First Published by RædLeafPoetry-India 2 poems archived/Published on 03.01.2015
I remember the big Almirah at our place, like
those of our neighbours’ and their neighbours’
and so on…in whose shelves after dusty shelves sat
various glass jars of water like Egyptian figurines.
‘Those are yours and mine,’ she uttered, her
booming voice echoing every time. Not to forget that
look on her face as she admired them, like an athlete
whose time has come and gone, admiring her trophy collection.
Soon I was given my first jar: a stout specimen
filled with so little water I cried incessantly on seeing it.
The water was muddy red. This was when I turned six.
My playmate then got a similar one, but
filled with sparkling clean water.
I got my second one when I got my first pimple.
This time a slender jar half –filled with water.
I got the next one when I got married, the next one
when you were born; each time the water level
getting ever so higher than the previous time.
‘You will get a jar full of water when you reach God,’
my grandmother had consoled me the day I had cried.
In the next spring, she died peacefully in her sleep.
My father gave her a bulkier looking glass jar,
this one full of brackish water. Her coffin was
packed with her bottles and her body.
My mother got one too when she died –
an ugly duckling of a jar filled with brownish
orange water. It would have made her remember
the cough syrup she had drunk almost daily
in those last few years till the day she died.
When my friend Rachel’s mother passed away
many summers ago, she was given a jar
full of clear water, engraved with flying fishes
and little mermaids.
‘Our water burns in the sun, just like we do,
and so it will remain coloured, unlike theirs!’
this was my father making the water
even more murkier, with his reasoning.
This was the belief in our community,
until the day the lake dried up, i.e. the lake
that held clear water – their clear water –
Rachel was worried that she will not
be allowed her rite of passage. In the days
that followed, she became more stoic
than what she could take.
I told her to cry. And save her tears.
They are colourless and could be precious.
She might get away with them in her afterlife.
And she did just that: crying day and night. Till she
got too weak to cry. But by then, she
had saved a jar full of tears for her onward journey.
On solemn nights, I hear the God
screaming in my dreams, ‘Go! Bring me
one more jar of water – full – somehow.’
And every time I ask Him why, He replies with a smile,
‘Fulfilled jars fulfil your journey!’
I wake up then, invariably.
Eye-balls for Supper
A ricochet it was
that plucked their fangs like grapes
from blood red gums,
in the process broke
deep inside their abdomen and
let them bleed into an abscess-
a puss on their molars:
teeth that can tear apart
the hard skin of deer;
at times when it goes rogue
missing everything that the bullet
had already missed,
a single axe does the job:
till what is left are stumps and solitude
for their supper.
A bullet will not suffice anymore,
a bullet is too civilized,
a bullet kills according to physics.
Not when the blood splashes in a fountain,
and the corpses, lying to be discovered
Perhaps the beasts had developed
bipolar disorder soon afterwards.
By the next full moon,
they slipped in
and slipped out
with the sinews of an orphan
playing in the backyard.
A kill followed soon –
peeled off by powerful claws
and preyed upon by softer molars
in broad daylight
when the shadow falls on itself in fear.
But there had been other kills too,
for colour & cunt
spilling blood like sunlight
on forest floor and muddy waters.
Do they roar at the sacrificial altar?
Not these days.
Not when they are busy burping,
after having gorged eye-balls
for the nightfall.
Shriram Sivaramakrishnan, a poet from India, calls himself an eternal lover of ‘things in between’ — roads less travelled, emotions seldom expressed, moments forever lost, and so on.