Vomit

My morning cereal
was all over the back of the van.

My throat burned
And my 6 year old eyes stung,
In pain, in shame,
And most of all – in pride.
I had promised Mumma I wouldn’t cry.
But all I wanted,
What I really wanted,
Was to let loose one sob,
Just one,
So that the knot in my tummy,
Or the knot in my throat,
Would melt.

My two long plaits were my only friends
standing outside with me,
And I would have called on them
to hug me,
If I didn’t feel my wet uniform
Sticking to my chest,
Or if I didn’t smell the smell that haunted me,
Hunted me,
From deep within me.

The pity in the van man’s eyes said,
“It’s all right, I won’t tell your Mumma”.
He gently lifted me back into the van,
To a dry seat by the window.
And with that,
Two drops weighing the earth, left me.

The school bell was long forgotten.
The other girls with the pretty pencils,
and obedient hair,
Had long gone in and called “absent”,
when I was summoned to show
my yellow
house, worth two gold stars.
The scabs on my palms missed
The bars of the jungle gym.

The engine roar was loud enough,
So no one but the black rexine seat heard,
Two more drops
plop.

My nose felt cool against the window,
And slowly,
So slowly,
I felt my attention wander
Even while the rest of me sat crying.
The scaly salt trails on my cheeks
Still felt like cake
When I saw that my buckled black shoes looked so pretty
Polished to a shine
By my grandfather’s able hands

This time, I wasn’t prepared
For the onslaught
Of plop, plop, plop.

I played with my tears,
Squashed them with my eyelids,
And by some strange alchemy, this
Made sunlight seven dotty colours.

Homecoming, today,
was magic.

God-light played between trees
That had finally woken
Stretching their arms up to the sky.
The wind did not have a flavour of hurry.
The air was not full
Of hot breath or bus exhaust
Or the giggles of gaggles of girls.

The scene was the same.
It’s just that the view had changed.

No wonder adults hid this from me.
Who knows how much trouble it would be
To get me interested in
Long division again.

My running nose had stopped,
My shoes were still black.
My tiffin box, intact.
And yet, I was received,
By the tough hands of my grandfather.
My scrawny arms cradled his neck,
And his hand found my head,
Even with the flecks
Of hurry-chewed cornflakes.

Inhaling the smell of his talcum and sweat,
I fell blissfully asleep.

Outside, the world had chugged on,
Unchanged by my vomit.

Paging No. 7

You will come, one day,
Bright eyed, black haired,
Laughing and learned,
Scornful and sceptical
Of my own scepticism.

You will agree to go Dutch,
Crave an occasional puff,
And walk the right pace,
And stay to my right.
You will say all the right things,
And ask all the right questions,
And to the only answerable one, I will say “yes”.

And one evening,
You will find me seated with a book,
Or toiling over a photograph,
Or some odd distraction –
Hair tied up,
Skin vulnerable,
And you will wonder,
How much water can the cups of my collarbones hold,
When the droplets drip,
Drop,
From the loose lobe of my ear.

You will one day
See the shadows my eyelashes cast
When I throw my head back, laughing
At an incredibly odd something
That only you could’ve said.

You will learn
To keep the bus, train and movie tickets,
You will learn
To hunt for the phone bills,
And the car’s registration papers,
You will learn
To put cheese in my noodles,
And save half the chocolate bar in the fridge.

You will know that I’m sorry
I won’t remember why I’m angry with you,
I may turn away in my sleep,
I won’t always be on time,
I won’t always know what to say.

And yet,

You will teach me the art
Of surprising myself.

But one day, you will come.
Funny, clear-headed, curly-haired.

Eighty Nine

Tell me things I don’t know.
Tell me things I haven’t heard.

Don’t tell me sins come in sevens,
Or that pain is a travesty called heartbreak.

Don’t tell me
I have hours to kill,
But only seconds to count,
Or that the early bird gets the worm,
And the second mouse gets the cheese.
And no,
You still can’t take my picture.

I know,
Skies are azure,
Sobs can be gut-wrenching,
Songs can be soulful,
Silence, deafening,
Prince Charming, a frog.

Tell me, instead,
That I may not, after all,
Have a befitting happily ever after,
Because of an ill-fitting glass slipper;
That when I wake from my slumber,
I will see what I saw last night –
And that it’s quite all right
for things to turn out like that.

Don’t tell me,
My boyfriend is bespectacled
because it hides his intelligent eyes,
But because he is quite myopic
(even about our future).
Don’t tell me,
My grandmother oiled my long hair.
Tell me, instead,
That she would knot peppermints and candies
in the edges of her sarees,
So she could bribe my love.

Don’t tell me a cat is non-commital,
Or cold,
Instead,
Write me a word to call
that wordless call
that comes from its gut –
When I spoil it
with affection.
Please, a word
stronger than purr,
But softer than growl,
A word that probably runs like:
mostsoulful,guttural,nakedresponsetotouch.

Tell me how to love differently,
And how the attempt
is not to show me how to love differently,
But how to love
as only I can.

Don’t tell me passion burns.
Actually, please don’t call it passion.
A crucifixion, a debate, lust, love and anger –
Cannot all be the same unit of language.

Don’t tell me skin is as smooth as silk,
Or hot as a furnace,
Or white as snow,
Or that I burst into insipid gooseflesh.
(can you imagine how repulsive that is for a vegetarian?)
I’m not chocolatey, dusky, or the colour of mocha,
I’m dark brown.
I’m not arithmetically challenged,
I’m awful at maths.

Tell me things no one has told me before.

Tell me new places to go with my mind,
That magic can be trapped
With just an old jam bottle,
And a wandering glow worm.
That on my post-it notes
Are things I don’t really want to do,
And things I’d rather forget.

Tell me what else to do with ketchup,
Other than draw smileys on plates for grumpy waiters,
What else to do with an idle pin,
than probe the thick skin around my thumb’s nail,
Tell me what to collect,
Apart from smooth stones, tickets, twigs, corks, crowns, coins,
Dots, debts, grudges, garbage, affairs, aphrodisiacs, addictions.

Tell me what rhymes with “month” and “rhythm”,
Tell me whether it’s good to be alive, or to be a celebrated fossil,
Tell me why it doesn’t matter why we’re here.

But first,
Tell me where to submit a few ideas I have
For a few new words
The vocabulary could do with.