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NaPoWriMo'23 Day Three: Every Dead Thing is in need of more mourning

Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher by Pablo Picasso

(Assume all trigger warnings)

Until the mo(u)ring flickers in an oil lamp again by Shailja Bahety

The red silk light escapes the oil lamp and settles in the sky while the night shatters inside its glass and the dawn flies away with colours for yet another mo(u)ring.

The world is what it doesn't seem to be.

It is a pool ball on God's billiard table, who wears a linen maxi dress and is never drunk on prayers because she prefers her mid-morning slumber while the words die punctually till dusk.

Quietly, the universe bathes in melancholy.

A dead thing is not always excused from breaths

it sometimes becomes a numb, solitary and looking-away affair.

Like the pale eyes of a child, who realises at an early age,

that doorknobs tell reality more than doorways can.

That at the dining table, the world seems happy, while in the bedroom, it becomes a bruise.

It seems like grief tiptoed outside the graveyard only to settle in his eyes.

A dead thing is like

the borrowed hope of an old parent, who stands by the window alone,

with the sun falling on his sunken cheeks and coconut-like heart.

In the daylight, his world calmly reduces to one of the beads of his rosary

while at midnight, it cradles with impatience and rains coconut water.

His loneliness doesn't reflect on his face, it just grows into his wrinkles-

an obvious, usual and prosaic thing

of an old age

to others.

A dead thing resembles

the saintly love of a widow,

that seared itself by leaping into the burning woods and ending its holy existence,

and what remains at the end-

the smoke, the ashes and an identical twin of sorrow.

One hand of her world cups the face of misery

and the other smothers its hollow mouth that yearns deeply for its lover's breath.

Every dead thing needs more mourning so that people realise it was once alive

because the world tends to forget quickly.

People walk by,

leaves dry away,

the brittle sun gets smudged in the near sky

and the air that blow becomes nothing

but a wave of memory.

And the world keeps its memories like sandcastles on the shore,

for the ocean to gently eat them away.

The Vigil’s Progress by Ashwin Kumar

We begin with the immediate memories

Grandpa’s last phone call to each one of us

only to hand over the receiver to grandma

both hard of hearing and full of love

Armed with pliers and a length of copper

he repaired our mixers, transistors and bicycles

changed the chandeliers and polished the doorknobs

while grandma kept her third fast of the week

Slowly but visibly, the body is growing cold

the sockets of the eyes are sinking in

the peace that’s settled on his face

is unlike any we knew when he was around

His honour had real tokens - an unending supply

of soap at home, the freedom to watch

gooey serials with the TV at full blast and a roof

he paid the rent for till he breathed his last

The gathering has now dwindled to a circle of cousins

The night has grown deep, with a tiny pill

my cousin sedates grandma to save her

from going mad in the diaphanousness of grief

We recount his days match-making and house-hunting at large

the day he saw a fellow line-man electrocuted

when someone closed a circuit before the men came down

He always ended the tale by saying that could have been him

The lamp needs ladles of oil and someone

among us shall keep it alive in the coming weeks

For grandpa, who claimed the laurel of electrifying entire villages,

the modest wick seemed too thin a conceit

He was an infant when the plague took his father away

and made his mother a widow of shaven head

He grew up at the mercy of relatives who grabbed their land,

and it always seemed this tale was of another man, faraway

By dawn, grief has given way to fatigue

whose origins lay in a place beyond words

The Brahmins prepare to send him off

with a thousand names of God

One of them says his actions are beyond reason

and another of his unbounded wrath

My grandma sees her husband in some of them

The rest of us, novices at death, are perplexed by everything

They take him away and consign him to fire

and we have a meal which grandpa relished

The daughters, grandchildren and grandma, then

play a rambunctious game of dice with passion, glee and bile

Through the watches of the night and by the day

we send grandpa heavenward, borne by our mirth

The living vindicate the dead thus

and the inscrutable dead live on in us.

My bamboo plant is wilting and this is its elegy by Vidya Rajagopalan

I see you

your jaw clasped in a lock

your shoulders uptight, clenched in a bonded voyage

your eyes, a moist mess reflecting the fates and sins

of your forefathers and foremothers

your head stiff, from all the guilt

but did you see me?

tilt your face and face me

loosen your mouth, breathe in

breathe out through the keyhole of your nostrils

unclench your shoulders and move

wipe your tears and pour your sadness

into me

my leaves are stoop lower, bending towards you

turning yellow

for you to be mellow

my roots sprouting haywire

I’m dying, yet growing

is this what you feel like?

dying from your past

by dyeing a new colour every year

breathing in the present

to sigh your ways into the future?

every second, every day for every year?

I can see the sun streaming

into the glass blockades

creating brocades over your money plants

and hovering over me

and I wonder

why won’t your obsidian eyes won’t sneak a peek at me

are you mourning over the eternal pause of your father?

are you mourning over my withering timeline?

or are you mourning for the inexorable grief that haloes over you

and your coughs?

every dead thing is in need of more mourning

and every living thing is in need of more loving

more laughing

and more living

please look at me one more time,

because once I turn fully yellow

I want to see that upturned smile

which make your eyes crinkle

with a grey mist

sliding towards me

a kiss for me

a relief for you

a love between us

look at me before I turn into ashy root

look at me before I dissipate into mud and roots

look at me and seal our fate with your breaths and tears.

An Ode to The Insignificant by Prashanti Chunduri

An obituary for a list, written with sleep crust in my eye

and pillow creases on my cheek,

as I ride a hearse carrying the Mundane:

A fingernail chewed off during a Zoom call,

the brave succulent on my desk,

my shower head that doubled as a concert mic.

Wires behind my PC, a maze enough to hold a minotaur,

dog-eared pages fighting for an extra fingerprint,

a pencil stub, which once charcoal to daydreams.

Last month’s apples after their round trip to the office,

a diet plan that rests on laurels of affirmations,

one corner of the treadmill’s frayed belt.

Every dead thing is in need

of more mourning than the tiny tomb

I build for it in my mind,

shiny bone-white this second,

rubble destroyed by Time the next.

Every giggling memory carries filth in its Teeth by Khatija Khan

our cotton field is a graveyard of lives that once used to coexist.

on the entrance, the chamomile breaths whisper the herbal recipe of maa's tea to beckon sleep.

as we step in, a vintage scenery opens its eyes to two hummingbirds weaving a blue sky and ends up immersing itself into the full bloom daylight.

on the walls of the well that drowns in the belly of the earth, their nests hang.

the birds are no more. but who cares?

where have they gone? how long will their abandoned homes stay?

the sun siezes all of our strength. just like it did to the old woman who lived all alone near the banyan tree. she is no more. how come we adjoin a bit of sympathy for whom we never heard about, only after their death speaks of them?

the dead are sound asleep in the nightmare of a daydream.

every dead thing is in need of more mourning. the ants that were running for honey seeping through the broken honeycomb. the honeybees that once sang in it. the tree branch that held the honeycomb carefully.

and maa, who first introduced us to honey.

in those childhood days, she often said,"to wake up early, and brush your teeth and eat your toast with honey and thank God for this beautiful beautiful life without mourning for what you do not have, is the golden rule of prudence".

she is gone. i want to break the golden rule.

My mouth smells of Iblees' Sin by Nameera Anjum Khan

You tried to live but were handed out a eulogy instead.

I do not dissolve into the atmosphere you create,

I am not biodegradable, I am toxic waste masturbating to the ceiling fan;

The way it creaks along the edges,

The form it takes underneath the shadows-

The way it teases my illusion into believing that there's motion in its existence.

Dead things don't die so soon,

They obliterate word by word, syllable after syllable;

'Kun' says He-

And the mourning dawns.

My mouth smells of Iblees' sin,

It reeks of the Khutba on a Friday afternoon;

I'm both, I'm none.

My breathing is vexed with the uncertainty of tomorrow,

I try to gulp down entire skies,

I have given my entire self in Zakat';

The only thing that remains is the sujood in my namaz.

I am reduced to my insecurities,

People are Gods walking down the paths stitched with my flesh;

I'm the insect climbing out of a grave-

When I'm happy, I feel abnormal & strange.

The more I try to finish this off,

The more these pages fly across my face-

Cutting it in shapes and desires I have never said aloud;

I die too much, I breathe too little.

I'm a pocketful of eulogies,

Sprawled underneath the banyan tree. I sink inside the earth, I let the sands consume me. I am home. The next time you mourn me, remember my laughter lines. Remember that they, too, carried grief shrouded in joy.

Joy. What a Joke. What a blasphemy.

The Art of mourning has made you a Poet by Moumita Bhattacharjee

The kings who feasted

On winning a battle

Perhaps became tired

Of being numb over losing

Their comrades in the war

And decided to pick up

A glass of wine

To gulp down that lump

Stuck in their throat.

And a poet when he lost

His beloved


And cried

Till the tears went dry,

So he made his quill

Bleed the tears

And crafted his love

Into an elegy.

When the darling buds

Are perished by the scorching heat,

A gardener's chest heaves

Up and down

Up and down

And a sigh is heard maybe,

But by the end of Summer

We see a whole garden blooming.

The day you lost

Your favourite pencil in school,

You came home in a gloom

And learnt how to


The things you love

And perhaps

A celebration

Feels so special

Because we know

The pain of losing,

The agony

In mourning

Every dead thing,

The flowers in winter,

The leaves in fall,

The fish caught in a net,

A messed-up painting ,

A lifeless body,

And a dead reality.

Every dead thing

Is in need of

More mourning,


And more tears

Until you run out of them

And learn to cherish

The thing you have today.

Only then


It won't feel so bad

To live in a world of lies

As you've already mourned

The loss of truth

And started building

Your own little world

In your head.


The art of mourning

Has made you

A poet.

One day, we'll let go of our ghosts by Apurva

They say dead, if not mourned

in funeral rites,

roam the earth, invisible

settling in abandoned houses and streets

But there are other ways

to turn people into ghosts

It's been a while since I laughed

without foreboding

or wore my brother's new, ill-fitting shoes

or slept for more than 4 hours

My heart is a cracked stone

stuck together with crystallized anger

and guilt

Passion has long flown away,

with broken wings

A poem, half done, burns in the chula,

while a roti puffs over it

The color of the burnt ink and ash meld

into a stinging white smoke

that wets my eyelash

but no tears fall

My mom once said I cried all night

on the day I was born

so when she passed away, I didn't cry

Then I saw my brother

with hairless scalp and hopeless eyes

picking up our mother's pyre

and I didn't cry

I should be strong, infallible,

pick up the remnant of the family

house, now orphaned

I pull the roti slightly burnt off the stove

and we eat without complaining,

just the sound of teeth clanking between us

We wash up, pack our bags,

and step out into the much harsher world

in search of tools

to carve the fate lines on our palms

into S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L

Don't pity us;

one day, we'll learn to cook well

one day, we'll be enough for the world

one day we'll have more dialogue

between us than the noise in our head

one day, we'll let go of our ghosts,

in rites and tears.

Flowers For Them by Sukanya Choudhury

Every time I buy flowers, I think of my grandfather

I remember watching him lovingly take care of the flowers and

Plants and vegetables in our garden back home

A garden that now, after years of floods and renovations

And raising the earth has disappeared into a sad remnant of the

Thing my grandfather loved deeply.

But I suppose life can end so suddenly yet go on so long

That we end up mourning for the things and people we lose

Long before they’re even gone.

I mourn the ones I have lost with every breath I take during the day

When it rains, I miss my Aita and I mourn the way it

Felt to play with her silver long hair that smelled like jasmines

While I listened to her tell me stories.

When I listen to music from the 80s and 90s, I miss my cousin and

I mourn the way it felt to sit in the front in his car, goosebumps

From the AC on full, music blaring in my ears and the beats

Emanating from my heart.

When I read old books, I miss my grandfather and I mourn the

Way the silence in his library always welcomed me as I would

Sit there for hours reading and he would bring me tea and

My favorite biscuits and he’d read the poems I’d written.

The dead don’t want us to mourn them, I suppose, only remember them

Fondly, remember them so that we can smile at the thought of

Them but love isn’t supposed to be all laughter and happiness

Love is the difficult bits, the pain you feel in the deepest corners

Of your chest and you find yourself clawing at your skin in the

Dead of the night trying to reach out to it and pull it out

Love is the horrible bits, the loneliness that comes when you visit

A house that used to be your home but is now only four walls

And a roof with a permanent smell of new paint

Love is the tearful bits, the silence that fills a room when

You remember a loved one who used to laugh, eat and exist alongside

You and you’re left wondering if we spend all our life mourning

People that we ourselves end up becoming a whisper of a

Ghost, too.

Absences are no more a malnourished outgrowth but a regular meal by Mohua

Yesterday walks with me

painting my back

in tortured yellow

rummaging ugly setbacks

in every forward step

my hands freeze at

the touch of future

as it tries to ferment

a little more dismay

in the rubbles of

every forgotten name

that sprints with the wind

into stereotyped huts

full of absent eternities

you see, absences are

no more a malnourished

outgrowth but a regular meal

for stomachs, empty or full

they turn memories upside

down and let them drown

along the meanders

of my clavicle

such that they push

the emptiness out

of my chest pocket

like a handkerchief

that wasn't long enough

to muffle the mourning

often stifled over either

the headlines of a newspaper

or the eulogy that couldn't

find a corner there

earth and death are no

more social partners

both lost their mirthless

knots to the ties of horizons

while the former laughed

with unprecedented

perception in pain

and unexpectedly

the latter found none,

But remained crowded

as if giving birth for the last time.

however, absences are found

sewed in the trousers

of decayed wombs where

the soil turns sterile for

every dead thing that

needs more mourning

and when I speak

about my father,

mother teaches me

to always mention him

in the past tense

maybe that much mourning

would be enough?

The Last of Us by Jhalak Ubhriyani

there’s a graveyard within a museum

where bodies are pinned on walls

like masterpieces from hundreds

of years ago,

their hearts kept on display

some still beating,

and some rotten like tomatoes on

a sunny morning at the sabzi mandi.

the walls echo in different languages

mostly the ones that my

lovers never understood,

and sometimes the ones that my mother

used to sing me lullabies in.

i scratch every organ that’s

displaying itself on porcelain shelves;

i scratch it until metaphors start

pouring out, pouring pouring pouring

until the place is drowning

in words that are wet metaphors now,

and metaphors that will

soon turn into poems

that the whole world will

have to die and become corpses

to be able to read.

there’s a graveyard within a museum,

a museum that mourns dead things,

dead things which were once

alive in their lovers’ arms,

or in their mother’s hand-knitted sweater,

or while dancing in their brother’s baarat,

or while writing a poem

only to hide it in a corner of their hearts,

until they die,

and we mourn their poems

more than we will ever

mourn the people.


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