crimson ophelia

i’m drawing a dull headache on the walls;
noise smeared across the room.
wreaths braided with a noose –
people aren’t a pinhole out your darkness
but you don’t see that,
in the dark.
so you punch holes in people you love,
till you’re on the other side.
there’s no dark,
but it’s blinding,
their whole being lies there,
rotting in a mansion left to it’s own devices.
ivies don’t grow around moss gardens
in abandoned neighborhoods.
i’m sorry, where was i,
my head hurts, it’s dark;

all night i push a nail in my head,
hoping to get you a pinhole.
but you,
stare at the mirror
and there’s no other side.

i want to tell you about ways to drown,
and stay drowning-
open your palm,
place a pebble from your dry eyed backyard.
clench your fists,
till your veins spasm with frigidity.

or you could go sit under the old desk in my bedroom,
keep waiting for something to fall off,
there’s a dull, boisterous ache i’ve been carrying.
i keep trying to shake it off my bath robe,
its still meandering in water.

dropped all my anchors along the highway,
now i’m tethering on the sidewalks;
i bare my ridged forehead onto the storm,
the air flattens my bones into skin.

this year i decide to walk into the sea,
it should finally wash itself off me;
its nauseating and hideous,
you cannot smell it, it stinks;
it stinks like a paywalled cemetery.

honey, now the sea stinks.
don’t you see? the sea is turning green in sin,
i drenched the waves in moss.
now it all stops, it keeps stopping;
and i cannot shake it off.
i shudder, i hope i can dust it off;
rub it off my skin-
like mother morbidly wipes the floor white.

meenal jhajharia

poem, not a memoir

dearest, get my fur coat and gloves
i should like to go out and soak my head in soup.
instead i hammer it on mailboxes stinking of elegies;
you’re dancing under the candy
floss sky in a white dress,
my eyes are stitched with black satin.
go on, keep twirling like your footsteps are a song,
i’ll lay by the ocean and burden the sand
with polaroids of sadness,
i’ll hide my words between falling waves
and the village will watch me drown.
i keep poking my chest with a splinter,
it talks back like a corpse;
hold on, don’t go back just yet;
have a little tea,
i shall take the funeral to another room.

will you read out this poem at the church next sunday,
or the next, whichever isn’t followed by another.
remember, remember don’t begin to sculpt my face with these
wrinkled words,
they’re stuck in catacombs of desperation.
think fireworks in the sky, but ash, yes; think ash,
but unholy, rosaries but blasphemous;
think poem, not a memoir;
memoirs bite their tongues in front of sanity,
i sit inside a glass dress and fall on the floor;
i’m wearing a chandelier darling, it won’t fall on my head now;
they’d write a damn memoir about
princesses buried under broken chandeliers.
remember, please remember-
poem, not a memoir-
don’t you understand,
don’t let them hang me in an antique museum of sad girls;
i don’t want to be friends with the janitor and ophelia’s history.
just mutter a poem, and wash over the clotted blood.

meenal

acetylene poems

lately i wake up with stale acetylene in my throat,
out of breath and everything else too.
i can’t speak- so i make the wordless vessels talk;
bloody poems need my curriculum vitae of not breathing
to start speaking, else they stitch their lips:
a clenched jaw stiff with guilt.
sticking post it notes on them about where it hurts-
inside the wardrobe, under the drawer,
between the shackles of the sliding window frames;
i cut off the strings in this poem,
in vacuum i watch the words tether like forget-me-nots
tied up into a bracelet for the dead man’s neck.
wood, glass, iron and the sky and the stars,
all tired of mounting my retrograde on their faces.
i sit on the broken asphalt roads,
the tar on the roads hurts my eyes
i string asphalt on my wrists wrists like handcuffs,
tied up with metaphors i don’t remember;
as if bad memory is anything more than a fire escape.
i find a way to superimpose my scars on the sky
paint the arc of your lips drooping with all the lies hanging.
when the stars fall out of line, we nod in unison-
greased up windows watch words latch on to the moss
on wall murals: my poems throw themselves off
like apologies you can’t fit in your palms.
still complaining about the weather.
darling, don’t you know i’m a plaster saint for gloom
ocean is an open wound,
the moon has a habit of poking it;
it dutifully delivers corpses,
almost like payback;
hope is an hourglass filled with quicksand;
a four lettered blister I trace on my chest.
i’ll label the street lights huge.
my bed sheet is the ghost.
dreams that i never had hang from its crevices,
loose skin flaps softened by the ocean tides.
i keep talking to the walls they don’t cave in anymore;
stinking of sea clam, standing like the blunt northern range,
wiping off my unarmed screams with an unsettling ease;
like blood soaked cobwebs.
so i go back to complaining
about how the sunflowers are sad and the sun hurts.
i whine hurriedly, as if i’ll run out of things to point at-
watch his face,
still; just there.
there’s no phony metaphor dangling around,
to make it look presentable.
poems, they never look presentable


meenal jhajharia

brittle nightmares

i’m a statue of ash
stitched together with stale air, my fears snuggle up
in the cracks of walls, the ones that i paint like sour cream;
they bundle up between the crinkles on my piled up laundry,
dressed like overdue receipts of shoplifted love.
there are many ways to stop breathing;
i happen to know a few.
my body draws itself into a cult around a bonfire;
only glued together with fear.
contagious, more so than love.
i have a habit of trying to hold air,
for times when i run out of breath:
before running away into other hollow spaces;
forgetting that air does things
other than making knots in my throat.
brittle bones marking territories of ruin,
mask monsters as fears;
i’m scared of living,
i keep rehearsing how to stop.
nightmares are hanging uptight,
in between pastel bed sheets
under the scorching sun;
like white palisades
in the night terrors i make up
sexton would you see,
the nightmares were always peeping out of houseplants.
with all the drooping daisies
drowning themselves in white orchids;
lifelessness walking around the room-
a barefoot and benignant tumour;
they whimper to interrupt my silent monologue,
at their own dilly dally-
i sit with the silence across the coffee table,
we exchange unpleasant pleasantries;
waiting for each other to break.
the sky shies away from my desolation,
throw your guts out,
neatly hang them under the damp september sun.
memory is just an impression,
slate is just stone, walls are just lonely bricks;
these walls are growing on my face,
i turn away to quietly rearrange beads-
blindness is as devoted as rosary;
keeps your head off itself.


meenal jhajharia

hellcat

the cat sits there digging its claws into the linty mattress,
she drowsily dumps her head on the floor;
pinned against the knots in air –
like a dull mustard painting waiting to be sold
in those dimly lit indie art houses;
i keep nauseating myself across the house,
an oversaturated painting
that the artist keeps washing off.
I throw myself into the ocean
so there’s no uncertainty of picking the right floors.
my eyes sit still like marbles,
madness doesn’t always descend quietly,
or with screams; sometimes it grows louder on your face,
while you watch it shackle up your fingers;
mirrors etched on all four walls crumble into smithereens
with hysterical sighs. my eyes wobble through the hourglass,
digging sanity in wayward sand;
the dead are chained to their graves,
i build cells in my brain and paint them pink,
as if gilded shackles don’t clink;
i keep materialising all this grief,
stuff it in briefcases to dinner time etiquettes.
so it wont settle on my bones.
still air, shivering shroud
on a tablecloth, at dinner we mince our veins.
i hover over the word joy,
squishing my fingers in between the letters;
till i hang the word upside down-
i seal the envelope in blood,
lest i forget who’s grief am i carrying;
most days it looks like the thin slice of dust on my desk;
i don’t do my bed so it stays there on the lints.
the ceiling wants to break open half the days,
or fall down; whatever it is, catharsis has its ways;
pink isn’t soft, it’s a child hardened with scarlet fever,
while the nurse patiently hemmed the shroud
with her own pleats;
cat’s in the cradle,
eighteen pencils circle in a levitating staircase.
her soft still fur just pinches my skin;
so does the sound of the neighbourhood couple
jesting like rancid pieces of cake.
i violently stuff myself with air,
to keep my borrowed statutory sanity;
pale envelopes spoil themselves
but i don’t know where to start with this rot.
poetry is a snob with forks and knives
cross legged across the white tablecloth;
water tastes like paraffin wax that i gobble down,
still reluctantly, compulsively staring at the cat-
she didn’t have a halo,
but looking at her made me want to chop off my eyes;
such an angel, I like looking, as long as it doesn’t look back-
these goddamned poems always do.


meenal jhajharia

laundry day loneliness

a crisp day neatly hangs
between summer dresses you don’t wear.
the angels in yellow
frown at your flaxen shear.
bland cereal starts staring back
at your flat gorge shaped eyes,
half a fist of sorrow
passes through your ribs.
you carry the blueprint
of a day you don’t remember.
unwrapping the day,
like a love letter to the dead;
there’s too much dead skin around here
for sprawling houseplants to breathe;
the floor whimpers itself white,
crawling out of the ripples
you stick on its face;
tiled- “silver and exact”,
less plath and more pungent.
your air fresheners taste like chlorine,
air crawls out of your skin with brine,
soak your white shirts in blood,
watch patient loneliness hang by the antique hook,
crawling on the white shirt
unmoved by the crushed fall leaves
under tanned beige shoes plodding through.
the morning clumsily purrs at the doormat,
newspapers falls on the sun’s face-
dumb cars keep the city lights heaving,
slowly but ceaselessly- it’s 7pm,
tiny dots in buildings turn up one after another like a tired tune
falling off a bland pianist. i lend my loneliness
to little things i hold; like sincere borrowers
they crawl to return it. i keep thinking about
burning them down, or up;
as if it makes a difference.
a wedding gown or a shroud,
it’s always white.
earthly concerns look like fancy dresses in funerals.
how alone do you need to be to be lonely?
loneliness is a tyrant- it sits on ruined air, a four faced god;
how many times a day should i remind myself
to forget being
lonely. where do people put away their loneliness –
my parents wrap it in envelopes sealed with weary sighs.
you, what about you? my dear, do you hang it around your neck-
an albatross’s locket.
or do you wear it like a “CLOSED” sign from your chest;
do you take it off at night,
when you clutch your sheets.
do you put a lonely flower on the vase,
on your dinner table-
for your date to know that you’d die in your tux.


meenal jhajharia

mother

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

tired, again

there’s a tired boy outside my window,
his face flutters with the wind;
almost as if sand waiting to be washed over by the waves.
it keeps returning, a sigh stuffed in your mouth
with alien mannerisms you don’t follow.s
ometimes tired falls down on me-
like a motel bed sheet i clutch after staining
the ones at home;
fall isn’t as beautiful as the poets declare,
it’s mostly just falling.
when i put out my wounds on the streets for display,
it’s not for a passerby to nurse them;
we’re past that,
now i wait for them to shy away,
to quiver and disappear with all that gaze.
i hold your hands wrapping mine in plastic gloves,
i stink of hideousness;
there are paperweights on my fingernails,
they look like apologiesin languages I don’t know.
i scream in porcelain jars filled with glycerin
till my nose starts bleeding;fragile
is written in minuscule text on the sides of my fingers.
everyday is an advertisement for death,
with eyes like scalpels;
insinuating to be saved
in a rusty fall which withers down daffodils.
it’s all becoming yellow,
yellow is the saddest colour,
it sits on my face like a dead albatross;
it holds my poems at gunpoint,
but everyone likes being held.
i fill up these shrivelling straws with rotten wine-
all summer i built a cage for the nightmares,
it all crumbles down under a careless stranger’s boots
clumsily plodding through piles of fall clinkering on the streets.
the cold compress on my head
starts smelling like a white clad nurse:
the ones that disappear in hospital corridors
like niceties spiralling into erasure.
stay, stay, staye
choes on my throat
like a sick lady with her rosaries:
smiles, i eat them up like the horizon swallows the sun;

meenal jhajharia

janitor’s conundrum

the navy robed shadow drags his drenched boots,
he cascades like a stick figure
under the dome eating itself up.
his mouth is stuffed with hardened bread,
it falls off his skin like the wall peeling itself down,
in abandoned buildings its always fall.
stiff toothless jaw,
clenched toes- nails that look like beaten up plastic;
dust has a habit of settling,
things that happen once,
have a habit of happening
again;
people that break,
have a habit of breaking easily.
i stick myself to the walls,
while he goes around mopping my face angrily.
the spiders on the wall crawl up-
i let my knees slide on the floor;
this building has been empty for eleven years, or so.
his broom eyes me like a nemesis.
i have a habit of lingering,
now he lets me mark my territory-
this corner is left unswept.
the old man evaporating
into his wooden chair with loosely hammered nails
looks at me, most days he unsees cobwebs drawn on my face.
every few weeks he sits across my cross legged carcass
only to watch my clattering teeth breathe-
i upset the shine on these walls,
but he lets me be
like an abandoned museum,
checked only for door chains.
i clutch the nimble breaths on my chest,
tenant-less cobwebs are settling on my skin;
empty homes feel familiar to my nails.
i keep peeling off skin,
like a bubblewrap filled with blood;
with fingers like untamed shovels-
you throw dirt on yourself
till you gather enough for a generation of tombs.
i roll up my shroud and stitch it into a pillow,
filled with feeble rocks.
i stare at the dull ceiling,
idly tracing rings around the lesions on my wrists;
four pink walls grow on my face like quiet hysteria.
my bones cave in like loosely hanging dolls of ash,
its always raining,
my sunshine weather dolls soak themselves in blood;
my skin unsettles itself like an intruder,
my face looks like a bad whitewash,
the curses on the wall shimmer in bright light;
churning out corpses-
like an accident-prone area.
marching ants with flashlights,
they crawl on my skin- their flashlights are tuscan suns bulging out of breathing tombs-
smearing mustard blood on my face.
the air keeps falling to the ground with visible rot,
i lie on the floor to lick off a breath;
crawling with a termite’s eyes
my limbs swell up with the smell of damp wood;
the tired sun is sinking under the floor.
today is like most days – only people left here are framed;
the stage keeps setting itself up
but the puppets are dead and the strings are stiff like my bones.
what matters is the chandelier
loosely hanging on your head.

meenal jhajharia