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,
yet dressed in youth.
Sun still lingering on his skin,
cells buried in the leg of soil-
far away from
the clutches of autumn.
The one where he
seeks lengthening stems-
waits for the bloom to
unravel its body.
not his hands
against their chest.
Not his hands- a passage,
to greet death, mourning-
let alone decipher it.
Where he doesn't
hate or crushes flowers;
dewdrops easily fall on
from the steam veil
of Kahwa in his palms;
The 90's still-
where he stutters,
openly grieves for
the loss of his dead wife.
Cries for his mother's ADHD
or at the elegy
of his father's funeral.
where his fingers
don't crumble, and
the thumb doesn’t roll
into a fist.
where his manhood isn’t
dreary, dismal, or rigid-
for spelling vulnerable.
finally comes alive.
doesn’t weigh heavy
The one where his laughter
isn't skin deep,
creeps well in his dense bones,
Flows through entire
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 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.