Often I have described my heart
As the sky. Wiped with a washcloth.
Every picture I took during sun sets
And the red orb (Fire! Flaming!) fixing
Us with daily tasks, I’ve breathed slow.
Now, the breaths come even slower
The clouds still tease. I spot shapes
The way I did as a child: Elephants
With the longest trunks ever, furry
Kittens drinking from the sky saucer,
A little girl running after a ball, and
Crocodiles in snare. Frenzied for
Action. At times just soft strokes.
Now the shapes come even fainter.
We were taught to find colours in
The sky. Blue from airy old scars
Spread over. As though my dreams.
Until I realised dreams bled nothing
Only reality did. The way my dad’s
Head bled when he had the stroke
And fell down on the wide terrace.
Often the vast screen up above
Turns into the valley of my skin
Dipping with time, tingling hard
When love’s sudden cackling birds
Etched that perfect arch of a V.
Now even while the sky runs free
With no smoke prints of aeroplanes
Of our rootless journeys, I feel
There’s something dripping off
Of the blankness, of its pale gaze.
It is you, it says. I ask, am I?
Did I know
The texture of water
Before I felt it on my palm
When I rolled my days with sweat
Drops? Did I know what flutters
Each drop contained before
Dusk, before drawing curtains
Over the atrium of light.
Did I soak
My sleep with the ripples
On the horizon. Faint terraces
In the haze of summer afternoons,
Browned grass in the heist of heat
That wants water, only water.
The moment when I had dipped
My toes into a mountain river
Or when I tried seeing inside
The belly of a pond: that epiphany
Doesn’t leave. Even in sorrow
And the joy of seeing an odd light
Scooping us in its fluid offering
I did not know that my own lone
World of solitude swims within
This body I inherited from decay.
A body I drink sip by sip. Molten.
Truth be told, I’m tired seeing
Pictures of anointed flowers,
Well-manicured private gardens,
Common birds at uncommon hours,
And dishes dazzling like diamonds
On people’s tables. I see the same
Flowers, the birds, the plates
Glittering on my curve of daily-ness.
An unsettling mirage on the senses.
I want to see the unseen: what
Of those things invisible, where
No one touched, no one was seen,
And no one spoke at all to anyone?
The face a mask, the eyes
Are probes, and the tongue
A scanner for all words unsaid.
Perhaps this earth will imprint
Itself all that on my belly, feel
The sag each muscle layer records
When we measure our own ailment,
As though recurring seismic circles.
Perhaps the summer-ridden soil
Will feel the bodies gone cold
In its wraps, while we watch
Buds flowering, unswept petals
On landscapes like heart-aches.
I want to bend down and once,
Just once, touch the ground.
Perhaps it’s all imagination. But
It’s also to atone for the lack of touch
We’ve inherited. Along with it
The sudden eye for flowers, trees,
And the tedious world in mourning.
Nabina Das is a poet and writer based in Hyderabad. She has published five books of poetry and fiction, and written several commentaries and columns for journals and mgazines. Sanskarnama is her latest collection of poems.