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Silve’red’

silvered

 

Just like that, I’d outgrown the hood that once trailed behind me like a cape. Grandma insisted upon my wearing it every time I went to visit, for her house was deep in the woods and she didn’t trust the ways of the wilderness. “If you get lost, Little Red, all the better to find you with.” Twirling in front of the mirror, the cloak is now a mere scarf. I don’t know how to tell Grandma that I cannot curb my hunger; that I cannot stop myself from growing. And that I simply cannot wear this ludicrous cape anymore. Outside, the moon is full and heavy; hanging like a ripe cashew. I salivate.

My sister and I help ourselves to dinner gone long cold – Mother is never at home, I cannot remember the last time we shared a meal together as family. As I sit down, I hear a rip loud enough to wake the neighbors. I’d torn another one of my pants. Most of my clothes had holes in them, which were now too large to be sewn back together. “Are you on steroids? You seem to grow every second.” My sister asked me skeptically, adjusting her hat, pulling it below her eyes. I don’t get her strange obsession with wearing a hat off late, even indoors. Whenever I ask her about it, she just shrugs mysteriously. “Grandma will stitch it back when we go see her this weekend.” I growl. At the mention of Grandma my sister freezes, and her slate-grey eyes fix upon the hearth in a deathly stare. Grandma has made it ample clear that I am her unrivalled favorite; and when she speaks to her she pretends as though she is addressing an invisible audience in an invisible theatre. That is what my sister is to Grandma: invisible.

I distinctly remember how once, long ago, Grandma told me, “When I held your sister in my arms for the first time, she didn’t cry lustily like you did, Little Red. My, what a ruckus you made. I positively knew red was your color then. But she…she stared back at me coldly, with those grey eyes of hers. I cannot stand to look at them even today. Give me the heebie-jeebies, those eyes.” It was true then, it is true now. If you ever pass my sister you will feel a coldness wash over you like a lazy tide, to never feel quite dry afterwards. If I am red, my sister is silver – cold and heavy, swirling around you like a fog that won’t quite lift.

Needless to say, my sister and I share a tense relationship, stemming in large part, from Grandma’s prejudice. But now is not the time to address this growng divide. Tonight is for the outdoors; I cannot resist the deep tug of the low moon. After my sister is asleep, I set off into the night, the moonlight piercing through my formidable figure in dirty yellow beams. The woods are all too familiar now; I know every bristle, every bramble. Stopping right outside Grandma’s cottage, I forget to knock. Instead, my nails scratch the door excitedly. “Who is it?” mumbles a voice from within. Grandma’s voice sounds warm and thick and filled with the promise of sleep. “It’s me, Grandma,” I say, my breathing shallow, my voice coarse. “Little Red! Why are you not in bed?” says Grandma unlatching the door.

She stares at me in wonder. “Look how you’ve grown, Little Red, and my, what big teeth…”

I must say I did a thorough job, and when I head back it is cold, so cold that my bones rattle inside me. Not just my bones, but also Grandma’s. I left the scarf behind at her doorstep, but true to my name, I continue to see red through my bloodshot eyes.

Because I am so preoccupied with my own changes, it takes me a while to notice them in my sister. She refuses to take off her hat, a now permanent fixture upon her head. I am dying to know what her hair looks like beneath it, for I cannot remember. She does not look in the mirror, as if she is afraid of her own reflection. I know I am no match for her cunningness, and she will soon know about Grandma.

“She was old. She had to go,” I say quietly, almost feebly. We are outside Grandma’s house. My sister is shaking with rage, and the silver moon quivers with her. “You are so selfish! You won Grandma’s affection, but you didn’t give me the chance to destroy it!” So saying, she flings her hat to the ground, her hair springing out in wild curls. I shrink in horror when I realize they are not curls at all, but hissing serpents, twisting and coiling from her head.
My sister, Medusa.

I cannot bring myself to look at her, so I glance at the moon instead, awaiting my imminent transformation. Before she reaches out to grab my face and meet her gaze, I leap back, full wolf, summoning my lupine strength to take a swipe at my terrible, beautiful sister. My claws slash her skin, just as her eyes rise to meet mine. One final time. But when I turn to stone, it’s she who howls.

 

 

 

 

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Nostalgia

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After all these years
The familiarity stuns me.
I catch a glimpse of you through
My car window: your confident gait,
Near swagger – the jab of a dagger
Into my memory that can’t forget.
Sharp. No blood.

News travels fast in a small town
And soon we are sitting beside each other
Unconsciously tracing fingers over our names
Etched deep into the old wood of
That bar table – back when we displaced
Self-harm attempts onto furniture.
We were 18 then.

At night when our lips kiss
The warmth doesn’t quite spread
To my toes. From over your
Cold shoulder I can see the moon
Dousing the fire we once possessed.
I step back to realise that even our ashes
Are icy.

Nostalgia whistles through the hollows
Of my flute of a heart – making
Melodies, chimes of sadness.
We speak in sorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompts

So-Do-Me

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That day in school, he learnt a new idiom. It didn’t strike him as particularly remarkable.

He also learnt that at high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure drops making it hard to breathe. You can turn blue.

But nearly every day at school, he revisits some old lessons. Lessons that began years ago.

Like how in times of urgency, a belt is a nuisance. And how when machines are well-oiled, they do not squeak when used. Three Augusts ago until today, he goes home with a greasy zipper.

His mother never notices.

As a child, he used to spend a lot of time staring at the water swirling when he flushed the toilet. God forbid someone anger the dirty-water deities. A whirlpool would suck the whole of humanity in.

That’s how they found him one day, peering at the receding ripples in the school urinal. They said they’d show him the science of waterworks.

He was doused in milky spray. They convinced him he’d just encountered the first of many leaky faucets.

Before the lesson concluded, the teacher mentioned in passing that the pressure underwater can be tremendous too, weighing you down. He could relate more to this. He was pushed into the deep side without being given the chance to test the waters first. He wondered in those moments whether his face turned blue, or white.

At what atmospheric pressure does the colour of fear become apparent?

“Did you learn anything new today in class?” his mother asked, as she walked home with him from school. “An idiom. ‘Never wash your dirty linen in public.’ It means one should not talk publicly talk about one’s personal problems that are best left private.” he muttered. “Incredible!” his mother rejoined.

He wondered why despite the fact that his linen was washed at home, the stains refused to fade.

 

Via Daily Prompt: Atmospheric

Daily Prompts

The Dubois Traveling Circus

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Coming to your city
The Dubois Traveling Circus

 

A sword sharpened,
Burnished.
Inside the tent, a man,
Famished.
He knows that
Tonight, and every night
Not all that is swallowed
Is digested.

Singed.
Not scorched-
Not yet.
Once gold
Then bronze
Now dull.
The lion will take
Another leap of faith through
Fiery hoops.
Tonight.

They walk on tightropes.
Stretched. Taut.
Birds on
Live wires.
Fraught with*
Rope-snapping
Hand-flapping
Spectators-clapping
*Danger

The Dubois Traveling Circus
Is at your doorstep:
Be a part of the spectacle
Don’t be dubious.

 

Via Daily Prompt: Dubious

 

Daily Prompts

Black Strat Blues

“I got into a riff,” he said, sounding nasal over the phone.

She dismissed it, thinking it was the usual music lingo he resorted to when he got excited about a new composition, or when he wanted to draw a wall around him. She was too tired to scale it then.

She shrieked in alarm when she went over to meet him a few days later. He’d gotten into another bar fight. She didn’t want to ask what started it. Perhaps his drunken strumming. Or some such jazz.

It tugged at her heart strings to realise that what he really meant was, he had gotten into a tiff. 

 

Daily Prompt: Riff

 

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The Zookeeper

 

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He goes on his nightly rounds across the acres.

Checking and cross-checking to ensure the locks are firm.

Everything seems to be in place. Still, something stirs in his soul. Somewhere ahead, a wolf howls and a hyena cackles.

He makes his way to the lion’s enclosure to see it sprawled over a boulder. In the dark of the night, the gold fur looks like highly polished sand. Satisfied, he leaves.

The lion sleeps tonight. It is not in the jungle. It is not mighty.

As he goes onward, everything is eerily quiet. The monkeys are strangely silent – as if they finally realised that shaking the grills won’t lead to their opening.

Then he begins to hear it. Slow and steady, until it reaches fever pitch. The birds.

Cockatoos. Parakeets. Canaries. A heady rush of feathers.

He watches silently, as they take to the sky. Their bodies are luminescent in the moonlight. He watches until they merge with the blackness of the night.

He walks to inspect the damage. Just a few broken locks, no real harm done.

He realises that some things cannot be kept in cages. Love, for instance.

Which is why he became a zookeeper. To put things behind bars.

If only he looked up one final time before leaving, he might have beheld a magnificent sight.

With the birds perched comfortably on it, the moon had grown wings.

 

 

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Wilder Park

 

Hyde-Park-5

 

In the morning, the acres resound

With rubber soles slapping

Tar and bicycle bells ringing in

The day. Dogs need no leashes and the park

Pants with them. Hot heavy breath.

Filled with the promise of life.

 

At noon, lovers stroll

Arm-in-arm and

When none looks, tongues

wrap tight around each other like gift paper

On birthday presents.

Things get wet…

 

Because it rains but children don’t care

And run to the park in the evening, indenting

Wet soil with their size-3 shoe prints.

Anxious mothers follow this trail

to find them laughing gaily as

The merry-go-round spins to a stop

One final time.

It’s time to go home now because

Twilight arrives in a daze.

 

The park is off limits at night-

The guards lean against their

Black jeeps, waiting, watching and

Sometimes laughing-with the trees leering

In gothic rows behind them.

 

The rain comes back again quietly,

Like a disconcerting guest-

Making everyone shuffle uncomfortably.

The guards huddle inside their jeeps biding

Another sleepless night.

 

The steady stream prises open the rigidly locked soil

And it flows with the inky ease of a fountain pen.

He glides in, his black skin

Needing no camouflage.

 

The next morning they discover

A body dangling-

 

From the slick branches of a tree.

 

 

Hands work in haste

Alternatively rubbing red eyes

And hiding black death from

Plain sight. None needed

An early morning fright.

 

The jeeps pull away and

The park opens its gates

To a new day.

 

An old man stared at a tree whose branch looked grotesquely out of shape-like a fractured limb. But he didn’t see a rope coiled loosely on the ground. It was still knotted.

 

Daily Prompts

Birth of Nations

Hello Amma,

I caught you standing in front of the mirror, with your shirt lifted up. I watched you watch yourself, and I felt many things. Most of all, I felt wonder.

Your stomach looked like a globe. Round. Spotted. Uneven, like the map-man had run out of ink in some places, or pressed down too hard at others. Amma, you contain nations.

A thin coat of melanin covers that sphere. But when I look closely, I see the green of trees, the blue of oceans and the red of love.

Somewhere in that ball, you are home to the sun, moon and stars-the celestial circle of life.

You are glorious.

Do not worry when you pull your shirt down, and see it stretch over the bulge. I walked out of there once but-instead of leaving you empty, I left you full.

Amma, in your girth

Lies the birth

Of nations.

Via Daily Prompt: Glorious

Uncategorized

The Man with the Binoculars

Front back

Left right and

All around-a little girl

Bobs on a swing

That spreads out behind her like an oval wing.

 

There’s a smattering a

Pitter-pattering; the rain slants

Like the slope of a graph she

Never quite understood and

From the distance, neither

Did he-I mean

The Man with the Binoculars.

 

From those glass circles perched

Upon his nose he knows

She’s coffee-sipping

On her swing-dipping

Rain-dripping but dry

Page-flipping—

A book. She reads it clear, for the words

Have not bled, gotten wet

From the torrential tears of the sky.

 

But The Man with the Binoculars struggles

To find a Home within his World for

Tagore cannot give him the answer and

He lays down his binoculars.

He has seen enough,

But not quite.

 

And the little girl

Bobs on a swing

That spreads out behind her like an oval wing.