Photographs Objectify, Poems from NaPoWriMo 2022 Day Nine


Girl Dancing In Front Of Her Teddy Bear. Paris, 1961

Your camera is the only true currency that goes to sleep uncorrupted by Srishti Saharia

buying your first camera is

like joining a religion— there

is a hologram of vacancy in

the milk broth of your native

emptiness that needs to be

replaced to guarantee that

your body does not smother

anxiety and then rot like grapes

on the greasy godless vines

so you erect an airbrushed

shrine of faith and steal

mangoes from their mugshots.


the sun, camera-shy but

looks like she was molded by

god's phone with the overexposure

filter at its greatest is the alarm

clock of your camera—

in her spirit on a given day and

the position and motion of her

hands, she holds the panorama

of the verdict to the trial going

on inside the court of your head

to ascertain the most quintessential

of angles to seize the moment

in front of your lens and morph

it into a souvenir with time.

but when the batteries run out

for the day and night falls like

hair down the face of the earth,

the shape of the moon determines

the number of heartbeats left

in your camera.

the eyes of the world squint under

the light of the flash of your camera

like two anaesthetized patients

on a table they share.


your camera is the only true currency

that goes to sleep uncorrupted

but exhausted in this stranger's

teething mouth for a city tonight.

nausea is clogged in your nose,

she runs out of your nose like

a big soap bubble filled with puss

instead of the air you breathe,

but at least the memory of

the moments that the metal

handcuffs-like lenses of your

camera arrested like fishes by

a seine net in the sea of this city

keeps you buoying, at least for the night.


on days loneliness slices new

wedges of birthmarks on your arms,

crawls up and down your knees

that are meant to bend for praying,

and feasts on your body like leftovers,

you swallow rainbow pills of

pictures from the cabinet

of your camera roll to cure

the absence of your mother's

gaze that can grab your wrists

or a lover's mouthful of kisses

that filled your ambitious appetite.


because photographs, you see,

they possess this haunting

capability in the liquid whispers

of their grainy tints to metamorphose

into a continuity of an intimate

moment you yearn and mourn

to exist besides you, like counting

the stars in your mother's eyes

on the day you bought her

a present with your first salary;

photographs relocate the faces

of your beloved from within them

to inside your heart again and

you feel like you have found god

in the polarity of the polaroid

with your middle school best friend.

they photobomb the selfies of

the loneliness infesting you,

and photoshop it out with

the memories of that one day

you spent laughing under

summer's moonless skies

with your sister until

your appendix almost burst.


and you realize, buying the currency

of a camera is also a lot like investing

in the stock market of preserving

your moments for when they age

while holding your hands into memories

trapped inside the archives of photographs.


A still-life photograph of young winter as my father by N Sehar

A 90's still.

His hair, deprived of grey,

face creased,

yet dressed in youth.

Sun still lingering on his skin,

cells buried in the leg of soil-

Warm,

far away from

the clutches of autumn.

The one where he

seeks lengthening stems-

waits for the bloom to

unravel its body.

Patient-

not his hands

against their chest.

Tenderness. Fragility.

Not his hands- a passage,

funnel

to greet death, mourning-

let alone decipher it.

Where he doesn't

hate or crushes flowers;

dewdrops easily fall on

his lashes;

Reclaimed, settled.

And warmth

from the steam veil

of Kahwa in his palms;

lip corners.

Abundant.


The 90's still-

where he stutters,

screams-

openly grieves for

the loss of his dead wife.

Cries for his mother's ADHD

or at the elegy

of his father's funeral.

The still-

where his fingers

don't crumble, and

the thumb doesn’t roll

into a fist.

The still-

where his manhood isn’t

dreary, dismal, or rigid-

isn't shamed

for spelling vulnerable.

The still

where he

finally comes alive.


Breaths, existence

still light-

easy,

doesn’t weigh heavy

or choke.

The one where his laughter

isn't skin deep,

creeps well in his dense bones,

nerves, crevices.

Flows through entire

anatomy.


The one where he finally smiles;

appears polished and precise.

Looks well finessed, fine-

all things loved right.


The one where resting buds

begin to sprout

in his nail edges, chest.

Where he hasn't aged,

hasn’t turned cold yet.


Some memories are tangible by Parvathy Madhu

When Ammumma used to pose for the photo with her face turned away, Amma used to laugh.

I heard Amma gently scolding her to sit properly

and Ammumma muttered under her breath,

how ridiculous the ordeal was.

Ammumma's muttering was familiar.

It had a tune like the bhajans she sang in the evenings

tinged with the smell of agarbattis and the light of the evening lamp,

her whispered prayers for her son, daughter and her grandchild.

She often forced me to sit near her

while she chanted in a language that was unfamiliar

yet hung onto my skin like a faint breeze that

reminded me what it felt to be caressed in the warmth of her embrace.

She hated photographs that captured her smile or rather her half-smile.

She grimaced into the camera put out by the thought of a piece of metal engaged in the act of capturing her face, that a smile never graced her lips but reached her eyes the same.

Ammumma never reminisced by taking out a photo album,

all her memories wrapped tight at the end of her saree,

like a knot that constantly reminds her of things she might have been afraid to forget.

Maybe that's why her stories left the aftertaste of fear and grief on our tongue

like she was afraid of forgetting everything she held dear and somehow we should be too.

Years later now, when I touch Ammumma's photo, I remember the soft cotton of her saree and the smell of curry leaves and curd, something that reminds me of home,

of childhood,

of something that sometimes feels foreign and lost.

Maybe that's why some memories are tangible like they have been captured in a photo, a possession that keeps alive what is slowly fading.


Possession: A Poem in Four-by-Six Inches by Prashanti Chunduri

I have a friend whose fingers are almost 

permanently crooked from holding her camera too long.

My memories take the shape of her clawed hands,

and my nostalgia breathes in her dark room

as she conquers the world, one paper rectangle at a time.


Her camera apprehends plastic tangling with our legs at the beach,

preserves the old bark of a rotting tree corpse,

bottles the death fumes rising over burning asphalt

and fans the steaming pile of garbage on our street corner.

This is how she saves the world.


She snaps close-ups of my stringy, coconut husk hair

and later, the turquoise-dyed locks for before-and-after pictures,

the shot of the weighing machine spelling 'I-t-s-o-k-a-y',

and the kaleidoscope that is my oil-smeared wok.

This is how she loves her people.


The constellations of her wrinkles and scars,

the valleys of her stretch marks and thighs,

the furrows of her crow's feet and laugh lines,

all become the subjects of her polaroids.

This is how she loves herself.


Daisies are pushing their way out of the petrichor soil

where we go to talk to the periwinkle sky and moon-grey stone.

She memorializes the white, the brown, the blue, the ash,

in pixels and paper as we converse with six feet of love.

This is how she grieves.


I watch as she tries to catch the blur of fancy shop windows

glittering with the lights we can only see from outside.

She writes a eulogy to our dreams in light and shadow,

over-rich silk, steak and sapphires we can never have.

This is how she (thinks she) can own the world.


As we lay out the memories over the threadbare blankets,

spread them out like spring pollen - pretty but an allergen -

we fancy ourselves armed with four-by-six inched 

time machines, bravely defying Ol' Father Time.

This is how we remember.


So when I ask her how much it would cost to buy her world,

she smiles in melancholic pride, says she only deals

in the currency that is shiny Kodak photo paper.

Her eyes speak in blinding camera flashes and I finally understand:

this is how we become possessed.

105 views0 comments