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NaPoWriMo'23 Day Ten: Our silence lives in the bodies of others

Oregon Sunset by Leva Baklane

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

pouring rain

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

grocery store

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

our children

our identities

our homes.

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

faceless, nameless

before flying missiles

ricochet, setting ablaze


is left of us.

at last

from winter’s cinder

I remember

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

opening windows

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

their porridge?

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

nauseous, baba?

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,

remember Baba?

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,

singing Faiz

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.


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