect and I shall underscore

That the tears that you shed, like rain, they pour.

With your loneliness and pain, you’ll castrate.

 

To others, your life is rather cryptic.

That you’d have no flaws is quite plausible.

But you’re blinding yourself like Oedipus.

Don’t fall to a pattern like this metric.

To treat life like a game is horrible.

Do not lead yourself into negligence.

Third Time’s The Charm

You could have done something great,

cradled the English language in your arms

and molded it into a picture-less art.

 

You could have crafted something beautiful,

fleshed out characters from thin air and

breathed life into them with the energy of words.

 

You’ve collided headfirst with the world,

seen how it beats in disillusionment,

and now your words are dying

at the pit of your stomach.

 

The pen feels like arthritis in your hands.

Your poems are collecting dust.

Now you struggle to form sentences that

once set the page on fire.

 

You could have been remembered

as that someone who makes

people feel, not just with their hearts,

but with every nerve in their bodies,

that someone who colors the world with writing.

 

It’s been too long,

far too long,

and you’ve spun your years out

into emptiness,

choked thrice on the bitter taste of

fear and failure and decided

it was too much to bear.

 

When the earth swallows you whole,

just know that you will not leave a mark.

 

Your name will not spread across the world.

 

You will not be remembered as a great writer.

 

You will not be remembered at all.

 

 

Disbelief

I am sure that if I pressed my ear up

against the walls of this temple,

I could hear a murmuring of voices,

all the whispered hopes of ordinary believers

trapped inside here.

 

It is a one-sided conversation.

An unrequited love.

Futile.

 

My parents tell me that the deities are supposed to

watch over us and make everything okay,

grant us our prayers and drive away evil.

These bold, many-armed deities.

These omnipotent gods and goddesses.

Everything is in God’s will.

 

They are statues.

Lifeless, man-made statues.

 

No.

They are idols to be worshipped.

 

And then the food.

Dried raisins. Holy Water. Milk.

Apples. Bananas. Coconut.

It’s just fruit,

really.

 

No.

It’s God’s fruit.

 

My defiance has made me weary.

The phrases that form it have been

thrown against my parents so many times,

a weak wind against

the fortress.

 

Sometimes, change is impossible,

even if it is screamed up close.

 

I have circled here enough times

to understand the physicality of it,

heel and toe against cold tiles,

palms loose   against each other.

 

Ice is my mind.

 

But I have faked faith enough times

to know how to shape my lips,

even if the words that fall

from my tongue

are cold and bare of any prayer.

 

I want my voice to sound loud and clear from my throat.

I want it to become something

tangible, sharp-edged, dangerous,

something to rattle loose my parents’ prejudices.

If I could I would have taken my dis-belief and shoved it,

tooth and nail,

between my parents’ closed hands.

 

I do not want to be welcome here.

I do not want to be here.

 

I do not want to be

 

there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sniffing for Blood

(poem based off the painting, “Bashmachkin and Noses” by Victor Vilner)

Noses overgrown.

Flesh thick, nostrils flaring, hair quivering.

This is where it starts,

right beneath the tip.

They inhale

 

and the inky, black lettering quivers, shrinks, morphs

into hideously deformed creatures,

into blood, sweat, and dirt,

as if these words are pathetic beasts

whose very breaths keep the noses at bay.

 

Eyeless,

the noses can’t see

how those creatures’ knees scrape the ground,

how they hunch over, begging for mercy.

They can’t see tears,

or the quivering lips,

the shaking fingers.

Please save us.

 

Earless,

they can’t hear the pleas.

And those pleas have crawled out into the air so many times,

have hit up against brick walls heavy with negligence,

they’re barely alive.

They can’t hear the protests,

the defiant, razor sharp words that bang on doors,

demanding to be uncaged.

 

No,

they only smell,

only sniff out for the crushable beasts.

And they exhale,

 

and the inky, black lettering is

no longer inky, no longer black.

Sucked of all hope,

it hobbles its way back to the

thin, papery hut it’s forced to call home

 

And the noses continue to grow larger.

Adorned in meaningless costumes,

tingling with the scent of power,

they continue to sniff for blood.

Anywhere and Everywhere

I have tried to grasp you

between my palms,

to feel the comfort that

so many say you offer them,

that feeling they call

Hope

 

You

were

supposed

to

be

everywhere.

 

In the valleys of my fingers,

between my lips,

among the pages of dust-filled books,

even in the polluted air.

 

But where were you when

I started wearing pain

like clothes?

 

I could not find you anywhere.

 

Not inside of my cuts and bruises,

or behind the walls of cracked and peeling paint,

dented far too many times from slammed bodies,

not inside the leather belts wrapped around fists,

in the edges of quivering kitchen knives,

or in the blood-filled air,

so sharp with strangled cries that it could

cut skin,

 

and somehow I thought you would pour out,

wrap around me like a warm, winter blanket,

and heal me like only you would know how,

and somehow I thought getting down on my knees,

and putting palm against palm

would be enough,

like somehow you would take all that makes me bleed

into your hands and make it disappear

because that is what you’re supposed to do,

 

right?

 

But I can’t believe in you anymore,

in the everything that you claim to be.

My knees are bruised.

I have given you so much of me,

all of my secrets overflowing with

the metallic, rusty smell of blood,

but you’ve given me nothing in return.

 

So, only my eyes and fingers are believers now.

 

So long to you.

Goodbye.

Good

Bye.

A Home Between Words

My home exists in the spaces between words,

In the silences that are born between

“Yes I can” and “I don’t know.”

I lean my back against maybe and close my eyes,

stretching my feet until they touch yes.

“Maybe I should try this over again.”

“Yes I will try this over again.”

In the rain, my home is like a house of cards,

but still I hang onto it because it’s all I have ever known.

On days when the rain has slammed down hard,

seeping into my home like a thief,

When I am balancing on the edge between

Confidence and uncertainty,

I tip over and take shelter in the latter because

it will always be there, because

it will always leave its door open for me.

 

Just The Two Of Us

I just had a thought

Of us two

Just the two of us

The grass wet beneath our feet,

The oak tree in my backyard,

A pathway to the sky,

And perhaps the sun

Toasting our backs

As we lie barefaced,

Unblinkingly,

Unflinchingly,

On the ground.

 

Just us two.

It is something worth

Thinking about.

Imagine that.

 

The curve of my bottom lip.

The corners of your mouth.

The spaces between your fingers

The line of my jaw.

Sweetness can never taste this good.

Bodies entwined as we lay,

Barebacked in the sun

Unblinkingly,

Unflinchingly.

 

Smiling for that fleeting thought,

Just a small thought

Of us.

Of us two.

Just the two of us.

 

 

 

Finally

There is no surge of affection,

No burst of excitement

At the sight of a small heartbeat,

No awe at this…

 

…No

Not a miracle

Just emptiness

Just a simple wish each night

For that thing to

Shrink

Shrivel

Disappear

 

And this will not change.

There will be no sudden gush of

Motherly affection,

No change of heart after nine months

No desire to feel that pain.

Body changing, morphing,

Betraying,

Giving life to it,

Making room for it,

For that thing that is not anything.

 

There will be no change at the office.

Preyed on by vultures,

Claws wrapped around protest signs

Murderer

Even when they try to invade,

Try to direct and redirect your body,

Try to define and redefine your boundaries,

There will be no change.

 

No pang of guilt,

No sense of shame because…

…Why, indeed?

 

And when this burden is lifted from you,

You will breathe

A small sigh of relief.

It is finally over.

You are whole again.

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