Poems | Divya Rajan

Sketch by Gayatri Goswami

L as in Labeling

There are freedoms only a crumpled brown bag that once
Cradled a Manhattan sashimi in its folds, now meandering
At the crux of I 294, would acknowledge.
Freedom to glide and scrape by cars, without fear
Of resurrecting most onerously as an upturned fable. Now
That’s the kind of iniquity she came to enjoy the most
As the newest inhabitant of this pristine space.
Vijayan, a vague synesthete, a writer of sorts, arrived here
Much prior to her, his feet dripping with all the salty liquid
Of redemption, of stale morphine. Who better to work on translating
Khasakkinte Ithihasam, he winced piously. He wasn’t being
An idle provocateur, I guarantee you that.
Seriously? That sounded a bit con- mannish even to me.
Who the fuck still lived in the old world? She nodded
As if it was old news to her. Being agreeable was a virtue
She’d carried forth. Her brothers had long shed loitering leanings
Settling for elitist discernments towards ala carte movies
That played non- stop in the background as they
Chomped noisily over political science, other urgent topics
Somewhat like what she did on social media, her
Grey cells indistinguishable from moss. They made filter coffee in the mornings
In a rustic coal set kettle the old fashioned way, decoction
Stronger than the strongest espresso, mahogany chair on the porch
Creaking, crushing leaves. Bird droppings shared names
With siblings, unlike in the other world. Plethargic
Wasn’t their last names. I explained to her, that wasn’t the case.
That she was morbid and whole in this green planet, with me.
She didn’t hear or bothered to listen, spread suntan lotion
On her tooth brush, scrubbed teeth till they were semi- brown.
I said, “Do you realize what you just did? Look at your brown teeth.”
She smiled, “Silly, that’s an overdose of iron supplements.
I ain’t no nutmeg.” Another time, she smeared baba ghanoush
Over her hair and left a post- it for me, with instructions to clean the pillowcase
In a mouthful of a mixture of chicken broth and extract of St John’s Wort.
The psychotherapist listened to her patiently and remarked,
Only a lousy caregiver would leave assorted cans unlabeled.

The polite guests

By the time we got to the story, it’d endured nine orbitals
With bated synchronicity that usually accompanies such narratives.
He’d rented this apartment away from family, in the outskirts
of Gary, Indiana. It was quite a distance from Chicago
But the job was well worth the Dungeness commute. One weeknight after work,
He’d conked off on the sofa as David Letterman recapped the twenty
Odd points that made Obama’s servile bow to the Saudi King,
Not only acceptable but rather mandatory, in the best interests
Of a predominantly oil- hungry nation. Little did he know
That the plus size supermodel who lived in an apartment above his,
Chose to end her life that very day
Letting the car engine run, fumes emanating from
The garage, exuding through the narrow, teak bookshelves
Into his living room, the armoire inhaling the carbon, murmur
Of sawdust softly cajoling him into that slumber.
His dead mother known to poem all of her delusions while
Washing dishes in an off white dishpan, drizzling snow
Beating against the window frame, shook him awake
After seven hours, hastily pointing out the cellphone to him,
And almost made the 911 call. He lay in the hospital for a month,
His wife, drifting in and out of Prozac. She never accused him
Of being Janus faced ever again. The polite guests never questioned
Why his mother waited for seven hours. Was it the tremor in her arms?

A cryptic wedding

Smell of acrid lentils, turmeric, anise
Splashed onto ceilings, rail boards, edges
Of the parapet. Flower garlands crisp as crackers. Applause

Following ghazals, mushairas echoed

For that splice in tethers, charred
Sherwanis dispersed in air, a solitary infant slipper
Over yellow carpeted maidan, a sparrow
Shrieking. How the midgets rose to check purses

Of obese, genteel ladies. Their obesity now pallid,

Against muted earth. Coins, the color of mirth,

Biryanis half done still simmering, yellow in the air.

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