after Emily Dickinson
thread wrapped like a noose
on my fingertip tightens. my tongue burnt
lips shiver every syllable ash
in a skin globule -the blues play in tangled up earphones latched
to a broken screen. warning. ‘storage full’
tobacco in the air. smokescreen
outside my window. the neem tree
only a shadow of itself
It’s a hungry forage for a blank page.
it’s a trick I learnt from a friend who is no more
when you can’t go to sleep, imagine putting it all up
on a sharp white page and erase it all until it’s blank.
and I have been trying all night to recall the void to feel what not feeling anything feels like
but the page gets all crumpled up
memories come apart
in a sequence of threads
crevices hash rehash against each other
I fill my lungs up -
inhale twice stack them up one against the other
countdown five four three two one exhale - a trick I learnt from an instagram reel
I wonder who figured it out
get high on oxygen. manipulate the mind.
there's a bigger crisis at hand. blood
is piling up. blood is always piling up.
let it go let it go breathe just breathe
I wonder if that's how he pulled it off,
yanked his life all out on the blank page
until there was nothing left. but tonight
isn’t the night for all of that.
and if I make it through this night
this'll be just another funny story
but it's not funny yet -there’s blood
on the floor if I try to stand up I’ll slip
and the fall will never end- it doesn’t
I got another trick up my sleeve
I imagine myself in a coffin-no more
in the middle of things -only brown dirt
dead cold ground -hallucination-
lack of oxygen no resistance from my bones
all quiet at last
until someone starts knocking at the mahogany door
and threatens to pull me back into the light.
after Megan Fernandes
One winter, I went quiet and turned away from my life.
Into the city’s sunset and the buzz of its bazaars, watched
gambling matches by the traffic signal, measured tombs
and mosques with my bare feet, basically anything
that’d distract me from myself. Unfollowed people
on Instagram I thought I'd grow old with. Strolled
aimless through the mud and slime avenues, wrote
lies after lies on the blank page in my rage for the truth.
Stared at the small abysses in metro stations thoughtless,
for longer than the norm. Had no-one waiting for me,
so I went a little further on every front. To the nook of my street
where sunlight doesn’t proliferate, to the shrinking alley
behind Nizamuddin Railway Station where they unload
crates carrying God knows what. Figured out Kant’s categories
of understanding. Met Kafka and Camus in this wooden cabin
of a dream and Emily Dickinson in her room locked up
for years writing letters to her loved ones who just couldn’t
reach her. That’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it?
You have got to protect the ones you love from yourself.
Turn away. Go quiet. Watch them from a distance
in the dimmed light and hope they’re going to be okay.
So that winter, I stopped making fun of my mother’s
little vanities that got her through the day, you know,
God and all. And hoped she forgets that she ever had a son.
Thought I’d be free that way, remorseless I’ll return to the void.
I get like that during winters, clinging to quiet, gravitating
towards death and dark, wishing for more and more sleep every night.
But mothers never let go of their child so that was out.
Once I picked up my shirt in the gym when no-one was looking
and was sad that there weren’t as many lines as I liked
and ghosted this girl who told me that I was the soft poetry
writing type. Even at my worst I don’t like brackets.
And sometimes, it caught up to me, my life, but I could never
really cry for myself so I had to make something up,
some tragedy actually worth the tears inside me and somehow
it was always about my mother. And it was never
made up, not really. But before I knew it, it was all done
and dusted, the January clouds were in the rearview mirror
and dawn's teeth had started to give. I hate when the days
start getting longer again. No matter how cold, home is still
home and there is always a crevice for you to slip into,
but all that gone, the twilight stretched like a yawn across
the landscape as we stumbled downhill against our will
into March hoping to be held against the current for once.
Abhinav is a graduate student residing in New Delhi. His literary work has appeared in The Remnant Archives, Livewire and various anthologies.