1 min read

A bouquet of men throng outside

Wimpy Wines. Wilting arms petal

outward to grab the closest bottle,

the darkest liquor, the most pungent

spirit. Blooming backwards, their bodies

bend at the stem, fall onto the street,

shed colour onto the footpath. But their

eyes, they stick upward, black buds

reaching towards the gleaming yellow

bulb hanging over Wimpy Wines (the sun

never sets over Prabhadevi’s favourite

theka). You can smell it before you see

it: this dishevelled cluster of flowers 

(gulmohars and mallipoo and copper pods)

peppered over fallen copper wires,

frayed cables, and puddles of oil

and water lingering far too closely.

The stench lingers in the air, travels

through crows’ beaks as they gnaw

at anything that seems human, flitter

from body to body until they hover

above my head. What am I doing here,

I wonder, in this slanted body, this 

pieced-together frame of male and female,

seeking comfort at the end of my

lane. Right before it’s too dark, too drunk,

too full of despair. Right before autumn

comes storming in, peeling petals

off flowers, skin off bodies, gender off

flesh. Before I am noticed, I cower

away, trail on home. Appa is there, picking

flowers from the Swami Room, his hands

sparrowing from one moorthi to the next,

carefully plucking the red hibiscuses and

orange saamanthipoo and white mallipoo

hidden between the gods, shared between

their outreached hands. He’s made dinner,

he says. Eat properly, he says. It’s a little salty

but overall okay, he says. When he looks

at me like this, like a bright mind energised

by ideas, forgetting it belongs to an ageing body,

I am reminded of myself. We share the same

face, appa and I, the same eyes, the same

droopy mouth. The same restless hands possess

us both, steering us away from consistency.

We’re swept away by the frantic need to do, and do

now. Our love for languages — his, math,

mine, poetry — constantly jostles against

our maya-driven, caffeinated legs, always

running to grey offices and grey meetings.

Such is the fate of those of us who cannot wait,

who refuse to bloom when the conditions are

just right, who rebel against sunlight and water,

who sprout oddly, wrongly, in somersaulted bodies.

Saranya Subramanian is a poet, writer, and theatre practitioner based in Bombay. An MFA graduate from the University of San Francisco, her writing has been published in Frontline, Lithub, The Caravan, Madras Courier, Aainanagar, Outlook, Vayavya, Kitaab, the Museum of Art and Photography, Scroll, The Bombay Literary Magazine—to name a few. Her essay, “The Cockroach and I,” was published as an ebook by Penguin Random House after winning runner up to the Financial Times/Bodley Head Essay Prize, 2020. She runs The Bombay Poetry Crawl, an archival and research space dedicated to the 20th century Bombay Poets. And she writes because, well, it’s all that she can really do.

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