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We're children born to untameable storms

Five Poems by Tamanna Bangthai


You were born some good sixty years ago

and I came after.

A sneak peek into those years

and I was dust in a ball of light, chaos and chance.

No beginnings, no ends, no in-betweens,

none for the sake of life, none for the lack thereof.

That day, your quick glance lasted longer than two seconds

and you kept looking above,

in the same nonchalant way, you still do,

maybe it was at that moment you had seen me,

your gaze, traversing a million light years only to fall upon a host of angels

making snow homes for us, yet-to-be earthlanders.

Even then, you were so beautiful,

shoulders as strong as granite, hair as straight as the Nile

and I knew right then, I had fallen for you.

The first time we met,

it was a Friday morning,

too early for radio waves to sound human, too dark for a kite runner

to chase the lost in an electricity partial nation.

When we started talking, you made me point at the sky

and trace The Hunter back from Sirius,

I later learnt that that wasn't the right way.

But we were never too right,

given a human can only make another human,

a handful of sand or stardust, a farmer's son or a father's daughter.

Now that we're learning more

about the world, about life, about each other,

it breaks my heart to see you wanting to stay back

at all the places I've moved on from.

Your heart is a lost Atlantis, heavy with existential crisis

and soaked in blood you water seeds in your garden with,

the only thing that can compete with me for your love.

But you know you've lived the best years of your life

singing songs of freedom like a brown sparrow to the sky,

and it has loved you back regardless

the faith you've so miserably failed to put forth.

Now that you're growing old faster than I'm growing up,

I see rust growing on your hands, the creases of your skin, its movements

and your run ceasing to follow the sun

even if that means slow and defeated.

You don't care

to paint the color of the skin on your scars,

to sustain the calcium in your bones,

to keep up with the steps you've taught me to take.

So I call you (father) louder, the farther you get

and tell you there are poems I've written on aspects of life we've never quite discussed,

there are stars in the sky you've never known the names of,

there are lessons I've learned alone

and I might one day, write my story

in a language, you'll never want to learn,

but it'll be about you as much as it'd be about myself

and how I wish to be reborn in every universe that exists,

as someone you'd love and count stars with.

Everything was

When the crickets were louder 

than the nights were long, 

When sunrise was ours 

and we lived where we belonged.

When we woke to the sound of freedom,

flapping wings and a chirping heaven. 

It was life, we were alive.

Now the birds have left 

and there's no one at home. 

Only dust and a helpless wind 

scattering what remains of a kingdom. 

What do we do now, where do we go

We sit and watch the sky 

explode in our eyes,

We sit and watch the walls 

crumble in a long sigh.

We sit and watch the sky 

build us a second home

We sit and watch its walls

promising a love we've lost.

We sit and watch it all unfold,

stories written in stars

we never wished to call our own. 

Driving back home

A storm is spreading its wings in the far horizon. The sky is a marriage of blue and grey. Underneath, two lovers exchanged rings, and everyone clapped and cheered for the union. Some blessed the couple, some cursed, and some sighed remembering their own. In this land of ours, we keep vows more than act on our bad feelings. Here, we kiss during power cuts, then climb-downs and ups in daylight, so when a neighbor breaks down, we put on our straight faces and say, it happens to us all the same.

I'm driving back home and the storm has partially abated on its own. It still flutters at the corner of my eye as I pre-savour my cup of evening coffee in our old rocking chair that no longer recognizes its harmonic motion. Everyday life comes full circle here, no matter the weather, no matter the rest of the world. It's hard to imagine any other way. The rain has stopped and I can almost hear the release of breaths held by those looking forward to a good day. It's not just the marriage and the gravel-turned-muddied road they still have to travel, but the leftover harvest and potential nullification of months of sweat and blood. To see it all dissipate in a one-sided war is harder than months toiled away in hopes of a better tomorrow. Life is crude here. Our homes are transparent. We hang curtains, not to avert strangers, but the cold because our hearts are used to a warmth found seldom in eyes unfamiliar with flooded homes.

Life is crude here. We're children born to untameable storms.

Speak up

When all good in the world

is slid under a stone,

and there's no man strong enough

to pull it out.

When no system of hierarchy

is enough to make an impact,

and you choose symbols over people

for a change.

When the world lets out

their collective sighs

at the end of a long, lived day.

When all the revolt in your heart

is rotting into a soft bitterness

and you live with it every day.

When your anger burns

like a log in your fireplace

and you put it out

before every sleepless night.

When the world burns for worse

and mother bakes you cupcakes

at home.

When comfort and peace ride

cars on parallel roads,

and guilt is a pet snake warming

you up for a blind death back home.

Dinner time

We climb bridges and stairs

to gather around the table,

dinner awaits us

in plates and promises.

We breathe the same air

for once,

for a quarter of an hour

for the agony of a bloodline that somewhere took a wrong turn.

We reach empty-handed,

our hearts caught up in traffic signals,

minds racing two goodbyes an hour;

dinner is a mess,

but etiquette is like a mother

so we always greet before we eat,

we smile and chew,

ten words in a bite,

forty years on the same plate,

the bougainvillaeas on it fading like every childhood this table has seen.

Our legs meet underneath,

knees graze the memory of a familiar touch,

but we look away;

it's a little too uncomfortable.

A car races past the window,

its yellow light tracing a broken line on the wall,

and we know it's time again

to gather and pack ourselves up,

to return yet another time.

We step out;

the table creaks slightly,

emptier and heavier,

it groans like an old man,

wiser but never any happier.

How did dinner taste today?

I wonder if anyone cares.


Tamanna Bangthai

Tamanna Bangthai is a poet who hails from a small town in Assam. This is her first feature at PoemsIndia.

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