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Loneliness grew like cavities in the teeth of earth, Poems by Shailja Bahety

Hawaiian Ocean with Large Clouds in a Sunset | By Lionel Walden (1861-1933).
Hawaiian Ocean with Large Clouds in a Sunset | By Lionel Walden (1861-1933).

1. Loneliness is a wildflower

Loneliness is a flower

grown beside a graveyard

that isn't ever carried to our homes

and never smelled once

despite having fragrance.

Loneliness is a flower that

bloomed inside a human

who is never loved

despite having a heart.

over the grass, sits Ismaiel and I

to him, the sky is his watercolor palette

and to me, his eyes are a canvas

so whenever the sky falls on his eyes

a painting form,

that sets us free

like untied kites swimming in the

long-stretched summer sky.

He walked past his school

and saw

a puppy in a carton looking at this strange world,

a local guitarist singing on an empty street,

a bench on which nobody sits because it's dirty,

wildflowers only the clouds water and it's not the rainy season yet,

trees having lots of dopamine but no one to hug,

mothers feeding milky-ways in the mouth of their babies


mothers with aching breasts and children screaming

that she cares too much about them,


himself walking all way back home

all alone.

Loneliness grew like cavities

in the teeth of earth,


we really need to clean

our hearts twice a day

so today,

he didn't take the doctor's advice for granted,

he rushed to her mother and

said that she looks so beautiful

when she cares for him,

pressed his heart against the trees and take a big mouthful of dopamine,

purchased a Bisleri bottle and became the cloud for wildflowers,

cleaned the bench and sat and smiled and when he left

people came and the bench was never vacant again,

he ran up to the guitarist and clapped so loudly that gradually

a crowd gathered,

and this time, he wasn't walking back all alone,

the puppy too was heading home.

Ismaiel and I, his happiness,

are two wildflowers

we no longer complain about

the soil we grew upon

because we make that

space even more beautiful.

Loneliness is a flower

grown beside a graveyard

unloved and solitary,

but honey bees never made a difference,

they always came for nectar,

even beside a graveyard.


we just need

more honey bees

in this big little world.

2. You are a wonder to me

The wonderful things you will be:

• When your grandpa welcomes you into his summertime arms and your baby fingertips stroll on his lips like drizzle, suddenly valleys emerge on his face and joy brooks like freshwater in them. remember, you are touching happiness right under his nose. your soft lips form an inverted rainbow putting on colours on someone else's skin. my darling, on those rosy evenings, you will become a wonderful smile making a toothless mouth go happy.

• In your neighborhood, a woman lives whose backyard never smelled of musky-scented childhood. you hug her to prevent another heart from withering before blooming. i see you sowing seeds of tenderness and fixing torn plants in the yard of womanhood. in those late afternoons, you will be a god, giving breaths to a fading life and growing humanity a little at a time. i hope you remain the same even when your milk teeth fall away.

• During a night walk, you observe a little puppy, shrinking in a corner, escaping from fierce winter winds. you have never seen the Santa but your mother taught you how to become the one. your woolen scarf radiating warmth will make you Christmas eve in someone's winter sky.

• In July when the rain takes a pledge to nurture nature as much as it can. one of your friends, who communicates with you in sign language full of smiles and pleasing eyes, stands under a building but not arguing about the love two lovers are making under clouds. you move your umbrella towards her and she comes under it. you blink your eyes and she smiles at you. after all, it's the most beautiful language in the world that you will become, of admiration and kindness.

• You, my moonchild, write meteorological poetry at midnight. the young love for literature in your old skin can never die, maybe, just like stars. we are all made of dying stars. forming, twinkling, crushing and turning into another being learning thermodynamics. so understand that there is a poem both in your being and in your disintegration. whenever you feel like shattering, go write midnight poems and gaze at the spiral galaxies forming inside you. my beloved, you will become a star, the one who never dies but transforms, into words and lines, that people will remember generations by.

• I know the world is drunk on degrees and high-paying jobs. but i'm not drunk. i only wish you to be good-hearted, finding love in curves on faces and protecting your inner artist while growing up in this wild world. so don't fear what people tell you because while reaching the bottom of my words, you will be a gentle poem illuminated with stories and metaphors. and a poem is beautiful in its own way. so remember, whatever happens, i will always love you to whoever you will grow up to be.

3. A language with no alphabet

When Pablo Neruda wrote, "I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet".

I remembered how well silence slept on my lips. It grabbed me to the sea of panting voices, where languages were drowning after failing to answer questions at which silence was fluent.

Silence is not my people's mother tongue but the people in my colony are fluent in it. With kohl, they write everywhere, until their fingers turn from black to red.

How much do politics cling to your teeth to crush the hopes of innocents? How much light of lies is enough for you to make people blind? Which constitution tells its people to wear the clothes of religion and talk of war? How often do patients die because you keep asking them to fill your pockets first? If your words were dead after every lie you told, how long would this world be a graveyard? How many victories are enough for you to end the war that can turn the earth into 75% of blood? How many cotton balls went red while healing Kashmir's moon? How many poets have you killed to raise the scholars? How many faces of God have you drawn to multiply the borders? How many times have you changed the subject in parliaments and fled? How long have you lost the count of houses you've burnt to make some earth your own? How many times have you blamed the lines for the partition? How many times have you silenced those whose voices had power?

The ink spurted like blood over my fingers and I thought -

How many pens have you broken that could have shattered you?

You who burn jungles will never realize how dry leaves bring water to the dusty eyes of my country when they fall to embrace it.

They write with the kohl everywhere but wake up with smudge walls and find meaning in silence.


Shailja Bahety writes poems that hand a ray of hope to her readers and put out questions that tongues fail to answer but art does not.

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