My father’s mending nursery
my father studied agriculture to never raise tomatoes in grow bags. pumpkins flowered my childhood home, springing autumn in the family well. while he caressed a hibiscus dying down the road i fell and fell and fell until i couldn’t get up anymore. one night, i bladed my arms along the bones, but a week and a half from that third of may, a hibiscus bloom would float among purple water lilies and sapphire-tailed guppies.
my father worked in pathology to never see what was wrong with me; to never see, for instance, that my voice was strangled by my own broken fingers; to never see that my knees were bruised from pushing myself to the ground, not merely falling.
my father tells me it’s a beautiful life and i trust him because what else do you do?
my father still holds my wrist when a road’s busy and we’re crossing it, and i flinch because i’ve buried my guilt in strewn threads of ruby and sage. i flinch, praying he’ll never know.
my father tells me it gets better with time and hope bubbles in my stomach because unlike everyone else that tells me the same, he doesn’t raise tomatoes in grow bags. instead, he lets them sprout on the ground, waters them, and waits for them to ripen as sick-sour cherries.
Walking out of teenage
laying on the ground with blades of grass pricking your back,
feet bare and caterpillars in your hair.
regretting the groceries you bought and forgot to use.
an orange in your hand, gin in your veins,
a plaid shirt crinkled and a chunk of hair chopped in an impulse.
losing currency in the house and panicking until you find it
(in the pocket of your shorts – the one you wore yesterday).
with a book you’ve been reading for a week –
hundred pages in, two hundred out.
struggling still to tear open a pomegranate without
staining your fingers – a mild suffocation purple.
with fallen hair in every corner of your rented apartment,
an empty wallet, and a bank account with scrap money.
a month’s salary that exhausts itself in the first week, and
the following three of omelettes, bread and jam, and cold water.
emptying bottles of perfume and brandy, and piling stubs of cigarettes.
music with ad breaks and someone else’s netflix,
turmeric stains, fused tube lights, and the void/whirlpool of childhood.
laying on the bed at three in the morning, another two-hundred rupee note
forgotten somewhere between bedsheets and underwear,
an ad for a food delivery app playing in the background as you try.
with your feet deep in mud, or in water, or on eggshells, or on fire.
with a child heart, now in embers;
broken ribs, pottered hips, and silence etched onto your lips.
(after Richard Siken)
tell me about the dream where the first woman –
the one who puts coconut oil in her black hair
and scrubs her skin with rock salt under steaming water –
is named hope.
tell me how prettier she was to your yellow nails;
how the sulky afternoon shifted to paradise
under the dainty wisp of her supple smile.
how the language you were baptised in
has seven and several dialects, and in each one,
you’re still only a nomad walking in thick circles
within the opaque walls of your childhood home.
tell me about cut pears and your fingers at their core,
and how, after all this time,
what you see when you look into the abyss
is your framed face seeping into its darkness.
tell me the dirty secrets of your city.
how depressed people sleep on haunted swings
in abandoned parks, and how they walk and walk
until their feet become their mouths
and there’s nothing to talk about; nowhere to go.
tell me about your body, now so close to mine
i don’t know where whose ends and whose begins.
so fractured, so swollen, so neatly framed against
the fluorescent glow of night – these bodies we die in
before we hear the hymns in its bridges;
these bodies we die in before we grow capable
About the Poet
Ann Lilly Jose is a fiction writer and poet from Kerala. Her work revolves around the essence of young life, the politics of existentialism, queerness, and mental health. Her poems have previously appeared in Morning Fruit Magazine, 12pointfont.com, and are forthcoming in Ghost City Review.