Fleeting Words

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POET In the dull summer of 2020 A faceless friend said let's challenge ourselves She came up with a bunch of words Unconnected Yet meaningful And said, Write, Write to your heart's content Write something, anything But write. I laughed for I've never written Anything but personal stories How was I to be inspired by a mere random word But I am not one to stay away from a good challenge So, I took out my pen once again And sat at my desk And so it became a practice Every night Me, my pen, my desk, and a random word Every night I surprised myself.


TABLE OF C O N T E NT S sudden poetry advice unsolved lines home summer if windows silence mother

normal blind yesterday fragrant comfort distance restless pause emergency recipe goodbye

SUDDEN Suddenness sometimes comes in unnoticed Along with the quiet dust-filled sunlight streaming through that hole in the roof Or on your bike, as you wait for the light to turn green Or when you sit at the top of the hill grasping the clouds around you Suddenness comes in just like that Pausing the world around you Letting you have that piece of time all to yourself That moment before the epiphany dawns That silent silent moment And then it releases that moment The sunlight reveals the animal crouched in the corner Your bike doesn't start, missing being dragged along by that errant truck The clouds move aside revealing the deep gorge you were sitting next to And life is never the same again.

POETRY Those bunch of words stitched together Written by a hand on a somber evening Reaching out to the hearts of the broken, The wounded, the defeated, the lost As if it were their own voice on that paper And find solace that they were Finally seen by at least one. Like the last ray of hope A poet knows not How many souls she has saved.

ADVICE Pieces of Advice. Never took any Never gave Until tonight When someone asked me How I had walked on fire I didn’t know it was Fire, i.e.

And it all came back to me How all that my eyes could see, was The light at the end of the tunnel So beautiful a vision That the sting in my feet felt like little tickles And the smell of searing flesh tasted like adrenaline

So, I told them how it was just Placing one step in front of the other Be it on fire or embers Just one step ahead of the other Again And again And again Bloody Advice You sneaked onto my tongue.

UNSOLVED You left But left yourself in me Etched deep A constant reminder of the pain Of your existence And your absence And now that you’ve gone A new mystery unfolds itself Did you come into my life To hurt me Or prepare me For what was to come Did you see My heart on my sleeve And pluck it and crush it on purpose Before anyone else could Did you break me on purpose Just to make me stronger Could you come back Just this once And make things clear to me So that I could decide Once and for all Whether I should hate you Or Love you

LINES I stared out of the window As the heavens poured Soothed by the drumming on the roof Getting high on petrichor In my hand, though, I felt it beckon me Blank lines on the paper calling out to be filled I asked the voices in my head After years of screaming, Why were they suddenly still?

My gaze fell on the windowpane I peered trying to figure it out Something strange about the face in there Wasn’t it my face after all And slowly it dawned on me That what was unfamiliar The face looking back at me Had a new content smile on

The voices were there albeit calmed down A mere shadow of its former self Wistfully I shut those blank lines Being happy had dried up my pen.

When many a land has shaped you And many a language sits comfortably on your tongue And the rhythm of any city easily makes sense to you That’s when you know you truly belong to none For when any place can become your home ‘Home’ it never does truly become.


SUMMER Was it a hot summer day Or a cold winter evening Or when the autumn leaves fell I still can’t quite place the moment You walked into my life It was quite uneventful Like the day you walked out I remember the time you were there though Rather, the ‘me’ you brought out

Do I even want you back, I don’t know You changed me so much I don’t need you anymore Yet this summer breeze That flows through my window right now Has memories of a first love That crashed as all first loves do This gentle summer breeze

Has a whiff of you I thought I forgot Has a longing for you I didn’t know I had Has the touch of your lips I didn’t know I missed I guess you don’t always want what you need. So, hey Summer Breeze Could you take back my message to him And tell him That I don’t miss him at all.

IF What if I had taken that call What if I hadn’t

What if every choice that I made Was actually the worse of the two

What if I had stayed silent What if I had spoken up

Is it even possible To mess up every single time Over and over again

What if I had taken that chance What if I had backed out What if I had fought less What if I had heard first Before I took the courage to say What if I didn’t say it at all

What if I’d done it all differently Would I still be this me Or a far better version It only suffices to say That my epitaph won’t read ‘No Regrets’

WINDOWS Ah, the stories that windows tell A family forced to sit together on the couch Flickering lights reflecting the boredom on their faces Far-away eyes on individual trips A lone grandmother pushing her dinner cart To the large single sofa at the end of the room Where sits a tiny tiny dog only seen For brief moments as he excitedly jumps in the air A wild party dimmed by the closed glass panes Celebration of an engagement The many empty wine bottles on the table, however, Hides a broken heart in the crowd Sitting here by my window Hidden in the dark I stubbed my cigarette on my plastered leg And adjusted my binoculars to a farther range Fuelling my new found entertainment Ah the stories that windows tell That's when my eyes fell upon her She sat there with a glass in her hand Leaning against her window, bound to a wheelchair like me, though, I see no cast Instead lies there an empty blanket Lying limp where legs should've been Her eyes, her eyes were twinkling though With a strange sense of mischief Drawing me to look at her directly And from this distance, I could see her face shine As she raised her glass to me.

SILENCE Time didn’t fly as fast As his drumming fingers As he mentally willed For the train to go faster He couldn’t wait to get home To see her again To sit beside the window And wait for her to call him Wait for the noises of the night To slowly call it a day Wait till even the rush of the wind Seemed like a sleepy baby’s breath For that’s when she came out When it was silent Completely silent.

And stood below the banyan tree That marked the halfway mark Between his house and hers Her silhouette was unmistakable As she waved her hand to his Shining like an angel under the moonlight It had to be her Who else could it be Who else would know that spot Where they spent their childhood evenings Where they shared their first kiss Where they made love giggling in the dizziness of youth

He had missed her so much since he had gone Years later when he came back to his childhood house She was the first person he sought And she’d responded In the dead of the night The silence carried her voice to him Who else could it be Who else would know the spot Where he had buried her.

MOTHER Open arms that calm you Whether you are three or thirty The only person whose humble food Can satisfy the hunger in your bones And no matter how hard you try to perfect That recipe, it’ll always be short of that special something Someone you can throw all your tantrums at Knowing that they’ll never turn into a grudge No matter how much you struggle at adulting She’s just a phone call away with a simple solution And suddenly all your troubles seem bearable And then you wonder how she did it all At so young an age When you can’t even get Your mundane daily act together But everything changes Take it from me You don’t truly appreciate her sacrifices You don’t truly understand her love Till you become one.

NORMAL It was always about the race How far should she go What does she keep on her list What dreams should she not miss Don’t stop to smell the flowers That’s only in poems, she told herself Starting from the scratch wasn’t daunting Because she knew deep within That there are those kinds of fires too That keep people alive So, she kept that fire burning Milestones after milestones she’d achieved Just like she’d planned Just like she’d always wanted. And then she slowed down, stopped even To finally smell the flowers But it wasn’t meant to be Because then the voices started Why does she have to justify stopping When no one asked her why she ran Isn’t it ok to be content When she’s done with the whole race And now everyone claims to be getting ahead of her But she doesn’t see the distance between them Like they all do Like they all remind her You could’ve been so much more, they said You could’ve gone places. But isn’t that the actual point of the race The bloody finishing point! The calmness, the stillness, the silence And as she sits sipping her coffee Calm, for she knows what’s in store She ponders once again at the same question Is wanting to be normal… not normal anymore?


The fresh mogra flowers donning Akka's head As she quietly swabs the floor The tasty ghee fried cashews in Amma's famous payasam The soft strumming of the veena Which accompanies the next door aunty's early morning sadhana The palpitating excitement in the squeals of the kids on the pavement below As they see their paper boats sail in the puddle The fine wrinkles around ammamma's eyes That tells me she is smiling The dampness in those wrinkles That tells me she has cried Again. It is amazing the things one begins to see After one loses his sight.

If Yesterday came knocking on my door And told me That I could go back And change one moment Any moment I probably wouldn't change a thing The bad or the ugly But I'd go to that girl That young girl from the past And leave a note by her bedside Or probably a message in her dreams I'd tell her That it will one day get better So stop a while Take a break Take a sip of that cold coffee A slow slow sip You don't have to rush You don't have to be so hard on yourself Laugh a little Dance a while Breathe. You'll eventually get there Trust me I know


FRAGRANT A faded old suitcase Guards a precious treasure An essence of yours That still lingers Though every time I open it Bit by bit it floats away Yet I open my suitcase And pull out that empty shirt And wrap its arms around me Empty But the whiff that you've left behind The last memory of your existence Soothes me And I feel safe again And I'll continue to open the suitcase In the hope that One day when the fragrance is gone My need for it will too

COMFORT Bludgeoned by the day I staggered in Clothes dripping Creating puddles at my feet Shoulders heavy from the weight Of endless futile arguments And the disappointment of failing Again Slowly dragged myself to the far end of my house Where tucked away in a corner Stood my only connection to sanity A tall aging shelf With books new and old Reached out to the oldest of them all And opened its pages And took a deep breath Of that sweet dusty fragrance Closed my eyes and let that smell take me Far away into a dream of a thousand stories and millions of little hopes To the writing desks of authors From a different time To a rusty old paper mill where some hapless worker was creating magic he knew not of And slowly it all melted away The fatigue The wetness The disappointment. Comfort The only kind I know.

DISTANCE As I stand at the edge of the cliff Distances seem to have a new meaning The icecream vendor’s bell sounds so close by And the whistle of the rush hour train so distant Eyes closed, arms stretched, I can still f eel Rain dripping down from the edge of the roof And yet to those outstretched arms A lover’s touch remains aloof I’ve travelled so far from where I started Far ahead, or so I thought Or did I step further behind In quest of the changing dreams I sought Everything that I ran after Has disappeared once I got there And when I looked inside at what I took along That too didn’t care to stay As I stand at the edge of the cliff With arms open, the cold winds I greet I smile because I know That the distance between life and death Is afterall just a heartbeat

The soldiers have been knocked down one by one A few remain standing at the far side of enemy lines Waiting to trade their lives for higher-ups The knight has fought till its last breath And the cavalry long having swapped its place Lay open to the enemy's attack The Battle though was now between the two Queens only Each closely following the other's moves One protecting what the other coveted As a dozen aged eyes stared at the battlefield, restless Waiting with bated breath To hear the word, Checkmate


PAUSE When you sit at the doorstep waiting for your older brother to come back home, and he finally does And he comes running to you and slowly pulls his hand out of his pocket When everyone in the house is gathered around the old beat radio in the dark, straining to listen to the commentator And the crackled voice says that the ball has been hit high And everyone holds their breath for the next few seconds When you're playing in the garden And a cab pulls to the gate But neither of your parents step out

Instead, your uncle and aunt walk solemnly towards you And you look at them back and forth wordlessly Waiting for them to say something When standing in the bone-chilling winter nights at one of the highest peaks of the nation protecting its border, you stand facing the end of the gun while at the same time brandishing your own at those cold eyes and only the winds' howling can be heard Its always after the pauses that the story unfolds

EMERGENCY A long hallway Clean white tiles on the floor And the walls Dim lights at even intervals on the ceiling Few chairs thrown together Sitting by themselves in a corner Why is it always like this Would shorter hallways make it any less scary a walk Why tiles on the walls Do the stains on them really go Does the gap between the lights slow time, or Give false hopes of an elongated life to the ones being pulled under Why do those chairs make you want to stand longer Or are these so carefully designed Only to make sure you stay focussed On that lone door at the end of the hallway Hanging below the lone red light Hanging under the sign As if your eyes wouldn't be fixed on it anyway Waiting for the light to go off Waiting for the door to open Trying hard to read the expression on that trained face Praying it is not what you deep down know it is

RECIPE A sea of eager eyes looked up to the stage 'Looked up' being more literal than figurative, I reminded myself "What is your recipe for success?" they asked What should I tell them That hard work is more important Than talent, Or confidence, Or luck, Or all of them together That to rise above others Is to rise above one's yester self Every single day Over and over again That the courage you need Is not to set on unchartered paths But to admit that the chosen path is wrong And start all over again That rebelling is easy, but What requires true strength is Taking everyone along That there will be choices to make Every damn time So the only thing that keeps you going, is Clarity Absolute, stripped-down clarity Of what you want, or Want to be That there are no deadlines to dreams You need patience Loads of it Because 'someday' could be tomorrow, or Twenty years away What is the recipe for your success, they asked. I smiled and told them "Don't stop."


GOODBYE Goodbye Such a futile word Never gets used properly Doors just close Things just end People just leave And the goodbye remains stuck Somewhere deep down your throat Only to rear it's sad head days later When the sky is crying Instead of you And the coffee has long gone cold Reminding you That even though you knew such a word existed It's only now that you know its meaning.

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