(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
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
my leaves are stoop lower, bending towards you
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
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
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
Feels so special
Because we know
The pain of losing,
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
And more tears
Until you run out of them
And learn to cherish
The thing you have today.
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
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
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
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
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
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
perception in pain
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.