Anxiety pt.2

It’s an odd hour on an odd night

And an odd girl with uneven eyes

a mongrel chases her inside a mental ward

black fur yellow eyes

monster dog monster dog

snipping barking growling

ready to pounce

to tear at the skin on her back with nails piercing in

She tries to punch her way through iron walls

always escapes just in the nick of time

sometimes there’s a pause in the hallway

a quarter of a scream might claw out of her throat

mongrel can almost taste the sweetness of her flesh

the honey comes from a beehive inside her chest

A billion bees buzzing, thrumming, quivering,

in her throat, under her tongue, behind her eyes.

the ones in her ears whisper:

stop running, lay down, stay still,

stare at the grey ceiling and the spittle on the tiles

there’s no point running

// Unfinished poem, idk what to do with it, I hate everything. //

Goddamn, Man-Child

Man-child bad child

so happy so content

so easy not to care

I’m the one who ruins it every time, I know.

But you always leave this emptiness behind

swiped the slate clean only to turn it into another Pollock painting.

fooled me into feeling feelings that felt like a new beginning

but we all know. it’s always the same, always the same.

the pain never dulls with time

I have signed up for a lifelong subscription service that auto-renews twice a year

the wounds ceaselessly heal and reopen each time

I kiss someone I am not allowed to kiss

miss someone I am not allowed to miss

praying, just this once, for permission to love without the fear of love’s consequences

but I’m always stuck on the same side of the coin

stuck in the wrong bus, running in the wrong direction

I cannot leave

I am only allowed to want

//How do men get to always be so chill about everything all the time? How do they go through heartbreak just once and then somehow manage to suavely avoid it for the rest of their lives? And here I am, having Love thrash me up with the same kind of periodic consistency/regularity with which the earth rotates on its own axis //

Where do birds go to die?

A dead pigeon hangs upside down from a streetlight on a flyover

tangled strangled mangled in electric wires

nobody notices

The other birds have carried on with their lives

Its carcass sways subtly in the humid breeze, while the other birds eat fuck sleep and chat on the sidelines

Who cares for a dead pigeon trapped on a trapeze?

It’s been more than a year. I’ve changed cities, changed countries, changed my clothes, changed my hair. Yet you linger in the smell of someone else’s fabric softener, in the dance of the piano in that song on the radio, in the angle of that actor’s nose, in that stranger’s stare on the metro.

Sometimes I fear the prospect of forgetting you. Who will I be when you’re gone from my memories too?

But how could I ever forget? There’s a tattoo on my chest: it’s a dragonfly stuck in the middle of my breasts; a souvenir from the night we first fucked. In the darkness of night, it occasionally comes alive, beats its wings and takes the shape of your hands.

How can I forget?

Dung Head

It’s a bloodstream of dead mulch
and dead plants shooting from my cuticles
I wish I was a pretty girl
doing pretty things on the internet
raining powerful pictures into people’s heads

I stare at my naked self until my eyes peel off my face
My brain is one long soppy soggy noodle
sometimes sunken at the bottom of my skull and
sometimes floating at the surface of a dirty bowl of stale soup

It smells like rotten dung inside my mind
I wish I was a pretty girl
doing pretty things on the internet.

Stained

You run your fingers across the worn out fabric of the sleeveless vest you’re about to wear. A fragile scrap of once-white cloth. It’s dirty with stains that will never leave. You idly poke your finger through one of the many holes in it.

A thin wrist watch hangs like a wall clock in front of you. 5 AM. It’s time to go. Your joints creak as you get up from the floor and look at your wife. She is hunched over a mud stove. There are holes in her clothes too, but she hides them inside the endless folds of her saree. You are not drunk enough to beat her up over how she has more clothes than you. The torn white-not-white vest is not the only thing you own, though. You have a couple other T-shirts, three of which you save for good days.

Today, like every other day, you put on the vest and resist the urge to take a deep breath. Deep breaths are bad. But you need to release the tightness in your chest somehow, so you cough. You cough a lot. And every time you do, your ribs cry out in protest.

You grope around for last night’s bottle of liquor. Uncorking it, you chug your first gulp of the day. You like drinking this before the tea that your wife brings for you. She is a good woman. You are not allowed to drink tea from the stall that’s next to your home. The tea shop owner’s son wants to become the Prime Minister of India.

You push your white cot out into your little porch. This is your office until today afternoon. The sky is stained with dark grey clouds that retched up rain for several hours last night. There’s no doubt a customer will come looking for you soon.

You count all the white cars that pass by. Thirteen cars later a man in a black motorcycle stops in front of you. He doesn’t take his sun glasses off but you can sense him looking at you like you are smaller than a speck of grime under his fingernails. There’s a blocked drain three streets away, he says. You pick up your instruments. A bucket, a shovel, a long iron rod, a jute rope, a bottle of alcohol. You walk.

The smell hits you before you reach the spot. You down the rest of your cheap rum. Or was it whiskey? You don’t remember. But this is step one. It’s a necessary step. You need it to overcome the stench that’s beginning to drench the passageways to your lungs and stomach. The sewer is oozing with dirty grey water that’s patterned with bits of contrasting bright blue and white plastic. Step two is to use the long iron rod to wrench open the lid. Your ankles and calves are already wet. Step three is to strip down to your underwear before you get onto your knees. You try to use the shovel but the source of the block is out of your reach. You must jump in. You almost always need to jump in. Luckily, the hole isn’t too deep this time so you won’t need the jute rope.

Deep breath. You plunge inside. The dark water swells and surges all around you and into you. Your ears, your eyes, your clothes. You disappear out of view. The slimy grey water, strewn with plastic and other non-plastic things, slips between your fingers as you fumble around for the blocked pipe. You find it. You scoop out handfuls of a sludgy mixture of feces, urine, blood, vomit and a used sanitary napkin until the water stops overflowing onto the tar road. Are there any words to describe the smell?

Rancid. Rotten. Putrid. It’s Putrefaction. 

You’ll never get used to this, but you’ve done this enough number of times to control the bile that’s threatening to erupt inside you. You try to think of other things. Your wife’s saree from today morning: was it yellow or was it red? She only owns seven sarees. You ought to know the colors. You think of the pregnant belly that lies beneath the thin material draped over her breasts. You think of the baby that’s about to come.

You jump in and out as you shovel the remaining shit into a bucket. A white cow watches from the other side of the road. She has a streak of red painted in the spot between her eyebrows. A man clad in a dhoti bows down to touch her feet in reverence. A garland of fresh yellow-orange-yellow flowers decorates her neck. You can’t remember what flowers smell like.

Yellow-orange-yellow. That was the color your wife was wearing when she made you tea today.

You are dirty. Later, someone hoses you down with a pipe. They stand a few meters away from you. They always stand a few meters away from you. They haggle over the fees that you ask for your service. You disagree but they knock a couple hundred off your quoted price anyway and throw you the notes with Gandhi’s bespectacled face on it. Two thousand rupees. You must bow your head and accept it.

You go home and scrub your skin for as long as you can. You breathe out slowly as you watch your bath water slither like a snake on the mud floor. Your legs are a little woozy from the alcohol. You cannot see the stains on your skin, but you know that they are present. And you know that these won’t leave either, just like the ones on your tattered once-white vest. The stains run deep beneath your skin. Invisible and visible at the same time. Everyone else sees them too. It’s in the infinite miniscule pores dotting your skin. It’s in the blood that you inherited from your fathers and forefathers. It’s in the shape of the words that leave your mouth. It’s in the clothes you wear—even in your three good t-shirts. It’s in your name.

You are the Prime Minister of Shit.

Marine Drive

There’s a death march outside my window
no rhyme no reason
we don broken characters on our shoulders
The capes and masks run thin
as we hunt electric mosquitoes in midnight dreams

you say
“maybe we should cycle to Mumbai
look for Marine Drive
we can drop the act
I’ll call at 3am, put your blue helmet on
Let’s take a cycle to Mumbai.”

There’s a million tetrapods the world over
but none like the ones in Marine Drive
we don’t need to be rich and famous
We’ll reach before the sun sets and prance
like cats on grey rocks lining a sea wall

We’ll teeter at the edge and pause
a heartbeat before dipping toes into dirty salt
Crinkle our noses when the rain pours
and giggle when lost peanuts squish beneath rubber tyres

I want to follow your naked insanity
but there’s a death march passing through my courtyard
Marine Drive rests far away
Maybe I’ll cycle with you some other day.

Vashti

Oh, Vashti!
Dressed in monochrome fabric
Won’t smile at my silly slapstick
Baby’s such a classic.

Isn’t she quite the catch?
Heard of her sweet wrath
Maybe we’re the perfect match.

Oh, Vashti!
Struts in her iceberg skin
Titanic strikes and sinks in
Did anyone hear that tepid din?

Pistol in her palms
Words in her mouth
Neither shooting out.

Oh, Vashti!
Flips her glossy hair
Throws me a glassy stare
Likes to cook them loins medium-rare.

What a waste of time
She’s a criminal mastermind
Not my charming concubine.

Oh, Vashti!
If only I had known
Of each man that was shorn
To his last bone.

Seemed like a passing fancy
With her pipes and her poetry
Good lord, we’re all rats at her mercy.

I pray she’ll let me be.