there’s a troubled lady in my head, walking up and down
all of the alleys visited only by the dead.
sixteen circles around time,
with a noose, she measures it’s threads
like rosary beads. epitaphs are the morning prayer,
blood till break o break is the national anthem.
she would burn a fire on her palm everyday,
just to make sure she’s still inflammable;
i try to dig up skin for her but she sits there like a souvenir of doom.
cautious! soak in the child’s crying voice;
what if he turns stillborn over your blink.
today mother is screaming at a child already under the sod.
she believed i’d learn to swim
if i keep drowning for too long,
perhaps something women learn from marriage.
i’d put my fingers on the stove,
waiting for my skin to learn how not to catch fire.
now, i don’t function unless i’m tiptoeing in a burning room
with an acetylene bucket on my head;
i turned off the fire alarms,
the sirens stop only if you softly let them
smother your pulse to a beaten clove.
don’t you dare paint me a senile mustard soup,
no, i won’t come down mother;
all this rage- my clenched fists are boisterous serpents now,
i arrange them on splinters of my elmwood front desk.
my eyes- boiled beetroots scavenge my flesh for dirt;
squeezed oceans spasm under my skin.
i’m always out of breath you say,
so i start licking air off knives-
your lips haven’t learnt to palate
the pungent blood on my tongue.
I bury myself in sand; let the ocean ridge my chest.
lovers trace their footprints on my neck,
mother walks on me dragging her nail.
she was taught to look for modesty in rusted nails,
so she keeps it close, lets it dig into my ribs like a fishhook.
i fold my limbs, dangle them down the refrigerator.
three evenings later, mother tries to thaw my brain;
she places me beside the fireplace.
my hands are trying not to quiver,
water isn’t allowed to move on its own;
i must bend only in a vessel,
must wait for my blood to be funnelled out in words,
bland- i got it ma, i got you the word.
now stop curling your fist in rage,
my sadness isn’t in foreign language anymore;
i think it’s my mother tongue, you know it all too well-
now i’ll tell you how my day looks like-
think sugar, the absence of it-
think absence, no not bitter.
just absence- of whatever you can think of.
these people look like placeholders,
their faces read like waiting lists-
you told me not to speak too much,
i bit my tongue too many times-
its bland.
mother, its so bland.

meenal jhajharia

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