Happy Holi

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The bonfire she was set to light
wasn’t stitched together by twigs and hay.

No.

Her pile was made up of a hundred red bricks
multiplied into another hundred
stacked atop each other, unshakeable –
the perfect Jenga tower of crimes you’d ever see!

Each brick scribbled onto in blood,
telling stories of victims and survivors alike.

Much like the tag of shame
branded onto prisoners,
these bricks were tattooed with tales
of having been uprooted from one’s home –
both that made of iron and steel
and that made of flesh and bones.

If you’d peer closely,
you’ll see the tiny scratch marks left by a 5-year-old
before she was raped.

Some bricks smelled of Allah’s breath
as he sighed and mourned the death
of his worshippers in his name.

On one was hastily scribbled a note –
Dear God,
To take shelter from the explosives raining from above,
I walk on land mines and broken limbs of family & kin,
And I’m sure I am walking to heaven to meet you
for this is hell, and my time here is complete.
Love,
Robbed of Innocence at Ten.

She let the tears sting her eyes
till she could read these stories no more.
And then the match was lit.
And flung.

The stories turned to char –
blackened and bruised,
and this is what she smeared on her face, whispering,

“Happy Holi.”

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The first time I kissed you

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when you’d scoop me into your arms

as I’d crawl on all fours.

Warm, strong –

your arms smelled of safety,

of dreams for a brighter future.

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when I returned home dejected

failing to win the poetry recital contest,

and you clapped me on the back saying,

“It’s not winning but trying that’s everything.”

Your hand holding the embarrassment

that settled at the base of my back,

moulding it into courage

is what my 6-year-old shaky knees and trembling lips needed.

But I didn’t kiss you then.

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when you looked me

straight in the eyes and said,

“The next time a man touches you without consent,

scream loud enough for heaven and hell to know

you are not to be messed with.”

I listened on, all of 13,

broken in places

I should have found love.

I listened on, willing your voice

to be the steely resolve that wrapped

itself onto my veins.

Seven years later,

as you were being lowered

six feet under

taking with you

unasked questions,

words of wisdom,

non-existent beer drinking sessions,

chants of ‘you can!’ ‘you can!’,

I kissed you

on your cheeks and forehead.

The first time I kissed you.

Unbuttoning

You scribbled words

hastily onto my back

as I unbuttoned your shirt.

 

A new word dug into my skin

with each rustle of the fabric –

K.I.S.S

B.I.T.E

L.O.V.E

All along,

your shirt slipped clumsily

through my fingers.

 

My mind,

a raging volcano

birthed by questions and thoughts,

met your kisses that

sought to answer

every doubt that bubbled onto

the surface of my lips.

 

Quieting and stoking

the lava stirring within,

you wielded magic

with your tongue.

 

In. Out. In. In. In. In… Out.

 

My flushed breath

matched yours

inhale for an inhale.

 

Pinned against the wall

we drew our own masterpiece.

 

Introspection

Young poets,
ever asked yourself in moments quiet –
as a wise man once prodded another –
“Must I write?”

Today, I did.

Must I write
of the taste that lingers clumsily
on Hatred’s bitter tongue;
of iron, rust, and salt?
Of a mother’s milk gone stale;
of children dying in cradles
marked by jingoism and war?
Of perfumed scents turned putrid?

Must I write
of the great battles fought by foolish mortals
on behalf of the Great Gods –
they who preached love, and in whose name
devotees arrange Carnivals of Murder and Rape?
Holy scriptures upturned;
every verse washed clean
by the blood of the pagans.

Or, must I write
of how I found my voice hidden
in the dregs of the potent mixture
of tears and alcohol,
to only lose it once more upon swallowing
the 5-tiered cake built on
guilt,
body-shaming barbs,
self-doubt,
anxiety,
fear?

Of finding it again
every time I put pen to paper and bled words –
a guttural spilling of thoughts and emotions
feverishly scribbled?

Must I write?

“Yes”, is what the pen replied.

 

 

 

 

The man you were helped me become the woman I am

Happy birthday

What do you do when you wake up wanting to hear the voice of that one person reassuring you that you are still the strong child he raised, but can’t? You will your mind to recreate the voice in your head; you break a little more within when you realise you can’t remember the exact tone in which your father called out your name. And you hear your own voice repeat the words that bring peace to your troubled heart – ‘You have harmed none, you are strong and enough. You can make magic.’

This June, you taught me from beyond the grave to believe in the power of my own voice. On your 67th birthday, I want to raise a glass of beer (I was never the wine person, Dad, and I have a feeling you loved beer too, before you gave up alcohol for good) to the man you were.

To the man who taught me to punch knuckle-first to win, but also be graceful in defeat.

To the man who would proudly correct every guest who entered our house, glanced at the sports posters plastered everywhere, and said, ‘your son is quite the cricket fan’, with a ‘Yes, but my daughter is a bigger cricket fan than him and this is her work.’

To the man who never made me feel any dream of mine – no matter how ridiculous or outlandish – is out of reach.

To the man who reminded me that my size does not define me. “So, you’re short. Sunil Gavaskar is short. Did he not make the tallest West Indian bowlers cower in fright? Trust your talent, they’ll outshine your frame.”

To the man who, even in my darkest times, believed I was destined for greatness.

To the man who made me speak my mind, even when we held opposing views; who made me find my own voice so that when the day came that I forgot his, I had my own back.

To the man who raised me as an independent, strong woman; to the man who raised me to more than I could be.

Happy birthday, Dadda! I hope you got to cut the cake at midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing with my demons

Tripping over broken glass –

Shattered shards of an open window.

One that was left unbolted for far too long.

You wouldn’t believe the kind of men

Who paid their visit at home.

Some intruders – she slapped them away

Before they could gouge the meat off her thighs.

Some she invited herself. Men she came to love.

Men who she offered love dipped in tea and cakes.

To the last – she offered her soul.

 

She woke up from her reverie.

Cleaned the blood off her feet

To reveal tiny, sore punctures.

Stitch them up together

And they’d form the mosaic

That was her heart –

Jagged at the edges, a gaping hole in the middle

Crowned with a constellation of kisses

From her former lover.

She mused, maybe the infamous black hole

Was nothing else but the ticking organ she bore.

 

She tasted fire in the air.

Soot and smoke in her lungs.

Bookmarking those musings, she ran.

Wounded.

Her house was set alight.

 

Each door she opened,

Smelt stale.

Beer breath – the kinds she had once inhaled,

And made love to.

Bookmark those away, too,

She reprimanded herself.

Panicking.

Which door signaled escape?

 

Collapsing amid wood, ash, burned trinkets,

She fought no more;

Allowing the flames to lick her clean.

Holding close to her chest

A crumpled, old parchment that read –

‘Is there no way out of the mind.’

 

Plath’s words were the last thing she remembered

Before she went off to dance with her demons.

With love, Storm

storm-2
Photo credit: Meryl D’Sa

I am not afraid to show you exactly who I am.
I am not that thief who breaks into your home silently. Cowardly.
Stealing from you while you were still asleep in your world undisturbed.

No.

I will arrive on the Chariot of Darkness–
Drawn by faceless mighty beasts,
Their wings a fierce slate grey
The kinds that creep within your bones
And knock them off their hinges.

I will pound at your door!
Fists of cold fury. Roaring. Thundering.
I am going to bring your house down. Mark my words.
Dust, rubble, stones—that’s what the ordinary will be reduced to.

And as you sit windswept in that wreckage,
I will demand these answers from you:
How dare you walk through life without questioning
Everything you see in front of you?
How dare you let your worth
crumble into sand at your feet?
How dare you let the rivers of salt
Trickling from your eyes
Last long enough to fill an entire ocean?

How dare you not live?

I will come without a trace of fear.
Can you survive me?
Blue skies and sunshine will follow me
Can you outlive me?

Love,

Storm