Missing

Missing

Is a funny thing

I miss you, I miss me

The way it used to be

I miss coral bleeding across

Bright blue sky

The warmth of foggy breath

And a wet nose at my knee

 

I miss tea, too sweet

Biscuits, just right

And brown eyes begging

To give him some of mine

I miss blue-lined irises

That fascinated me

Through childhood

Realising only later

How beautiful and heartbreaking

Defects could be

 

I miss a roof

I could pretend was a galaxy

Cobwebs were nebulae

And streaks of dust comets

Burning a fiery path

Across my mind’s eye

The lingering smell

Of cigarette smoke

Grounding me to reality

 

Missing

Is what you are

Like the person cut

Out of a photograph

You slipped away, quiet

In the fanfare of Dusshera

Visarjan had a different meaning

For me suddenly

As our family drowned in grief

And the torrent of our tears

 

Your body returned

To dust and ashes

Amidst celebrations and crackers

The devi made her yearly trip

To be immersed

I know she will return

Next year

I wish you could

Come back too

 

But we shall hold on

Keeping you alive

In memories fresh and old

In photographs I find anew

In old pains bleeding again

Until they dissipate once more

Like the mist you’d watch

From your window

Until it settled on the leaves

The next morning

 

-Gautami.

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Other

Does your love

Think of me

With smiles hardening

And eyes losing sudden lustre

Conversation drying up

Like water in desert sand

Heart beating faster

In fear of losing you

 

I laugh

At the idea

That anyone could worry

About you and me

How can you lose someone

To another who has no grip

On a flitting heart

That cannot stay still

At least not for me

 

For yes

Perhaps we were good together

Laughter simmering

On the pink of

Bitten lips

And warm cheeks

Arms holding tight

And shy glances

But it all slipped through

Like the strings of a kite

Between childish fingers

Cut too soon

 

Does she ask you

If you ever think of me

Eyes pleading you to

Say no, never

She can spare herself

The breath

You were never one

To look back over your shoulder

To see the mess you left behind

Much less to come back

To help pick it up

 

All we ever look for

Is a home

Where our heart beats soft

And lights glow like stars

Burning in our eyes

Calming the storms

In restless minds

Arms encircling fragile bodies

Hearts encircling

Broken hearts

 

I was never home for you

You were never at peace

With your arms round my waist

And fingers playing with

Errant locks of my hair

My fingers clasped in yours

Could not tie you down

To stay with me

Until the next apology

 

All I ever was, darling

Was a pit stop

On your faltering journey

Another variable in your universe

Clouded behind the smoke

Curling from your lips

And the mirrors of your lies

One foot always out the door

Key in the ignition

Ready to run again

 

But in her,

In her, my love

You found your destination

Your home

Your constant

In a world of variables

No smoke, no mirrors

Just the boy who vowed

Never to fall in love

Walking into its waiting arms.

 

-Gautami

Space

Maybe my heart is so heavy

Because it’s still so full

Of you

So do I tip you out

To make room for the ones to come

Or do I keep you there

To jostle with the rest

Elbows and ankles fighting

For the space

You so badly wanted

And got, like you always do

I would smile at the irony

In this battle

You will eventually lose

But it would make no difference

You didn’t care then

You don’t care now

Some things are destined, darling

Never to change

 

-Gautami.

Senses

I suppose there’s something

About our five senses

Holding onto memory

With something stronger

Than fickle minds

Nostalgia hidden bone deep

Coming to surface once more

Catching you unawares

Like the riptide snatching

At unsteady feet,

Pulling you away.

 

I say I’ve moved on

It is in the iron you wrought

In a delicate soul

It is in the relative steadiness

Of a once stuttering heart

In the way I don’t jump

To answer your calls anymore

In the way I can laugh, without

The weight that was crushing

My lungs, your love clogging

My very veins

It is in my perpetual fear

Of being the one left behind

 

But my senses are treacherous

Because they have weaved

Sight, sound, smell

Inextricably in memories of you

So much so that

You’re in the tunes

Of a man singing about

People falling in love

In mysterious ways

And the dance we never had

To the same song

You’re in the album art

In the posters splashed

Across your wall

 

You’re in the smell of strawberries

In the cream I’d put on

For you

You’re in the scald

Of coffee, drunk too fast

As you sat on my sofa

You’re in the wind tangling

In my hair, snatching

Bubbling laughter from my lips

And the warmth of a hug

Under the light of the cars

Whizzing by, and the stars

Dotting the night

You’re in our laughter

As your shirt hung off my skin,

Still warm under your touch

You’re in the sound

Of motorcycle engines revving

And the smell of hot butter

On cooking kebabs

 

Most days, you’re lost

In the shelf of my mind

Where I lock away things of the past

That made me bleed, once

That have faded to distant aches, now

But on some days

The wind blows back the smoke

Into my breath

And with it, you

And you come alive to me

Once more, reopening old scars

Just a bit

 

But nostalgia cannot reignite

Flames long stamped out

In repeated mistakes and warm tears

And the mist of the dawn

Fades away under the light

Of a burning sun

So, my love, do you disappear

The way you did so many times

Until all that lingers

Is the ghost of things long gone,

Once loved, long lost.

 

-Gautami.

Note to self

Do we ever truly stop loving someone?

Or do we just learn

Do we just teach ourselves

To forget and let go

Childish fingers unclasping

Around the string of a balloon

Letting it fly away

 

Because memories will fade

Like the henna disappearing

From the hands of a bride

Left at the altar, but

Your words will remain

Long after your promises

Crumble like pillars of sand

Under the weight of reality

 

You said

When your lips first touched mine

It felt a lot like home

Words, words, words

In a tidal wave

Of what looked a lot like love

 

But homes can be left behind

Along with baggage dumped

At airport terminals

At unsaid goodbyes

And on the virgin lips

Of your lover’s first kiss

Addictions can be broken

And jigsaws destroyed

People can be reduced

To ghosts that will dissipate

In your memory,

Never looking back

 

Loose ends can be snipped away

As if they never were

Until our story is reduced

To a page, nay

A few words

In your book

Echoes that will never

Ring again

 

I thought our hearts

Beat in tandem,

But the truth was, my love

Yours was always a beat ahead

Leaving me behind

From the very start

There’s only so far you can run

Before your feet give up

Absence does not make the heart

Grow fonder

It merely glosses over the bad

Making you long for the good

But the two are intertwined

The way our fingers used to be

 

So while you long

For things long past,

Forget not that mistakes

Tend to repeat themselves

And everything you ever cared for

Can cut you like the broken pieces

Of your grandmother’s crystal

And the slash of careless words

Burning permanent scars

Remember, wilted roses of yesterday

Do not carry tomorrow’s perfume

 

-Gautami.

 

 

 

Letters from my ex

I saw you in the supermarket today

Safely hidden from your sight

By a pile of soap on display

Not the brand you buy

I saw you pick up

The cheese I used to like

For my breakfast

And put it down, like hot coal

And I knew then

That you still thought of me

When your brain was

On autopilot

When you heard our song

And smiled that sad little smile

Writ with regret and memory

When lying in your lover’s arms

Your body still adjusting

To a warmth that isn’t familiar

Not the way it used to be

 

I know this

Because I do it too

When my lover kisses me

It is foreign and new

And pushes me off kilter

Thinking of you

I still pick up eggs on the way home

And my lover is a vegetarian

When my mind wanders

It wonders if you sometimes

Think of me

When you can’t sleep

At 2:56 am, restless

When you water the plants

We planted together

When you see the little pieces of us

Still standing in the universe

Even though we fell apart

 

When did we get so afraid

Of love

Of life

Of everything in between

When did we start fearing

Endings so much

That we ran away from

Every chance to begin

That we tasted the bitter ashes

Of failure and finality

Before we could sip from

The honey of hope

When did we get so jaded

That we were so sure

Things wouldn’t work

That we never even tried

Greys colouring over blooming hues

Refusing to believe in good

 

And I want to tell you

That I’m sorry

For never giving us a chance

For dooming everything

Before it could ever start

And crushing fresh buds

Under the heel of my stubborn belief

My love, you deserved better

Than another heartbreak

But perhaps the universe

Works in its own ways

You look up and catch my eye

And a brief smile is all we share

Before you pick up a brand of cheese

I do not recognise

And I pick up the tofu

You would never eat

And we walk away,

To return to new homes, new arms

 

All I can do now

Is hope you are happy

Because I think I am

There’s this soft contentment

Replacing the numb exhaustion

That lay in the wake of my bitter anger

I am learning

To let the past lie

To look forward instead of back

All the things you tried to teach me

That I was too stubborn to learn then

Are healing me now

And I pray you haven’t forgotten

How to hope and love

Though I might have taught you to

Distrust hope and shun it

Because dreams and disappointment

Were two sides of a coin

Too easy to flip

 

And we were both right,

Just on two polar ends

Refusing to budge, refusing to see

Any middle ground

That now paves the path

I walk on

Littered with lessons from

Past mistakes

Perhaps one day

I will see you on it

And we will smile at

Our previous selves,

Fighting in futility

While we will walk on

Together or otherwise

To learn from fresh mistakes

Until our destinies pull us apart again.

 

-Gautami.

Sometimes, home has a heartbeat.

Every bird must fly its nest

It is the rule of nature

Once old enough,

Every little fledgling

Must stretch unsteady wings

And fly away

To fend for itself

 

But umbilical cords

People refuse to cut

Too often wrap themselves

As nooses around

Their children’s dreams

Leashes to hold

Precious offspring in their backyards

Stopping them from running

Bright-eyed, following their fantasies

 

My mother let her children

Seek their own fortunes

Make their own choices,

Pull the strings

To their own puppet shows

Mould their futures

Like the play doh childish fingers

Would fiddle with

 

Now, as foreign roads

Stretch themselves out before me

Like the lines crisscrossing

My mother’s palm

And I taste home

In the spices of food

A thousand miles away

Alleyways behind weathered churches

Reminiscent of the streets

Behind my school

The smell of hot tea

Transporting me to serene evenings

A book in my hand

And a familiar smile

On a weathered face

 

And I know

When the weight of homesickness

Becomes too heavy

For my heart to bear

There’s a light burning for me

Somewhere beyond these

Neverending miles

A beacon beckoning

Her ship to shore

Waiting to grasp my hands

With palms roughened by years

Of washing clothes and dishes

Of bandaging wounds and

Untangling a million little messes

Home, shifting through time

Through the boundaries of states

Winding up, always

In the rest of a tired head

On a familiar knee.

 

– Gautami.

To the woman who makes a million little sacrifices in a heartbeat for us everyday, who has suffered and emerged stronger than ever. To the woman who has made us everything we are and ever will be; teacher, guiding light. Happy birthday, Amma. We love you.