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

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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

 

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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

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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.

 

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Lungi: a sarong-like garment wrapped around the waist and extending to the ankles, worn by both sexes in India and in Burma (Myanmar), where it is the national dress

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Oh father,

Where is the lungi you once wore?

The white one with black checks-

It felt soft and

Old-old with the pleasant weight

And lightness

Of being

A Malayali.

 

You wear shorts now:

Little boxes you insert

Your legs into-searching

For a freedom

That can only be afforded

By a lungi.

 

Oh father,

Did you forget

The stories of

Our rice fields

Our coconut trees

Our painted faces and

Our ritualistic dances-

 

Let not the backwaters of your still Malayali mind

Wash away these echoes of our past-a past

That is still very present, and

It is your lungi that has all these stories woven,

Tightly packed in those checks

Of your fabric.

 

Dear father, please

Wear your lungi again because I-

Still remember