The prompt is inspired by Ilya Kaminsky's Poem 'We lived happily during the War'
The women in my family are without a home by Pritha Jain
the women in my family are disgraced artists weeping
into the after-hours but never once repenting their crimes enough.
a haloed moon drools and watches in waning silence
as their vermillion digs a sharpened claw into the fault lines of their foreheads.
curses rot at the peripheries of dadi's face as she spits them back at her husband
during their daily exchange of pleasantries.
she was told first love blurred the boundaries between being careless and carefree, not a word about fractured identities,
and now, the sky swallows her whole like embers of the mood board she spent her life coalescing.
the sweat stains on the back of mumma's shirt are euphemisms for jokes
nanu cracks like his knuckles at the dinner table.
palettes of pale yellow and green for varying subjects for the same rorschach test,
witnessing firsthand, a self portrait of cause and effect.
the women in my family are without a country.
outcasts, willing their tongues to run wild with words
because what use is a sword if it's not covered in blood?
the women in my family are without land.
their prayers attempting to cascade through crowds
that shame them for the space they inhabit, in stilettos.
the women in my family are without a home.
starved craftsmen discovering color schemes in the ignorance and guilt their silence instils.
It's still your heart by Meghana Naag
When someone you love dies,
you wear their clothes. You can't
give them away, not after you've
lost them. You'll look for their heart
on the sleeves, and more often than
not you'll find that they are too long
or too short, so you fail to find it.
You'll take your heart out to replace
the missing one. But the shirt is still too tight or too loose. It doesn't fit perfectly. You will try to settle and feel them through how it clings to your body. When that's not enough, you speculate how much you would have to gain or lose so that your body can become their body.
You will eat less or eat more, run
less or run more, until your flesh becomes their flesh. You will wake up every morning in their hoodie, and you will want to cry, but you don't. You will just hug the t-shirt they died in and never let the tears fall. When you wake up from nightmares, you will not tell your friend how much it hurts. You will wrap their scarf around your neck and take a walk. You will wear
it even on the hottest days,
hoping their smell becomes yours. Everyone will ask you what's wrong, and you will not say anything. You think your silence lives in their body now? Darling, don't you see?
It's still your heart.
if we are lucky we might outlast the time of loss by Zainab Saleem
In another universe
I remember, in another body
I am twenty-eight years old
5ft 4in tall, 112 lbs.
I am writing to say
if we are lucky
we might outlast
the time of loss
without losing oneself
I remember crying in rage
I remember sleeping like that
like a slow-motion color bomb.
lord have mercy.
I remember how it was
the sky the color of bruises.
I remember the sidewalk
a trail of blood ahead of us
and behind us
how we kept going.
I remember walking to the
armfuls of white bread
as the sirens
wailed in the streets
I remember a sea of red
concocted by man
greedily taking away with it
I remember, I imagined
warplanes to be fireworks
I told myself this
over and over until
I believed it.
time hiccups, stumbles
with nothing to hold except
the possibility of a different
like stones being laid
one by one upon a long wall
before flying missiles
ricochet, setting ablaze
is left of us.
from winter’s cinder
I am writing
In this universe
in my body, warm
with blood on my hands
silence and deafness
our collective armour.
I remember writing
*we lived happily
during the war.
*(We lived happily during the war is a poem by Ilya Kaminsky)
Who cares if grandfathers exist before they are dead by Khatija Khan
it is their silence that is heard
more than their words
because what else do you expect
from toothless mouths?
but occasionally, they speak too loud.
like one day some mosquitoes buzzed
in our home and that was when
my grandfather said
"you have the blood of a thousand
mosquitoes in your veins
and if they can have wings and a voice,
why can't you?
if they refuse to die before
making it hard for you to live,
why can't you live like
you were only given one life?"
you see, when you have wings
you are seen and
when you have a voice,
you are heard.
in silence, you are punished.
until your silence becomes a parasite
and starts living in bodies of others.
mine lives in my grandfather.
but who takes grandfathers seriously?
they search for glasses
with their glasses on.
they are too old to live in new poems
and too vulnerable to be versed or voiced.
they look for love in cupboard drawers
where they keep the picture of their wives
and hang their clothes on empty
chairs that sing the song of
their despair and afterlife.
grandfathers learn the meaning
of tenderness when they
become children again.
they sit next to you with lips stitched
together, stick lying beneath,
on days you cry silently on the stairs.
without a word,
you hear sympathy pay its debt
and without a hug,
you find love surrounding you like
it is all that you have.
the house becomes a home
in their presence
but who cares if grandfathers exist
before they are dead?
who takes grandfathers seriously?
they forget the names of
the people they named
and always use new names
from their lost memory.
they build the habit of
looking at wristwatches
and table clocks only when
they run out of time.
ceiling fans are their worst enemies.
they are said to make
weak bones creak and ache.
we don't know mornings without
the sound of their stick tapping
the floor and shivering hands
because we never wake up
earlier than our grandfathers.
we sleep soundly leaving
it all in their numb palms
to safekeep the giant doors.
long newspaper editorials wait
to be patiently read by
grandfathers who have no specific job.
they keep fixing their glasses
by tapping every now and then
on their nose.
torches lose light only to
be charged again
and used for every minor inconvenience.
silence lingers like silent prayers
with grandfathers around
but who worries if they have eaten
because we eat boiled bulgur wheat
on a normal day
until there's a funeral.
who cares if grandfathers exist
before they are dead?
after grandfathers are dead,
the house becomes a ghost in itself.
the ceiling fans slap the wind.
the clocks tick way too loud.
the air is filled with absence
and emptiness has its belly full of sound.
the chair remains unnoticed,
the windows; closed
and doors wait for shivering fingers
when mornings show up.
but no one comes.
we learn the meaning of farewell
when grandfathers leave
without taking one.
now i pronounce silence and end it.
my pen is powerful before it starts writing.
in the sacred mundanities of life,
as i remember my grandfather,
i find meaning.
Leaving behind the silences my father gifted me by Aadrit Banerjee
I am afraid
I am becoming like you Baba.
Remember the time Godhra burned,
and all you did was just flip through the
newspaper pages like Krishen's disgruntled
figures in 'News of Gandhiji's Death'?*
I too sit quietly, sipping coffee, in my
furnished bourgeoisie flat watching the
state run a bulldozer over its citizens'
tongues in the evening prime-time news.
That time I fell in love
with that stringy-bearded boy,
I wanted to regurgitate ...
Can love ever make you feel
I had immediately
rushed to the red light area,
making out with the cheapest
woman under the yellow street
lamp, making sure I wasn't
turning into the abominable half-man,
half-woman, you abhor, Baba? A hijra!
You always referred to auteur
Rituparno Ghosh, using that slur,
I have never watched a film Ghosh made.
Are you happy now, Baba?
I am afraid I am becoming like you Baba.
My girlfriend often complains
– I hate that dead, disinterested colour in your eyes – running her fingers through my dishevelled hair. How do I tell her, I inherited it from you Baba? That you would always look at Maa like that when at times she would mix sugar into your tea instead of the saccharine tablets. Your dark brown eyes pouring over her all your saved frustration accumulated over the years, holding her accountable for all her sins, all your failures.
Sometimes, I stare at my girlfriend like that Baba, sitting at the kitchen table, my black irises watching her intently, only trying to find in the reflection of her eyes whether my gaze resembles yours. What? – she asks me nervously. Nothing I reply piercing my fork forcefully into the meat. I am afraid I am becoming like you Baba.
I am afraid I am becoming like you Baba. Silent. Weak. So terribly weak. I stand in front of the large mirror in the bedroom. I cannot recognise myself. Who's that creature staring back? Is it you Baba? Your ghost? Or is it me, baba?
You have bequeathed to me, a
paralysed nation, a lost love —
a deficient vocabulary
and a body that is not mine.
Beneath my apartment, the procession
passes by of dead, soulless bodies
walking, walking, singing,
— bol ye thoḌā vaqt bahut hai
jism o zabāñ kī maut se pahle
bol ki sach zinda hai ab tak
— sing of freedom, till there's time
till before death haunts your body and mind
say, truth is alive, say.
I think I will join them father.
I will leave your side and walk away,
falter, and bruise my knees.
*"News of Gandhiji's Death", is a 1948, painting by Krishen Khanna.