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The longer I stay away from you, the more my skin sheds itself, Poems of Mahlaqa Batool

1. Your absence will be the death of me.


because it was eid yesterday

and you called.

and hearing your voice was no less seducing

than Mozart’s fortieth symphony.


there’s a plot in forming to kill my kind

and i myself am fading out fast.

we need to meet.


did you know if you stay hungry long enough,

your brain cells start to cannibalize themselves?

just like how the longer I stay away from you,

the more my skin sheds itself.


*bati naye dureer choun zarayi baal maraeyo

kya kar thotham zar zarayi baal maraeyo


and it was eid yesterday

because you called.

and listening to your voice was no less

sweeter than my mother’s sheer khorma.


because it’s been forty days since you left

and your absence has not yet left me.

i could have saved us, I tried

but isn’t it easier to break than carry

the whole grief-stricken universe on your spine?

don’t millions of stars, in millions of galaxies,

carrying clouds of melancholy on their

surface, carrying howls of millions of

creatures, break too? don’t people make

wishes on their plight? isn’t that easier?

i’ll tell you something.

this poem

doesn’t need to be written.

it has no purpose, no message,

no call for revolution.

it makes no promises for a better

future. it lacks firmness, maybe even

structure. and the world right now

needs ones that do.

we need them too.

that’s what i sat down to write at first too

because it’s been forty days and that is

the allowed time to mourn a loss

but then you called yesterday

and read to me

Rasul Mir’s ghazals

and i rolled back into the comfort of my

shady, cowardly cocoon.

your absence will be the death of me.

2. I'll keep them still

your ribs are too shaky to hold on to your heart.

you carry it on your palms instead.

you give it to the boy you liked in 9th standard

and never ask it back, now

there’s a heart-shaped hole in your chest

that keeps on growing

until you’re hollow inside,

your bones devoid of marrow.

you’re thus ready to take flight among the blackbirds

in the sky.

only that the wings that ruptured out of your spine

are too heavy with all the hurt

that your body couldn’t contain.

your love is contagious. it grows on me

like vines of jasmine on a fence - beautiful on the outside,

therapeutic on the inside. but so is your sadness.

it flows from your hands to my hands

(can hands carry sadness?)

as easily as light passes through cracks, or

electricity lights up a bulb. it corrodes me from inside,

cracking my ribs, hollowing my bones,

filling up the wings. and yet i don’t stop it.

i don’t stop it because matters of the heart

are not so easily restrained. and besides what am i without it?

i’d cease to exist the moment i could no longer carry it

inside my veins.

my ribs are too shaky to hold on to my heart.

i give it to you instead and never ask it back.

now there’s a heart-shaped hole in my chest

that keeps on growing until i’m hollow inside,

my bones devoid of marrow.

i’m thus ready to take flight alongside you in the sky.

only that your wings are too heavy.

and there’s no sky to fly to without you.

3. I write poems that I know you won’t read

i see oceans in your eyes, their tides

blinding your vision and i see stars;

those huge spheroids of plasma, leaking

hydrogen and helium out of your pupils and

i see pain sneaking up to them and holes,

darker than the pits beneath your eyelids,

running up towards them, ready to suck out

all the seven

(or seven thousand)

colors rotating

at the back

of your retina.

i want to hold you.

you, who opened suns in my heart,

i want to hold you together.

i want to show you all that is good

out there. the window of your room

is a liar. there are not just static houses

and silent neighborhoods and strangers

driving cars. there are

little oysters holding hands, the only form

of love they know. and kittens scratching

and screaming at their owners all day, only

to come running back to their laps in the evening.

and there are seas, vast oceans that do not

blind. that kiss your feet once, twice and until

you stop counting and until you see all the frowns

on your forehead drowning in their waters.

there are stars that do not leak and just twinkle

in the sky for millions of people to look at them

and explore universes within and without.

there are also holes that send white rabbits

in search of little girls and bring them to


i want to show you all of this but the clock

is ticking and darkness is approaching and

i am moving towards oblivion like

the milky way towards andromeda and

i am degrading.

my brain forgets to sync the hypothalamus

with memories and the hypothalamus, in

revenge, forgets to produce dozens of

hormones emptying me of feelings. serotonin, endorphins, dopamine,

pain, anger, happiness, love.

and so instead, i write.

i write poems that i know you won’t

read and i expect both of us to heal and

i know neither of us does.

but again, when i see those oceans

in your eyes, i long for this night to end

and bring a day when i get to read these to you

while you keep a count on the number

of times the waves kiss your feet.


Mahlaqa Batool is a 21-years-old poet from Srinagar who navigates the loneliness of young adulthood by reading poems and novels and writings words her mouth can never speak.


*bati naye dureer choun zarayi is a poem by Rasool Mir

* Photograph Courtesy: Anderson Rodriguez

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