Prayers are beautiful until they have no god to go to by Khatija Khan
in families like mine,
the first thing they teach you is to pray
to raise your palms and ask what you want
to wear your heart on your sleeve
and call upon god
to make a contract with the sky
and dive into the ground for sujood
and knit your forehead into the prayer mat,
the way a fisherman's wife knits
his death into his sweater
i remember how my grandmother
taught me how to pray
she said prayers are beautiful
until they have no god to go to
the same palms that play pianos cannot greet a god who prohibits music
so do not let your heart turn into a piano
because destiny calls both an organ
she taught me how to read the quran aloud
every beginning with an "alif"
led to an end at a "ya"
the ancient greeks believed
that when you read aloud,
it was actually the dead, borrowing your
tongue, in order to speak again
but whenever i open the quran,
it paralyses my mouth
my throat swallows the arabic verses
before letting them out
my grandmother refuses to return
in a foreign tongue
and i start praying over and over again
my present cherrypicks the past
on its palanquin
and sings it a bleak lullaby
my prayers sway between my first
childhood and my grandmother's second
as if they time travel in a city so strange
that they forget what they mean
all they do is keep replicating
as if i started something i couldn't finish
and as the days pass by,
i have got to believe
i will have to babysit them forever
because to me, arabic is alien
and music has become my religion.
Last April by Anjana Venugopal
Last April was filled with potential.
Little did I know that potential also meant that
there is the probability of leaving things to rot.
A lover, a plan, a job, a plant, a poem.
A poem sits in the dark, forgotten
The black ink blooms and burrows into the ground.
Untouched, the paper withers, bleeds sorrow.
All the letters climb back into the hollows and hide in squirrel nests.
I leave a trail of abandoned things in my wake.
I'd love to carry on, but the person who left mid-conversation is a stranger now.
How will I finish sentences when I've no clue who the fuck I'm supposed to be?
So I'll refer to every broken thing in desolation,
Past tense and hingeless pinch of homesickness.
Then go back to the myriad of new ideas plummeting in my brain.
And what's another half-dead thing in my conscience?
What if I wake up drenched in grief?
I do not know you enough to mourn you.
I do not know myself enough to regret.
S(MOTHERING) by Srishti Saharia
(Trigger Warnings apply)
birthing isn't the same as breeding
but for my mother, her daughter
is also her slaughter.
at lunch, she fries her fruitless faith
drenched in greedy grease and
starving starch on the stove,
picks her own bones clean
of blood and broth for dinner,
and blames it all on her inherited
i am fed from hands that grab
broomsticks from behind
the doors and the darkest
corners of our house to shrivel
the skin on my shins either when
my report card carries Cs or
when the sun rises too low
or my moon, too high
and now my hunger has grown
teeth that cut my tongue into
speaking my ancestors' dialect
my mother is the prey and the prayer
that doesn't fit inside my mouth—
her apoplectic apologies are
sour candies stuck between
my milk teeth that i cannot bring
myself to swallow and forgive.
the first noose i ever wore
around my neck was my mother's
umbilical chord but not the last;
later on, her hands around my throat
baptized it black and blue and
the egg-shaped moles within
the nests of my collarbones
now resemble refugees with
she borrows the salt of my tears
for the sweat in her armpits after
she spends a quarter of an hour
stealing the light from my eyes
and all i can do is count jupiter's
days and my own on my fingers.
half moons and humid hues are
bitten into my thighs and my
my wrists evolve in saturn's rings.
i carry a back illuminated with
meteor showers and
a mellow and milky yellow meadow
where wooden melons grow
from quirky rootless vines —
as if she is god and my body
is the universe she gets to
conceive again but this time
out of cosmic violence where
my holy grail of sonnets is
my declaration of war for her
since i was five, i have recognized
red not from spring's poppies or
pomegranate seeds of july
but from my blood on her hands—
sometimes i think the lines on
her palms are traced more with
my fate than her own.
apathy is the shroud i wear to
sleepless beds instead of shame
to wake up with a ceaselessness of
moments and its light because
i can barely distinguish the sense
of a nightmare brewing inside
my oozing cavern of a head from
one upon my braille-lettered skin—
in the crevice of my dusty elbows
and knees that never learnt how to
bend to pray but only to bow to
magnify the waves of aggression.
art in age of cynicism is
the dislocated shoulder of
my coping mechanism and
the only tumor of tremor that
steadies the shifting tectonic
plates of my rumbling, fragile
ribcage made of stardust in
the aftermath of earthquakes
my mother's shrine is my mantelpiece
so i auction my ancestry for
audible purgatory because
not everything with a beginning
is worth the praise and privilege
of an ending but this story has
been written many
moonless mothers ago —
and i cannot finish this poem so
i will buy my mother her casket
where she bought me my cradle.
Half-Cooked Grief by Prashanti Chunduri
Nostalgia, white, flutters in the wind, daintily.
Sea salt sprays the inside of my nostrils, stings,
ivory bonnet of my car blinds the eye,
marshmallows have the density of grief
in the hostile clear blue fishbowl above me.
I pause on the zebra’d road on the way in,
underneath a guardian demon’s marble wing, cracked.
Melancholy, black, beckons across the room, boldly.
A heavily-framed photo, larger than (the) life
the man in it lived, black wood carved with geometrical designs,
fancy and meaningless, a little less shiny
for bearing many fingerprints - indistinguishable,
for loss has no colour. But the thread Mother hands me
to sew the white chrysanthemums with, is a spool of tar.
Pain, red, waltzes with me, clumsily.
It steps on my toes, heavy-footed, distracting,
as I fumble with the Mobius Strip of death,
inadvertently crushing a few flowers.
Red bursts in my eye, as pollen-tears drip,
a spot of blood blooms under the needle threading the flowers.
Allergy-ridden and with two wooden left feet, I realise:
Farewells demand grey, and I,
I shouldn’t have started something I couldn’t finish.
Mothers and fathers are always leaving unfinished business by Pradipta Satpathy
on Sundays, my father leaves the television turned on with high volume to overpower the screeching sound of silence. who would tell him that there's no way he could shush away the quiet out of a vacuum, the stillness out of this house? he doesn't understand that the inception of a new noise doesn't reduce the frequency of the one that already exists, let alone finish it. that his roaring rage can't silence the voices in traumayard of a brain, the one he created in the first place. the television is still turned on.
all of my mother's sentences start with sorry. she speaks in the language of halved sentences and quartered truths. i can't comprehend if she carries a weighing machine for a larynx or is the belly of her mouth overflowing with stillborn sentences. the word grief makes a womb for "fire" and mother has taught me to never let it out for she has mastered the ways of an ocean. there's nothing she cannot contain be it a city or grief or fire or the city of grief on fire. the mother is still puking sorry sorry sorry sorry will it ever end maa? i'm sorry.
i am trying to write an autobiography which sounds more like an obituary written to self, only here the dead dies every day like a household chore. i wake up to mornings that feel like fire alarms but i cannot find the snooze button or the fire extinguisher either. i was born as the embodiment of a bloodied battleground where the war never stops and no one is winning. a failing marriage knocks on the locked door of my room every night and my ears have now grown hands of their own to press against themselves. i am as shallow as those wedding vows. my father's misery and mother's fragility live in the haunted house of my head and the ghosts are never meant to leave, are they? of all the things insidious and rotten, they've started a marriage and made a daughter. neither can be saved, only ended.
father says it took eight and a half months to build this house which is also the time my body lived inside my mother's lodged against her organs. bricks and mortars, blood and placenta. i believe there's more building left to do. the ceilings are leaking with damaged memories. there are holes on the walls from all the pain. cupboards in the kitchen are overflowing with my mother's guilt. the rooms poorly structured like my father's identity; on some days he turns into a proud man filled with stubborn rage and on the others, he's a troubled boy with fears buried in a fist. this house is a minefield and we keep walking on egshells. my parents started this family but i don't know how to stay in it or to save it.