making poetry out of broken bones and dead leaves

I do not want melted cheese dripping out of your words

because I have decided to go vegan since

the memories of mint chocolate chip ice cream

won’t erase itself from my amygdala.

I believed in braided manes and pink bows till

You swept in like a tornado over my untamed inferno and

Blizzard got into my roots and home,

Became a non existent entity.

 

I stopped going to family functions because

Their tongues seemed too distant and faces

Broken down into senseless metaphors under

White lights and blazing sunlight and I

Am more comfortable in the dark.

As I sat on the swing and

Let you make me taste the sky over

Fierce promises woven with laughter and bloody kisses

Like a mattress that now I sleep on

Because the bed doesn’t hurt me enough and

A ceiling separating the sky from my ludicrous notions.

 

I think I prefer the smell of dead roses and

have found solace on empty benches with

Whiskey replacing my blood, making

My head so much more clear that I know

I was in a hallucination these last four years.

Paragraphs and prose don’t mean anything more than

Collateral damage over empty sheets and yellow parchments

Because they need to stay as they are/trust me,

I let myself be written on with ink and knife till

A seismic wave hit me and

My skin is a canvas of awry scars and subtle stab marks.

 

Profession of love and candle light dinners

Are not even a part of my history book because

The pages got burnt the night when the candelabras shattered

Over them and love

Got punctured even before it reached your palate and

I stood there listening to moans and haunted echoes

Like Chinese whispers they don’t make sense anymore

And I am deaf now.

 

My hall is map of broken glasses and

stench of my bare feet and uncombed hair/ walls blanketed with

Lines that I cried every day/ my throat hurts because

I drank from the last glass that was half chipped where my

Lips touched them and

I could taste metal on my tongue but

I did not stop till I retched it all out and slept on the floor

Curled up into a ball because the last time I was at peace

Was when I rested my head inside mother’s womb.

 

Today I drank tea from my last splintered glass and

Carried myself with poise because, yesterday

I smashed my furniture and the walls could not contain anymore alphabets, so

I wrote a poem over dead leaves that littered the cobblestones of our relationship

And the lines somehow penetrated into

broken bones and still tissues of my chest/ my heart

has finally found a way to pump its way to live, another day.

-amrutha

(Artwork by Shalu Sanklecha. Follow @artisan.affair on instagram for her work)

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BUILDING FOUNTAIN OVER MY COFFIN

BREATHE

because those lungs won’t stay young for too long.

they say the air is turning wild

unfathomable humans have woven their magic.

the surface seemed too unscathed too beastly

with untamed splashes

of stains all over wrong places.

We have this problem you see, we want our presence felt at a place we have laid

our body parts on

and footprints are only but a temporary means to leave marks.

They started with red. Too much of red within and hardly a streak outside,

yeah sometimes a splash across the evening sky doesn’t count.

So they found a way.

Why not, in the name of a better life a better world a better god, play the game of cutting each other?

There!

Earth has been tainted and coloured now.

Pieces of meat strewn around, oh look at the rivers.

They won’t boast of purity now.

Red. They like things red. It has a primal force

that no green blue or brown of the world

can match.

Wait.

No. Something is wrong.

This doesn’t feel complete.

Something is missing

Something.

Yes! Her skin is too clear and ego rampant.

The rage and storm is brewing faster than the Harvey. Let us mark her.

Leave imprints of naked fingers over her empty arms and unmarked legs, complete the artwork with cigarette butt marks at other places.

There. Now you can breathe.

What were you saying about the air?

I know you haven’t slept more peacefully.

LAUGH

Spread your arms wide enough to contain

all the happiness there is.

You don’t find it easy these days.

Fill every ounce of air there is

within those alveoli and let the vocal cords do their magic.

Inhale happiness and exhale laughter. *breathe in-breathe out*

Don’t forget the eyes.

I see them happy today. Moments, like these is what I live for.

Just let the feral take over your body and

Let the wolves know you are home.

No no. Don’t stop because they are looking.

They always do.

I told you.

Happiness doesn’t come easy here.

Remind them of sunny oceans and warm cups of tea in monsoon

of Christmas lights and fairy tales because

Claws of hierarchy has gnawed into

their arteries and the veins too, haven’t been spared.

You see, they are hurting everywhere.

Laugh and make them believe in piggyback rides and mistletoe kisses

of tooth fairies and sheer old good luck.

Let them see you laughter and burn on a pyre built on their altar

because they are way too high on vodka

to remember how it feels to

have heart broken and skin sutured

to have the ground crack open beneath bare feet and fall.

But more importantly, they have forgotten to swat away dust

from the back of their khakhi shorts and

find their way away from the riot

to set the world on fire.

CRY

because you are drowning.

And what better place to hide those useless, unwelcoming tears

Than under water.

You think you own yourself? You are the masters of your fate? Your destiny?

You think you decide what’ll happen to you?

Think again.

I will give you two seconds.

*1-2*

there. I just proved my point. I made you think, made you hear me out.

Everyday you get up to the drumrolls of feminism, secularism, nationalism and the likes

yet, every frequency of those sound waves hitting your eardrums

doesn’t manage to make it’s home inside your skin.

You still hope that the guy whose eyes your eyes met

at the bar of your friend’s funeral would text you.

You expect piercing bullets to not leave marks and trees

to offer you shade when you have cut them all down.

You expect the city to offer gold when all you have showered it with,

are your whimsical tears. Go on. Let it fall.

It’s the least of yourself you can give.

Cry, because a woman is raped every 15 minutes.

Cry, because someone’s dies on the road every 4 minutes.

Cry, because 21 children under the age of 5 die every minute

Cry, because we are meticulously killing humanity to silence the holocaust within

but we forget that Hitler, was one of us.

SCREAM

Because reasoning is light years away and

emotion is hot metal over wet tongue.

You are made up of star dust yet

you aren’t shining bright enough.

Frantic nights spent over long distance phone calls and

equal number of days of being sprawled over the atlas

Making paper dreams and combustible promises won’t leave any mark.

G strings and polaroids done right may

seem like a bloody paradise but

oh it is all a facade, so do not remain silent.

i see the blazing inferno behind monkey masks and plastic laughs so

Stop.

Stop with the filters and the god forsaken hearts.

You are an incomplete page of an incredible book

And you need to scream out loud.

Scream, till words are forced to leave the comfort of A4 sizes and dear diaries.

Scream, till it is not monochrome everywhere and shops don’t just sell the bedsheets red.

Scream, because your laughter has left the distorted shadows that haunt the roads you once called home and threaten to wipe away a little more.

Scream, till every syllable that never left your mouth

finds a pyre to burn off ambiguity and bring back hope into newspaper headlines and shadowed baggy eyes.

Scream with every father, friend and daughter till their demons are murdered in their own nightmares and they find a corner to lay their head to rest.

SCREAM BECAUSE

IF YOU DON’T SHATTER THE SCREEN

AND BREAK THE GLASS INTO BITS AND PIECES AND TURN IT INTO GALAXIES

AND THEIR STARS/

IF YOU DON’T TEAR YOUR VOICE BOX BUT

LEAVE THE STADIUM WITH A SILENT REMARK,

you will go with fall leaves sans epitaph over your cold tombstone.

Build a fountain over your coffin while you still can

because tomorrow

no one would be left to mourn.

-amrutha

bitter lemonade.

A W K W A R D

The word defines me. Mother should have

named me that – awkward.

My right foot came in front of my left

when I tried walking. I was one.

I tripped, fell and looked around, dazed.

yes.

A W K W A R D.

 

3rd grade.

Math teacher wanted a

Math textbook for the

Math oral exam.

I ran clutching mine, the idea of her possessing MY textbook

for the examination, gave me the happiness of winning a marathon.

(don’t judge)

 

So, I ran.

hair flying everywhere/ limbs gone awry and

thrust the book right at her hand which

rested on a book. The collision tore the book.

her book, not mine.

I haven’t seen a face redder than hers till date.

There I stood being at the podium and in one moment,

someone punched me right at my stomach.

There you go – awkward.

 

Until, I met her.

Just like that, the jigsaw puzzle I was trying to solve for 12 years

had a face.

Apparently, I was holding the last piece in the wrong direction.

Effortlessly, we held hands and tiptoed our way right through

boys diwalis tears and broken hearts

bunny-teeth acne algebra and mondays.

Ours was an origami that no one could create

morse code communications no one could decipher.

Friendship so rock solid that no permutations or combinations could do us apart.

 

11 years ago, we met.

9 years ago, she left.

 

WHY?

WHY WHY?

It’s been 108 months yet my closet of reasoning stays empty

but I have a room full of questions.

The four walls scream/ the ceiling a volatile emotional mess/ the floor

strewn with all pieces of puzzles and

no two pieces fit anymore.

 

That’s it.

I am done with it.

I am going to lock the door today and heat the key

in the furnace till it melts, evaporates and ceases to exist

for the naked eyes.

I trip/ I fall/ I stutter when new faces appear/I break things/

I am awkward,

But dropping the glass is sweeter than

stepping on the shards of someone else’s fault.

I don’t need faux magicians anymore.

 

This poem, is NOT for her.

because I don’t write poetry for airplanes that never take off

and this one was engineered wrong.

This is for YOU. Remember,

Somethings are better left lost.

-amrutha

Ahmedabad, I am here now.

Me and you?

We were one. Well,

Almost because the shimmer

Of distance composed of

City lights and waves dark

Darker than the souls we

Oh so beautifully share,

Is existent.

I left you because I thought

I needed more.

You were not enough. But all these years

I have had a page in my wallet

Creased with six lines.

The left side is zigzagged because I tore it from an atlas in my library.

It was Day 2

I was missing you.

And I’d forgotten to pack your picture.

I am here now.

The first time we met, after all these years

The smell of Rajma Chawal

Was all I received from my teary eyed mother

You? You refused to even look at me.

I get it. You were angry.

I can see the rust

That has crept up over the years.

I am an artist now. It

Shall be painted

With my set of oil pastels and water colours

And every other tool I possess until

the muck is obliterated

And colours will bleed at your every crevice.

As I walked and see more of you, I am aghast.

It is frustrating to look at you like this.

You have been trampled

And marred with blood

Where feet of size 3 ran

With bat and ball in their little fingers.

The sound of their laughter

that sang in every street that you proudly wore

Has been silenced. It is deafening.

But I promise,

I will sing for you.

I know there were times when

You cried for help

When her shrieking wont stop.

At 2 am, her tears were muffled

And humanity died a little in your arm.

And you called out,

Out loud but no one listened.

They slept on, in your other arm

Unaware and you?

Your arm was hurt but mended overnight

But the heart? A part of it ruined beyond repair.

I am awake now. I will hear you.

Every time it was just me and you

When I got back from school

Or a late night shenanigan,

You took my hand and squeeze it.

Assuring me that I should not be afraid of The dark. That I

Am safe in your embrace.

Today, you falter.

Your hands are shaking. I can see it in your eyes that you want

To tell me, You will be okay.

But you can’t. I know you love me

And you are afraid for me.

Come, give me your hand.

*squeezes it*

It will be alright.

You are lost. You are afraid.

Because there was a day, when

You gave hope, home and loved.

But the monsters trampled all over you

Slashing, digging, hurting you.

You can hardly breathe anymore

Your voice lost in the dead of the night

When you were screaming

For help.

help that never arrived.

But trust me.

I am here now

I am sorry to have left you.

You are my home.

I will make it alright.

Not perfect.

“Amu! You won’t know. You have it all sorted.”
 
Every time I hear those lines leaving the vocal cords of people
In different styles, dialects, languages, sounds, contexts
I wonder, if they indeed are right.
If I am so bloody sorted in life that I haven’t worn dirty sneakers.
 
Then,
I look down
And come across my own pair of worn out ones.
Whiteness long gone, right one’s lace untied with
A blotch of navy blue on the top right corner
Where my ex had accidentally dropped his ink pen.
 
Do you want to know the story?
Well, it is just another Ekta Kapoor direction, really.
Girl meets boy
Boy meets girl (obviously)
Stolen glances, social media exchanges, late night phone calls
And love. Or was it?
Because I always imagined love to come in all his glamour
Imaginary violin in the background, roses and
FOREVERS.
It turned out to be, one of the next few repetitive mistakes
Broken hearts, mended in a fortnight.
No, I did not even need ice cream, rebounds, bandages
To fix it.
To fix me.
Ah! Is that why she called me that?
Sorted. Because its been 2 years and she still can’t stop crying over her scars every time
Our conversations stretch too long
And I muffle my screams with a ball made out of my blanket so that 2 am remains silent.
 
I have always wanted to be a doctor.
I have fleeting images of running around
Carrying the doctor set and treating mom of her tears that she sometimes shed behind closed doors.
I used to grab on to the head mirror, fixing it like a crown
Covering the right eye with the silver plate that let me look at the site of complain.
It was a tiny little hole but
The three year old girl peered through the opening trying to decipher the cause of wet cheeks.
She took a tissue and tried drying the surface, first the right side then the left.
Seven attempts later, she succeeded.
She meticulously took a generous amount of Johnson baby cream
And applied it evenly all over the cheeks till
The smile returned. I remember being proud of myself.
I’d cured maa. I sure could cure other people too.
Today, I am an intern.
I am showered with awe, respect, raised eye brows and a thump at the back.
‘Beta, tumhaari to life set hai.’
YOU HAVE IT ALL SORTED.
Well, have I?
Every alternate day, I wonder if I would have been a better writer.
Some mornings, I get up to the remnants
Of my dreams where I was teaching 4th graders.
But I still don the stethoscope with a smile and take my vehicle to the hospital everyday.
Trust me, Sharma Aunty, Gupta uncle. I don’t know what I am doing.
 
“Amu is the mom of our gang.
She knows exactly what to do and what to say.”
Sometimes, I almost become comfortable with adopting those words.
Almost.
Remember when you were a kid? You cheated that one question and scored a 50 out of 50.
But you never really were happy because deep down
You knew you deserved a 49?
What? Don’t give me that poker face. Come on !
We have all done it once.
I feel I am a 49 when they call me that.
When they call me SORTED.
 
I wouldn’t mind it, really.
Somedays I want my coffee to be heated to a perfect temperature
On a day where clouds have obscured the sky
Just enough to scatter drizzle to let the petrichor through my window.
And I snuggle up to The Deathly Hallows and pink blanket
No interruptions. Not even pee breaks.
Well. Perfect right? Too perfect to be true.
That is what I am.
Just standing here, draped in an invisible cloak.
 
You don’t know about the demons I silence to maintain the facade.
I have so many skeletons of all kinds in my closet that the door won’t close.
I am disarrayed every moment when loneliness hits me hard and knocks me out
And i wake up to the smell of burnt cigarettes between my middle and the index finger.
 
I have had heart breaks. Yeah probably not from twenty two tinder dates. But from one true love.
I hate, I am jealous too. Inferiority complex creeps up every other day.
Even I change ten tops before choosing one, it’s just that I do it in 5 instead of 30 minutes you take.
And to beat it all, I am not even sure about being a doctor.
 
So no.
I am not sorted.
Stop calling me that.

Masks

Depression. A word used often, but not always as it should be. People say, “I am depressed.” They sometimes confuse it with being sad. Depression is a disease. A disease that effects every 1 out of 4 people. A disease that should be spoken about, heard, redressed. Let’s talk, trust and carry the message forward.
This piece is a poem within a poem. One thousand seventy three words, and I still think I didn’t do justice to it. I hope, this helps someone somewhere. Also, if you feel anything like this talk to someone. Talk to me, if you want. Get help. You will be fine 🙂
Here it goes.

I am a mother
I saw my daughter in a shroud.

It was just yesterday,
When I held her;
And the midget was crying,
Life filling her with every breath.

And today
She just lies there, denying to stir.

I cry out loud,
Cry her name,
Piercing the silence of the humming crowd.
I hold her like I held her for the first time.
But; she denies to stir.

It was just yesterday when
She took her first step towards me.
And another and another.
I stood there with arms wide open to catch her
If she falls.

And today,
She just lies there, denying to stir.

‘Tis was the autumn of the year 2002.
She rode a bike for the first time.
She laughed as she sped down the road, a laugh
So beautiful! Oh the autumn seemed to blossom out.

And today
She lies there, denying to stir.

“Maa..
Can I..?
Should I…?
Shall I…?
Would you…?
Could you..?
Can you…?

I..I think I said NO to half of those requests
Or probably more.
Is that where I was wrong?
Should I have said a YES to them all?
Cause may be, just may be
She would stir.
I remember when she was in 3rd grade.
Her best friend fought with her.
She cried,
Clutching on to me for
3 hours 22 minutes 13 seconds.
And I held on to her.

Why didn’t she cry this time?
Why didn’t she come running to me?
I would have caught her.
I wouldn’t have let her fall.

But she didn’t.
And just lay there, denying to stir.

The other day, I saw some videos,
Videos on the World Wide Web.
Videos that might have answers
Answers as to where did I go wrong.
It said:
“The following are the signs of depression –
Appetite change, long periods of hopelessness,
Social withdrawal, concentration problems..”

Oh! That one time she didn’t attend the neighbor’s wedding!
Was that a sign?

Or that time when her grades slipped for a month.
I remember chiding her; was that a sign?

Or when she stopped having pizzas!
I stood there, thumping her on her back
To have finally listened to me; was that a sign?

She did come to me once.
She said, she sometimes didn’t feel.
I slighted it to be one of those times
I feel aloof.
Ignored it, to be a teenage whim.
“It shall pass”, I said.
“It’s just a phase.”

Is that why she denies to stir?

Or was it because I was less of a friend and
More of a mother.
The video said, I should have talked.
Words would have helped.
Words, the never ending plethora of sounds
Imbibed with meanings
By us.
Could that be a mistake?

“Give me my space mom.
I’ll tell you if I feel like.”
I gave her, her space.
I should have pressed on
Shouldn’t have given up on our daughter
Who lies there, denying to stir.

And thence,
I played and replayed every memory
I could grasp, trying
Trying to solve the puzzle my daughter had become.
Trying to find my fault,
Right from the first cry till the last breath.

27 days 14 hours 32 minutes later,
I chanced upon a journal
And these were the last pages:

I sit.
Clothed.
Writing.
Talking, smiling a smile that never reaches my eyes.

You see,
I weigh one hundred sixty six pounds.
I am an acne clad, love tires armored
Lone battalion.

Couple of centimeters below the
Average Indian height.
Foot size – US size 9;
I could easily pass for a hobbit.

Short, overweight, myopic.
Just above average in everything.

Getting these (teeth) aligned
Required four extractions and
Metal wires strung for another four years.
Marred at places, broken too.
Striving every day,
Every day to be acceptable.

Pitted,
Torn.
Bit I denied to break.

My feeds on Instagram and Tumblr
Filled with scores of people.
People with perfection.
Tall smart hot rich beautiful witty.
And there sat a girl
Holding on to the phone
Just above average, denying to break.

Fifteen years of outstanding performance,
Reduced and shattered to mediocrity.
Some scoops of peer pressure,
A dollop of ‘society ka burden’.
Expectation.
Pitted.
Torn.
Yet, I denied to break.

Anxiety,
Raging like a storm, harbinger
Of sleepless nights.
Breakups, hair fall, a broken arm.
But I denied to break.

You see, I had ignited a fire within me.
And all I needed was a unicorn to sweep me off my feet.
And thus, I lived on a life,
Of Paradoxical sonnet.

But unicorns don’t exists.

Three rotis became one.
Social gathering, a headache.
Sunny days turned pensive.
I was draped on the outside
With yards of skin and layers of clothes,
Adorning a perfect mask
Of nonchalance.

But what about the inside
The part that lay bare, naked.
Naked; to be trampled.
Naked; to be whipped.
Naked; to be touched, stabbed once twice,
A hundred times?
“Get a grip of yourself.
Take deep breathes.
Count forward, count backward – 1.. 2.. 3..”

There were nights in my room
Days in the bathroom; lights on, lights off- it didn’t matter.
And I cried.
Cried behind doors, cried myself to sleep.
Sleep that stopped coming.

My BMI screaked at me to stop!
I couldn’t.

Friends became people.
People became crowd.
Crowd became beings with two arms and two legs.

Moving a foot felt like moving boulders.
I didn’t know what was happening to me!

Maa told me to talk.
But words;
They failed.
Failed to express, failed to know,
Failed to come out of the bourgeois.
Failed to form, failed to articulate.
Letters became mere arrays of – A B G P X Y Z.
No switched to turn off, no anchors
To hold on to.

Till,
I had no choice but to silence
The disarrayed words, figures, body, mind
Heart and soul.

Thus, I write one last time.
The last time ink shall ever leave
The tips of my nib.
The last time I shall ever
Struggle to breathe.

Let me sleep.
Good night.

I sat there holding on to it.
Stunned and lamented.
Lamented for reasons I didn’t understand; but would have.
Lamented for reasons I couldn’t wrap my head around; but would have.
Reasons, I knew I would have solved
If only, if only she would have
Let me catch her
Before she fell.

I sat,
Holding on to the non-existing body
That denied to stir.

 

(29.04.2017)

The Train for Mundane

I sit by the window sill.
The world passes by,
Not stumbling once.
It’s as if it was born to
Walk and talk and never stop.
The cooing of the birds
Silenced by the never ending blare
Of the passers-by.

Rumbling along the crevices
Of the city untold
Undeterred, stopped by a red light or two.
The train continues its course.
A woman smiles looking at her son,
A man hastily picks up his phone.
I sit and watch it all unfurl
On my 7:01 to Luxembourg.

My day goes down
Like a mundane show
That is played with a hope to have
A visitor someday.
A life of utter brown and dull
Is what I live every day.
But I wait for my way back on the train
To look at the world alive.

Unseen in the never ending crowd
Of suited men and masked faces
I trudge back and wait for my train.
Stuck and beaten
By the things around
All I house is disdain.
My train to Luxembourg and home
Is my only track to reign.