In my dreams
I am alone and underwater
I can swim for hours without coming up
I have never been happier.
I think of the rain
More than I think of people.
Sometimes I sit in air conditioned rooms
And see the sky break out into purple and blue.
When was it that I last danced
In the clear, soft-grass puddles in my backyard
As the rain fell hard enough
To drown everything it touched?
I can see the mango tree shining,
Dogs barking in the distance
And the water rising in grey whirls.
One day the water will come to me
And I will wait with open arms
As it takes me to its womb.
I’d almost drowned when I was a child.
If my life is to end,
Let water take it, dear God.
I sit in cabs, drinking in
The raindrops that slide
On the windowpanes—
Unable to touch, the cold
Blocked by glass.
The last time I went home
Winds sang and branches shook
And I quivered and laughed
Water dripping from every pore.
My mother shouts at me,
‘Get in! What will the neighbours think?’
Too soon, my body is warm.
A week later, away from home
My phone beeps.
It’s a photo of a woman in the rain.
My mother—that wicked woman—
Thoughtless about neigbours now,
Her smile mocking my warmth.
It was just three weeks, I try to reassure
But I’ve stretched it on for so long
That now, five years later,
Every place I go to, every new person who smiles
Reminds me of you,
And I grow old at the thought
Of new friendships.
The laundry bag is empty
Today I washed the clothes I wore
Last Thursday, and changed my sheets
From black to a bright yellow
Desperate to clean, to be clean.
But the trenches around my eyes deepen
No amount of frantic scrubbing
Removes memories of yet another pair
Of probing fingers.
A new bout of insomnia, a fresh dose of sadness
When will these cycles stop turning?
When I am so wrinkled that
Hands turn helpful to guide my step?
When the first rains of monsoons
Stir up the sand this year
I will smile, and remember you.
Do you smile now
When you see the plantain and jack fruit
You planted, shining under the blue grey sky?
You were a man of love.
I almost forgot how rare
Kindness is in this world,
How easily boys can break hearts,
When you smiled.
The land is dry now
A month later, the rains will arrive,
And I will be home.
A home without you.
Your death was the last breath of a language
Now when we laugh, it is
In a foreign tongue.
Many of us have been rendered
Some of us hunt for words
To capture your peace.
But the script has changed;
We cannot read these signs yet,
And we’ve already forgotten
The way our mouths used to move.
We know we have lost our language
We sit on your green bamboo chair
Stare at the trees you had planned
And squint to see your smile
Dancing with the swaying branches
Sometimes we remember
A stray phrase
The edge of a word
Or a whole syllable.
And for a flash your face lights up
But who can we tell, of
Our flashes of happiness
When you took its language
Away with you, smiling
All the way?
How many more afternoons spent perched on the corner of my bed
Surrounded by washed, wrinkled clothes that smell of soap and sun?
How many more baths with John Mayer’s voice for company, my hands
Scrubbing feverishly, hoping you’d dissolve with the foam that swims into the drain?
How many more nights where the snakes slither from my stomach to my chest
Till my words are choked out and a river is born out of my body?
I remember the smile the perfect teeth that spilled into my universe the happiness that your smile planted in me the happiness a shrub watered by your voice your voice which I loved more than any other’s which quietened my heart even when you were angry even when we fought just as long as I got to hear it your long thick arms that I thought would hold all the shaking parts of me without dropping a piece your face so big my palms couldn’t cover it yet I tried anyway to feel all of it while you laughed showing your perfect teeth and your voice resonated in my smiles my words my thoughts as your arms held me closer and tighter not breaking the pieces but marking them all
I remember I remember I remember I remember I remember
They say one day it’ll hurt a little less
When is one day?
Will it come as fast as the day
You gave away your arms your smile your eyes your voice
To someone new?
How much is a little less?
Enough for me to think of you with a smile
The same smile that you created, whose expanse
You first discovered?
This poem is a cliche,
Like all small revelations are.
Today I learned
You can love
And not be together.
It was nice to talk.
It is always nice to hear your voice,
Even though it hurts now.
Today, we smiled, and it felt good
These tiny steps we take
To navigate the terrains we leaped over.
And I learned to appreciate another shade of
All that matters is love.
Today, I knew I would love you, always
And that we would not be together
And that was okay. Today I smiled
I hope you did too.