Dead fish floated up in Estha. One of the policemen prodded Velutha with his foot. There was no response. Inspector Thomas Mathew squatted on his haunches and raked his jeep key across the sole of Velutha’s foot. Swollen eyes opened. Wandered. Then focused through a film of blood on a beloved child. Estha imagined that something in him smiled. Not his mouth, but some other unhurt part of him. His elbow perhaps. Or shoulder.

The inspector asked his question. Estha’s mouth said Yes.

Childhood tiptoed out.

Silence slid in like a bolt.

The God of Small Things.

The sound of childhood tiptoeing out has never been louder.

 

‘Atticus –’ Jem said bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. ‘What, son?’
‘How could they do it, how could they?’
‘I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep. Good night.’

 

To Kill A Mockingbird.

We were perched on tall bar stools, lazily
My hand searched full peanuts in that
Overflowing Empty shells bowl
Our hands were firmly clasped but a word Was not
Spoken, we sat and watched
The bar dancers grope and grin at
My discomfort for she sat with me
Her young eyes unused to my debauchery
I sensed the fear In her eyes, would I
Ask her to the upstairs room and ravish her
Gently, she knows I won’t be harsh with her,
She fears she can’t say no, I am the one who
Holds her hand firmly, where fear cannot enter
I grin within at her open fear, her body so young
So untouched , she fears I swallow them whole
She knows not I grasp her hand firmer to assure her
I seek not the pleasures of her lips breasts and thighs
But her soul, her secrets feed me, her anguish I eat
My shoulders hold her precious night tales and
Those of ghastly abuse, I know she loves me
But won’t tell, she fears my manhood, I believe
She secretly wants me to touch her , so she may
Break her illusions of my goodness and flee from me
No more doubts of my godliness, all men are same
But I refuse her inner yearning to absolve her of purity
I hold her hand firmer Confirming my heavenly status
The bar grows dirty, sleazy the way I like it to be
The dancers topless now, the men groaning openly
We sit there two lovers, unseen In time,
No Romeo who seeks her lips
No Paris who parts her thighs
It’s just my hand in hers
Protecting her vulnerability
Promising her redemption from fear
She cringes at the carnal sights
But makes no complain lest she lose me for ever
Silly thing knows not that I will pine away without her
She would like me to leave her alone there, so the men may
Feast on her fears and free her once again,
That her ravaged body moaning in broken pain may
Search me through that bloody haze
Will I return to nurse her soul
Even though she lies in a spermy waste
If I don’t she is redeemed that I was but a dream
If I do then she knows not what to do with me
I sit there holding her hand
With the other I pass her a knife

— Written by V. Balakrishnan (Theatre Nisha, Chennai)

We were on our stomachs, behind bushes
Elbows sinking into the soil
Faces inches away, senses craving for more of the earth
It was a loud silence
Not an empty one, though
Images flitted by in my head
I was thinking of the future
It was going to be without you
I was focused on cleaning one nail with the other, as I talked
The words coming out of my mouth felt half empty,
my brain fought to go backwards
the sight ahead showed me a cliff
Coming nearer every time I opened my eyes
A fog of scenes, even those that hadn’t happened yet,
was pressed on Autoplay
I wasn’t sure whether to focus on that or to
record every second of that present moment,
to replay it later
I could go back to that place now and try to see us again
I could focus on your voice this time instead of those in my head
If parting is still difficult this time round,
I would know I was wrong to choose a clean break.

For Rahel and Estha

Mazes of lies
laughter in fits of sadness
midnight gorges
holes to the other end of the world
mud-caked palms
veiled eyes
A childhood fashioned out of stolen things
slashed lines
ears pressed against the soil, eavesdropping
A love uplifting
A crowd monotonous
Memories disappearing with the sand under the waves
Hazy outlines
Soulless voids
Quiet murmurs struggling under the weight of the air
Muddled boundaries
Moths and their shadows
Shimmering reflections
Stained lips
Sunburnt skin
Invincible innocence
A future desperately clawing to get back into the past.

The boy who leaned against the wall and smoked as many cigarettes as the comics he read. He couldn’t make a mark of his own with all the brushes and paint he had. He drew in soot, he forced myriads to exist and helplessly let them fade away. His worn out leather jacket had memories of nights spent around much smaller bodies. The creases of his palm were born everyday, each new one older than the rest. He snagged stains and spent time assigning them stories. He slipped smoothly into 100 year old fairy tales and braved every thorn when he was pulled out. He was high on intoxication and honeyed poison ran through his veins. He was drowning sometimes and he didn’t know what saved him. He was flying high sometimes and he couldn’t remember what he was forgetting. His eyes laughed in fits of desperation. He was a vagabond who didn’t know he was grasping for an anchor.

They mapped out the stars together knowing they couldn’t see the end
It didn’t stop them from lying there, waiting, waiting, noticing as new ones kept showing up,
just this side of the ones they were already staring at.
I noticed how the sky was much more full than it had been when they’d looked at it first, the magnetic pull of their gazes beckoning the hidden stars closer, one by one.

They watched as the streams, love children of the earth and the rain, trickled out, newly born, to disappear into the stones and cease to exist for the eyes of the world. It reminded them, a bit, of themselves.

They turned back to look at the deserted land through the haze of their parting. There were no humans waving in farewell, no one but the rocks and trees to see the last of them. It was silent except for the soft movements of one of the parting boys who turned his back to the rest and waved anyway.

Innate Atrocities

Bent across a crooked knee,
thighs against a swollen stomach,
she lay unmoving in the grass,
oblivious to the waiting vulture.
Fear-stricken eyes,
her tiny fists raised in surrender,
Mistaking the camera for a gun,
She trembled as he took the picture.
He stood on top of the mountain,
stumbling over skulls yet to be ground,
yearning for a glimpse of the horizon.
She hugged the giraffe close to her body
it’s neck encircling her legs
Gun at her shoulder,
trophy at her feet.
They worked hard all day,
smelling of fertilizer
grinding from dawn to dusk,
the hundred-score bison skulls.
He looked into the kind eyes,
the smiling uniformed adult,
the blurred flag folded in his arms,
it came home in exchange for his father.
She was born blind, mute, and deaf,
hands spinning wonders,
Safe and sound,
Untouched and alone.
He beheld the soft body,
face-down against the snow,
laid down his gun and wept
The sun rose again
Where warm tears tore against the barren land,
a solitary dandelion grew.