June 29, 2010

I swear

She runs to side of the shed, back thumping wood, hands clutched around her heart, holding it close. She looks around to see if she is alone, strawberry blonde hair swinging this way and then that, but no one has followed her, the sounds of her classmates’ playing are muffled and before her is empty grass and silence. She raises her clasped hands to her nose and slowly pulls them open to peer inside, at it, her new find, her latest treasure. It is still there, pulsing and vibrant and alive: for a second she is transfixed in wonder. Then she claps her hand to her mouth and swallows, feeling it slither down her throat like liquid sliver and collect in her chest. Apprehensive and excited all at the same time, she parts her lips, her tongue quivering in anticipation, that moment before you don’t know what it's going to be like, what it is, and the silence around her is oppressive, somewhere a magpie chirps and she is caught in limbo but she pushes and


The effect is instantaneous: the word splits into fragments, ripping the silence with a compulsion it cannot contain and the scar in her heart knits itself into oblivion. Its power touches her and she feels her skin rise into goose bumps: she feels change, small and imperceptible but all around her. She waits for the silence to return and tries it again, this time crinkling her nose as supporting act to her lips. Crinkle, bite and


Once again, the fabric of her universe is lacerated and her essence solidifies: she feels more real, more there. She is fascinated. “Fuck,” she whispers, tracing her lips. She has found her friend.


She begins to collect them, tucking them into the cavity of her torso for safekeeping. As soon as they know, all her peers want one: she watches as pale imitators step forward to share its power, imitating her facial expressions and echoing her tongue positions. But none of them can master it, not like she, quiet, aloof Ana Louise and all those shadows get is air.

She begins to learn. She learns that her friends can lacerate a lot more than silence: hearts, for instance. She tries it on her mother and watches her weep into the stairs, a red splotch on her floral dress where the word ‘whore’ has ripped through. Egos, for instance. She tries it on Robert when he gets an A plus in his test and watches as he leaves half as small than when he came in. Lies. Tried on Rachel when she spoke of her shiny bike and watched as she scrambled to swallow her words back whole. Happiness. Tried on Greg when he brought his new pencil case to school and observed as he spent the rest of the day trying to hide it, now stained with the stench of her words. Hope. Tried on Katie when she extended a shy hand of friendship, observed as she used it to pick up the slivers of her confidence.

She learns strategy. An expendable soldier buried at the right moment in the sequence, poised to explode and it lights up the entire line, bursting it into a fire display and scorching her target. Voice. The right delivery, the soft caress of tone to envelope and masquerade her warrior. Inflection. The right button to press in conversation, the right trigger to squeeze. She turns master, watching as people hunch past her in corridors, as they avoid eye contact, as they tremble at the sound of voice that, even empty of her warriors, tinkles with the shards of their destruction.

She exists. Every morning, they file out of her chest and assemble behind her, a long shadowy line of power, and her own personal royalty robe. She does not take them off, some say she cannot, but no longer are they called forth to use, to battle. Silence walks in front of her, carrying memories of her devastation in its soft white folds and here, this is enough.


And then, he arrives. She only learns of it through their eyes: she watches as pupils linger upon hers a second too long, as backs straighten an inch too high. It is only then that her silence filters in the whispers. She watches as he grows in their minds and in their words. The man with the bag. The man with warriors never seen or heard of before. The stranger who was given his warriors, who did not take them, the sorcerer with an enchantment that cannot be beaten, some say not even by–. Can he, could he, will he?

They face each other across the playground. She unties her cloak and spreads her soldiers before her, sprawled like the pieces on a chessboard. She watches as he unties his bag and pulls out his warriors, slowly, gently. She notices he does not arrange them, setting them out like they do not belong to him. For they do not. They are apologies, the thousands he has been given by strangers as they drop his coffee, or break a promise or brush past him on the street. As she watches, she knows she cannot win. For his warriors burn with the light of different passions, sincerity, sorrow, guilt, habit, while hers burn with only anger, passion and pain.

He bends down and picks the most beautiful of his apologies, blue and red and pulsing all at once, an apology whispered by his mother when she realised that she missed his play in which he had been specially picked as lead actor and he offers it to her, hesitantly, shyly. As she reaches to take it from him, their fingers brush and her lips separate into an involuntary smile. When she looks into his eyes, he does not look away. Her warriors evaporate, shimmering into her silence. She has made a friend.

June 24, 2010


Mind: breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll be okay if you breathe, it’ll be alright if you breathe, just breathe.

Heart: live. Live. Just live. It’ll be okay if you live, it’ll be alright if you live, just live.

Soul: it will never be alright.

I opened my eyes to damp concrete and it clapped for me, tap tap tap tap, dripping water, drinkable water?, no, oh no, don’t move, don’t move as yet. Breathe. I remember when I was young and they gave me morphine: I remember the regret as it faded away and I realised my dream was just a dream and consciousness had come to claim it’s soldier but I did not want consciousness, I wanted the dream. I remember the regret.

Forget the regret. Remember the lightness of your dream, its perfect unconscious happiness, its rightness. Remember, try and remember…

Tip, tip, tip, tip

I thought of her then, carnation in her hair, cause on her lips, love, love for me, within her heart. I thought of her words, both spoken and curled and how I longed for them, how I drank them thirstily, and the weeds they flowered within my heart. I want them now, I crave them now. Breathe. Just breathe. There are no more words and no more weeds.

Tip tip tap tap

Wet, like the slime of my mind as my hand trails down it, finding nothing. It is hollow. I am hollow. I whistle with the oxygen of my inhale and exhale, a gorgeous requiem right there, soulful and touching, don’t talk like that, don’t think like that. Move, now is the time to move, but where to and where from? No, oh no, don’t feel. I can’t feel. There is nothing to feel.

Tip tap tip tap, dripping water, drinkable water?, no, dancing water, tap dancing water, tip tap, tip tap, tap tap tip. Tap. Happy water, joyous water, malicious water, mocking water, dance, little droplets, dance as you dance upon my grave, louder, faster, happier, dance, dance because you can, because I can’t, because there are no more words and no more weeds and me and only me and I have lost the dream and I am only left with consciousness, and I do not want, I cannot want, dance, dance because you are my only company besides the abyss of my mind, devoid of words and weeds, sharp aware, real, tainted, dance because I can feel not feeling, because I am, because I was. Breathe.

Just breathe. I try and lift up my head, slowly, gently, cautiously. I can’t. A little droplet dances its way before me and it isn’t drinkable, it’s red.

Mind: breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll be okay if you breathe, it’ll be alright if you breathe, just breathe.

Heart: live. Live. Just live. It’ll be okay if you live, it’ll be alright if you live, just live.

Soul: You won’t.

April 30, 2010

Don't piss me off

09: 20 PM. Joseph puts the chicken in the oven. He is nervous because Cassandra is coming over tonight and he needs to cook to impress her. He has never cooked before.

09:29 PM:

“Jane”, I say, tilting my chair back, “Did I ever mention all this is a story?”

She looks confused. “What do you mean?”

“Precisely that, really. We’re characters, you and I, and this entire thing is being invented by someone.”

She stares. I sip my drink. Tick tok, tick tok. Your move.

09: 40 PM: Sprinkles has developed an aversion to loud noises, ever since a firecracker exploded too close to him and singed his tail. The timer on the oven is set wrong and it goes off too early, causing him to flee, screeching, down the hall.

09:31 PM

“You can’t be serious.”

“Sure I can. Watch.” I lean forward. “Jane Treacle, your existence is meaningless. You’re a figment of someone’s imagination, with neither a mind nor a–”

“What are you doing? What’s going on?”

“Me?” I raise my eyebrows. “I’m just sitting here, really, waiting for a more original reaction than denial. Is it going to change anytime soon?–”

“What is wrong with you??”

I whistle. “Relax. I can understand that being controlled by someone can be a little bit of a stressful concept at first–”

“Someone just tried to kill me. I called you for help and suddenly, you’re ranting about how someone is controlling us–”

I smile. “Uh-ah. Not us. You, Jane, just you. It’s a bit of a sore point between us actually.”


“The author and I.”

09:40:30 PM: Gabby has done two weeks grocery shopping in one trip, to avoid effort. He is now out of breath from climbing 10 floors. He is catching it back when Sparkles startles him and he jumps. One orange bounces off and escapes.

9:35 PM.

“What–how would that even work?!”

“Now that, I admit, I don’t know. Maybe the machine that governs these things fucked up. Maybe I’m the writer’s split personality that he’s trying to exorcise through writing about it.” Maybe you’re stupid enough to make a character smarter than you? “I don’t know. Don’t care, honestly.”

She stares.

I laugh. “You’re still shocked. It takes a bit of getting used to. You’ll never admit it, of course. But you’ll see. Tiny things. He is an exceptionally bad writer.”

9: 42 PM: Cassandra is worried about the dress she is wearing. She is late, she knows this, but she could not find the right dress to wear that would spell sexy but not slutty. She has not done this in a long time. She tries to put on an extra whiff of perfume and fails to see the orange in her path. She slips.

9:37 PM

“This is insane.”

“Actually, it’s pretty obvious. Your personality is practically a broken record. And the ‘incidents’! Good lord! Shootouts in Park Lane. Mysterious dead bodies… dense fog, dark shadows. It’s hilarious.”

“Some one tries to kill me and you call it hilarious–”

“Relax. You won’t die. You’re the leading lady. In fact, I think we’re meant to be falling in love right about now.”

She stiffens in anger. “You are doing such an excellent job.”

I grin. “One tries.”

04:00 PM earlier that day: Fredrick is smiling, for the first time in a long time. He is old and lonely, but his granddaughter has just come to see him. He places her gift, a plant of geraniums, out on the corridor window. There is not enough light in his apartment.

09: 41 PM:

So much so for love. She walks me to the door to make sure I leave. “I came to you for help. Why tell me all this?”

“Why not? Think about it: does the attempt on your life seem all that consuming now?”

She looks ready to kill me. For one second I am moved: she really can’t see the truth. To her this is reality and someone just emptied a gun through her window. She is scared.

I step up the stairs, closer to her. “Hey. I know it sounds crazy at first, but all this isn’t real. He’s an idiot, love. If there’s one thing he is, it’s predictable. It’ll have a happy ending, you’ll see. You’ll be alright.”

Then I turn and walk down the stairs, real Humphrey Bogart style, leaving her unconvinced.

09: 42: 05 PM: Cassandra falls against the pot of geraniums, pushing them off the window. They fall towards the curb below.

09: 42: 08 PM:

I step onto the curb.

April 29, 2010


I am made up of sticks. They stack upon each other, creasing into crosses that squeeze out little fleshy triangles of being, a naked body of a crude structure with ends stabbed firmly into my heart.

Stick Five: Compassion.

I’ve seen him outside my window everyday. He is old, like my grandpa, with wrinkles that caress his face except, unlike my grandpa, they have no flesh to sit on, only bone. Everyday I watch him for the minute that my bus hums at the signal, dutifully impatient to drag me to school. He recognises me now. He smiles when he sees me. I smile back. I want to be a good person.

I know he begs because I’ve seen him, walking towards the cars in front of us, asking for money with the expression I know so well: practiced plea. He does not solicit too much (age must have some dignity, even in starvation). I’ve watched him step back as lights click to green and watched his skin change until it is plea no longer, only exhaustion. He has done this for a long time.

I want to be a good person.

So today, I decide. When the bus pulls up at the signal, I am ready: I have my five rupees in my hand. He is standing right outside my window. He sees me and smiles. I smile back and extend the money. I am nervous. I do not know why. He folds his hands into a namaste, a thank you, and smiles.

‘Nahi beti. You are a child. Aap hi rakho.’

The light clicks and my bus revs up and I move on, still clutching my five-rupee coin and I know I can have an orange lolly today. He is still there, smiling. I wonder what he will eat.

Sticks Fifteen and Sixteen: Right and wrong.

The work starts on a Tuesday. No one knows when it will end. They come and set up stalls, temporary ones, but then temporary has been known to mean years. Suddenly there are people on the pavement outside, washing, bathing, talking and tearing up the road. Suddenly, there are strangers.

I jump off the bus and find a mound of gravel. I dump my backpack and search for shells: you can always find them if you look hard enough.

She comes to the gate and watches me. My daddy cut himself trying to untie their stalls: was it her rope that made the cut? My pulse quickens.

She is in front of me now, in the compound, her shadow draping me. I don’t look up, go on shifting the sand. She isn’t meant to be here: maybe if I don’t look up, I won’t be blamed?

‘What are you doing?’ she asks timidly.

My pulse explodes. To reply is to be partner to her crime, to not reply is to be rude. Pretence is impossible. ‘I am...’ I stop. I do not know the word for ‘shells’ in Hindi. I point. I go back to searching. Five seconds later, she interrupts me again: a shell, extended on a grubby palm, the prettiest I have seen yet.

Forty-five minutes later, there are seven of them. They have made it into a game. I, by universal law of ‘coming first’, am the leader. Shells are offered to me for inspection. I accept everything. Occasional fights break out (he stole my shell, did you see?) but I settle them quickly, in broken Hindi. They never laugh. We are friends.

Fifteen more minutes pass and I should leave. Would I be here, same time, tomorrow? I say yes. I run up and ring my doorbell and Meena answers and it is late, very late and she is worried and where have I been? and angry and collecting shells! and I must Never. Ever. do that again, did I understand?

I am waiting for the bus with my sister. A boy spots me from across the road and runs to call her. She comes, excited, baby on her hip. I stare at the road.

The bus turns the corner. They are all there now, the younger ones smiling and pointing. I move to get on the bus and, for a split second, we connect eyes. She beams and readjusts the baby to free a hand. She waves.

I reach out my hands to pull myself onto the bus. I do not wave back.

I am these sticks. It’s like Jenga: building, adding, changing, moulding, subtracting, pulling me taller, more complex, more unstable, until I am built, teetering on reality, and am told, go on now. Live.

January 29, 2010


Argh! Break through form you say. And how is that to be achieved? Poetry, damn it, what is my poetry? Why can I not see beauty in the tiniest of things? And if I can, why don’t words capture it? 3 impressions remember: mind, body, heart and soul. Well, no body. Where is one to start? How is one to start?

To start.

I don’t know if I can write.

Mind: Of course you can. It isn’t hard or hard at all. You’re sitting out here in the freezing cold aren’t you? What more of a true poet can you be?

I have a companion. Two, in fact. A bird that sits resolutely with his back to me. I am not worth his notice. And wind, that whistled for my attention but has disappeared now. I am not worth his attention. Where is my poetry?

Heart: In me. Look hard enough, cease to ignore me and you shall find it.

How? How does one look? I do not understand you, I cannot understand you. I am trying but you seem empty or filled with confusion.

My friend still ignores me

How do I sort you out?

Soul: Bugger it. Who even knows what the soul is?

Where is my poetry?

Can one cheat in writing? Fake it all effectively. Write fiction for non fiction, invent emotions to beef up words that will not come?

How do I make them come? How do I make them good, readable, beautiful, Poetry?

I am cold. My friend ignores me still. Winter, though, has reached out a loving hand, freezing mine in return.

The wind is back. I take it winter does not approve of the last statement. Who shall read this? Why should one want to?

Turn the page, says the wind. Start afresh. But it is too late for that. I am lost in identity, perception–

My friend just flew past me, not an inch away from my ear. I heard and felt his wings as they whipped past. I never saw his face.

I am cold. I am very cold.

As I get up to leave, the wind blows me a kiss.

She knows I will not return.

January 28, 2010

My World

I step through scrapped paint and strewn glass, into the haloed sunlight and my domain. The first thing that strikes me is death: curled up yellow and spongy brown as my carpet. But it welcomes me in it’s own way: there, embedded in the darkness two concrete slabs forming their stenciled T. Tashan. I smile.

I step and glass crackles. I stare down into the splintered fragments of my self. Another step and more crack. But a whisper whispers that they were shattered anyway and that it is time, it has been time for a long time, to let go. Uncharacteristically, I listen.

There are two ways before me. On one side there is emptiness– air, open space, safety. On the other, there are brambles protruding from a trunk of a tree that I can’t see, curling into an open palm of a knobbly, skeletal hand. Its brittle fingers entwine with the trees opposite to block my path. I choose it anyway, fitting malleably through the gaps it leaves behind. When I stumble forward, it is into clearing, a circular clearing, splotches of green and blue and luminous brilliance. I laugh, for how can one not, for there, right in the center is a bed of moss and weeds, open to night’s constellations and the light’s fire and I belong, I am wanted, I am welcomed. Thorns catch me as I move forward and, fleetingly, I am forced to stare into the empty shell of a house, alone, abandoned, and defeated. Inhabited by wind, paint and looking glass, it begs me mournfully not to leave, to try one last time, to come back to humanity. I laugh, for how can one not, and don’t look back.

Then I see her, Hailey Royale, the non- confrontational activist. She is sitting upon my midsummernightdream’s bed, her hair sparkling with my filaments of light, her smile dancing with my stolen joy and she is not saying anything. I see the laughter in her eyes as she takes in my atmosphere and she pierces me and I flinch and my world is just that little bit tainted.

Again, I have a choice– politeness or aggression? She tilts her head slightly, still staring into my soul and I flee towards politeness.

‘Whose side are you on?’ I ask

‘Yours, of course,’ she says. ‘Isn’t that the only one there is?’

I close my eyes and go, silently, back into the house.

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  • Tashan, this is is realllly good. Loved the "Impressions" piece too :) by Uma Shirodkar on this entry
  • Brilliant stuff love. Wish I'd seen this earlier. by Kirk Lobo on this entry

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