by Kunjana Parashar
On Fixing History
I have been hemming in the tendrils of history
Because like a creeper, it sneaks up on you –
Before you know it, it takes you hostage,
Beleaguers you with its octopal fangs
Till it grips you with a sickness of the spirit so deep
That you billow and bicker like belligerent ship masts in the wind
Trying to reckon the fractures and the fissures.
Because you know, it enters through cracks and chinks.
Nobody really starts it – some live it, some live by it;
But soon it frosts your glass and clogs your drainpipes,
Somersaulting and back-flipping the entire breadth of your being
Unbolting the sewer of residual memories.
This is why I believe, history is falling apart at the seams –
Like a drippy leaking faucet that will not let the silence be
Leaving you only with muzzy senses and a badly drawn map
Where you scratch to see what had once passed
And what has now come to be.
So now you see, history needs to be fixed,
For it has become the very heart,
And the home of me.
A Birch, An Oak and a Lark
When I was seven moons
And six years old,
I went on an adventure
In the gardens and backyards
Of the houses of many.
My quest was to find
A birch, an oak, and a lark.
So I searched far and wide
Asking the old and the young,
Could I please only look quietly
If not at the trees, then their parts?
Could you please lend me a sample
Of their boughs and leaves?
So I could learn about their smells and colours,
I could feel their textures and skins,
I could imagine how close to the sky they grew.
For it is easy to find drops collected in rain trees,
To see the copperpod turn golden,
And walk on an earth reddened by the gulmohar
But I have never heard anyone talk
About a birch’s shade,
Whether it has fruits and flowers
Or of an oak’s leafy girth,
About its roots and power.
And if you keep a lark at your place
Or if it flies in your part of the skies
Could you describe to me how it takes flight?
How it darts, dances or glides?
Or if it has plumage that is blue, green or white?
Could you let me hear its call?
For I often hear the crow and the sparrow talk,
The mynah and the koel squeak and sing too,
And I wake up early every morning
To survey the skies, the trees
And to listen closely to their sounds
But the lark never chirps at all!
It eludes my sight and plays on my mind
Like a buried raindrop in the sky
That never pours for me to find.
Some were bewildered and some were shocked
And all they did, was scoff and laugh
Wondering if they were real words,
“A birch, an oak, and a lark?”
the koel’s red eye
the mynah’s yellow feet
are all my own
like the pitta’s green
and the crow’s call
i turn into the sparrow’s fright
when i part the curtains with force
and forgetfulness of another life
like the lizard’s jump
from the sill to the quilt
the parrot’s squawking
also becomes me
the killing of the roaches
by my fear shall
stain me too
and that pigeon’s egg i poked when 11
with a sharp divider
because i was curious to see
what comes out
sings already of my death too
the frozen blue crocodile’s open mouth
and wide-eyed dead gape
behind the mesh of metallic wires
has always been my own
the cat is reminded of her whiskers
when she sees mine
and the fish too remembers
my swift gait and dodgy glance
while she swishes past the seaweeds
and i through thickets of crowds
only with much less grace
people are plums,
thickets of lemons,
or a sack of weeds.
i knew a girl
whose mouth moved
like veins of hibiscus,
or folds of dahlia,
crowned with green halos.
now she is a woman
with lips of smoke bush,
hair of baobab,
and teeth of rice.
i know an old man
with a waning web
of white ixora for hair.
he was once a fallow land,
with no spring in his heart
until hit by a sea of pollen.
i know a child
with vines for hair,
butterfly pea for eyes,
reed for a body,
banyan roots for a soul –
but i can never tell
when the groves go to sleep
and wake with unreal dreams
of new thorns and new leaves.
i feel the weight of two albatrosses,
and seven snipes
sitting on my soul.
it is the state
on your marks
get set slow –
always lacking in
will i forever feed them?
or order a crane?
it is like lifting
a quagmire of gravel
it suspends stubbornly
or leaves no trace.
how do i show you?
how i spend my time,
“what do you do all day?”
i try to shift the weight,
i try to make birds fly –