six are fine.
on the seventh you
a sickly moist breeze sticks to your face-
she names who she loves and
it's not you.
there was something warm about the way
hope used to taste on my tongue, the way she
melted and glided softly across the edge of
i miss her when it rains.
times escapes like sand through my fingers.
i inhale the rot in my flesh like sawdust watch my
bones fester like an ancient wound.
guilt seeps in through the pores of my skin and
i bleed i bleed i bleed.
i dream of strange lands
of a monstrosity and a massacre on the street
of gods and their wrath
of shakespeare and a summer's day
of azure oceans and a thai sky
of the lover and the beloved.
of profound love and the sheer banality of its loss.
of warm hope and the ease with which it dies.
it is morning and it is raining still
a sickly moist breeze sticks to your face.
your mouth tastes of a soft realisation left over
from last night.
it is always this.
the lover and the beloved.
the world will always look like her residents
The premise is set thirty years later, when an organisation decides to interview three of the very few survivors of the Covid-19 pandemic in three different cities. It is a tedious task to try and explain how an entire world would look like thirty years from now. The author therefore, tries to complete it by taking help from these three characters. The overlying metaphor is that the fate of the world would always be tethered to the people living in it. This is an attempt to understand the world through a series of character sketches, each character is unique in every aspect and each of them portray unique emotions, resulting in a different writing style in each of their cases. The idea is that each character acts like a segment of the world. The piece is hence meant to be read like an assortment of experiences and thoughts.
‘The Firm proposes that an office in each of the member countries conducts a series of interviews and tests with those who survived the pandemic thirty years ago and overcame the hurdles. The Enterprise believes it would be inspiring for the younger generations to listen to their firsthand experiences...’
Mrs. Patricia hung up the receiver. deep breaths, deep breaths. It was a warm June morning. The bright sunlight contrasted with the blinding white tube light in the office. Mrs. Patricia plucked out a tiny rectangular tin box from the pocket of her coat and opened it, revealing multicoloured pills inside. she picked up one with her thumb and her bony index finger, and swallowed it; then coughed dryly. a light breeze entered through the open window uninvited and Mrs. Patricia shivered a little, and was reminded once again of her growing age. She traced the slight wrinkles on her cheeks and just below her ears with the back of her hand, and was abruptly woken up from her daydream by the phone. she sighed and picked it up. ‘The Firm proposes that an office in each of the member countries conducts a series of interviews and tests with tho-’ Mrs. Patricia cussed loudly into the receiver and hung up again. She picked up a pen and started writing a note to the Tokyo office-‘The Firm proposes that...’
‘can you please pronounce your name once, miss? for the record, yes, just once, loud and clear...’
the woman’s dry lips parted to let out the word- ‘aiko’;
‘and can you please spell it out-’
yes miss it’s spelled eh-eye-kay-oh.
there was something odd about the way her eyes never let out more than was required. her straight brown hair came down to her waist. she kept looking down at her fingernails, which were busy picking on each other.
‘how old were you when the pandemic arrived?’
miss i was fifteen years old one-five fifteen. thirty years ago, was it? anyway i lived with my father and my mother near machida-
‘and are they-’
yes miss both of them are dead and i miss them terribly next question, please.
The crusty yellow walls of the room reeked of old paint and despair. the ceiling looked like it could fall down any moment now, and yet it housed a tiny fan that groaned when it moved. aiko sighed.
‘Your name please, sir?’
‘Oliver’,Oliver wheezed slowly. the woman who sat across the table scribbled something on a white sheet of paper that smelled slightly of vanilla. The air was filled with the light fragrance of her perfume. Oliver felt small in the high-ceilinged fancy office room, where the woman sitting in front of him sat everyday. The table that sat between them was made of glossy teak, and Oliver traced the top with his index finger that he struggled to hold up for long. The room faced the busy street below, and the french windows allowed slight amounts of sunlight to enter. He had worn his tuxedo that day, but it had turned into a stuffy mess, and he had to pull on his tie every couple of minutes in order to allow some air to enter.
‘And your age?’
‘eighty-seven’ Oliver said hoarsely. ‘I was a bit older than fifty-six during the pandemic’ he picked up the glass of water kept in front of him and gulped it down in one go. He tried to get up and adjust his chair, but felt a sharp jolt of pain in his right knee. It was in moments like these that he felt death creep up to him. He groaned and pressed it tightly, sitting back on the uncomfortable chair.
‘Who did you live-’
Acel thought it was an absurd third question. He scratched his nose before answering.
‘I was, what, like, seven? No, eight in twenty-twenty, so I lived with my mother and my grandma. My father had passed away when I was just a kid, so yeah, mother and grandma. And, oh, wait, we also had a cat, Ms. Puffers, we called her, yes’
Acel had bright golden hair, and dark brown freckles on his face. He was also hungover and had completely forgotten about this interview until this morning when his phone rang.
'I lived with my wife and our little daughter, my own mother had passed away the previous year due to a cardiac arrest but-
‘Mr. Oliver please explain only what is necessary’
‘Of course, sorry’
Mr. Oliver felt an ick in his chest and his brow furrowed. The air shifted. Chanel N°5 mixed with bright disrespect.
'How did it affect you, the pandemic-
could you please get off your phone, sir?'
'Uh, yeah, just a second, yes, well the pandemic, surely, surely affected me, I mean, not financially because we were financially stable, my family was pretty well to do, we had this cotton textile mill somewhere around the house, I can’t remember where. Mother did contract the virus once if I remember correctly, but she quickly recovered after she was admitted to a hospital right here in um, Arsenal? I think it was Arsenal. Shit, can I please pick up this call? It's very urgen-'
'Please sir, just this one-'
'What impact did the pandemic have on your financial status, Mr. Oliver, your wealth?'
Oliver's heart skipped a beat. 'Would it be alright if I decided to skip that one? Let's just say we didn't come from money. Nor did my wife, and we lived a very hard life until the pandemic made it worse-’
'Absolutely okay, you were supposed to answer every one of them but let's just move onto the next one. What do you believe-'
‘has changed in the last thirty years? how is the world different now?’
aiko stopped biting her nails and cleared her throat nervously.
it’s not really a question of material miss because sure economies collapsed and were built again and people died and more people arrived and entire countries ceased to exist and more came up but all that is bullshit it doesn’t really matter when you think about the whole large world miss. what matters is how the people miss how we have changed and i believe people have grown more empathetic towards each other but the world is a cruel place and it always has been miss but i believe it is up to us to clean up the mess in the end it is upon us really to decide whether we want to do something about something that goes wrong or whether we want to sit quietly at our homes and cry about it to the television and this choice i think is essential in undoing whatever has happened in the last thirty years and building a better world for ourselves because what are people if not instruments of choice? can i please have a glass of water miss?
'Nothing, absolutely nothing, in my opinion. It all still starts with power and ends with power. Money still runs this world. The difference is that some of us, like me, understood it far earlier than the others. Money will always run the world. The people who come down on the streets, raising slogans and cursing the government and whatnot, they're fools. Because in the end, they won't change anything. They simply can't. A rich man would pay someone to overturn a decision, and the people would go home thinking that it was them that did it. What are people if not sore losers?'
'What do you mean, the world? What is the world? Who makes it and changes it and destroys and rebuilds it? We do.' Oliver said, rubbing his palms together. He sniffed. Chanel was gone, and they had been replaced by heavier scents of People and Liberties and The Fate Of The World. It was in moments like these that he felt Lincoln creep up to him. Oliver sighed before beginning again. 'What I mean is that worlds do not change, it is the people who change and so the world changes along with them. In fact, what are people-no, what is the world, if not the people living in it?' He felt something rise up in his chest like warm yeast then send a shiver down his spine.
'Thank you very much, sir, that would be all'
the intimacy of picking up broken objects
warm mornings consume me like hellfire,
soft beads of sweat cling to me like drops of life.
i caress a dying dream with my bare hands,
let its shards pierce my fingertips and
feel the pain shoot swiftly up my throat.
the moon eases the ache sometimes,
the sun is ruthless.
i find you in the back of my eyelids when i
close my eyes,
i find you in the scent of the rain find you
in the colour pink.
i find you in long miserable evenings find you
in brief moments of bright love.
i find you on the brink of midnight find you
on the cusp of noon.
i find you in suffocating darkness find you
in the air that i breathe.
i find you in the slightest of joys.
i find you in the softest of sorrows.
i find you in everything i do.
i find myself when i find you.
how shameless it is to have you slice my heart open
and watch it bleed out every day,
how outrageous to enjoy it still.
i let the blood pool around the organ let it
stain my nails let it seep through my skin let it-
love gnaws at my insides like a vicious animal,
i would give it up for nothing.
the grief of your absence greets me like an old friend
and i embrace her like she never left.
the absence of your grief pulls my chest apart
and fills it with beauty.
love infests my wounds like a tapeworm,
i would give it up for nothing.
warm mornings make me sick,
sunlight makes my stomach churn.
i caress a dying dream with my bare hands,
let its shards pierce my fingertips and
feel the pain shoot swiftly up my throat.
love knifes it way straight through my flesh,
i regret nothing.
how desperate it is to have loved you for so long,
how terribly crushing to not have you still.
thirteen point five
decembers are the hardest of all.
often i lie down on my back
and let my blood turn cold let my blood
freeze to death.
i've never been less content or more lonely-
there are no more beautiful things.
sometimes i cannot seethe at my misery.
sometimes i look at you and my heart gets so full
sometimes you look back and i crumble down
my fingers ache for a touch of your skin.
my heart longs to be loved back.
the winter air smells like cheap old mattresses and
stale death. i cut my wrists and bleed out red
i look inside my throat and claw out veins in disgust.
in the night
sometimes i dream of cradling you in my arms
sometimes i wake up and cry.
(is this what Yeats said was love? that bastard)
love is a laughable thought and yet
i write in the dark on yellow dog-eared pages hoping
love will find me hidden away
in the folds of your flesh one day.
words are blasphemous when love is god)
sometimes I smile quietly at you
sometimes you smile back and slowly,
slowly i break down into tiny little pieces-
digestible, (and perhaps slightly) loveable.
(Yeats always did know what he was talking about.
there’s nothing sweet about sixteen
feeble candles burn themselves out to death,
(hard cold flesh burns and reeks
in their motherly warmth)
and bury themselves in blue fondue.
someone picks them up gently between two fingers
and harshly throws them away.
(there's something nauseating about dead candles)
somewhere, a song stops playing.
somewhere, the evening ends.
they adjust their dark coats and shake my hand,
the lights are slowly departing.
my history teacher says communists are dry and
so is their history and i spit on the ground.
(and so does che).
young blood spills on rough concrete.
yellow leaves fall from the sky onto my terrace
in the night like ill crows
and whisper to me that autumn
is almost here and i cry myself to sleep.
yellow leaves never lie.
august passes away quickly
and i mourn for it sometimes.
(in a dream, i walk over august's dead body,
and it waves back).
pretty pretty words were strangled
inside my throat and trampled under heavy feet
(i hear them shaking like broken glass
in moist july nights.
september promises to be harsher.
this time, there is a finality with which
dark coats are adjusted and hands shook.
the lights are slowly departing.
a recipe for oppression
and there is something cold about the way
dry fingers burn on rusty stoves.
there is something sweet about how
the woman bleeds
within these four walls-
no, the woman will bleed here,
it was a cold cold morning
when it had been passed on to me,
there was something cruel about how
the note was crippled and-
but she had smiled at me;
i had liked how her lips felt against my cheek-
it had reeked of finality.
that was the last time i saw
it was a hot hot morning
when the note was opened.
aunt z had been beaten to
death and the note
reeked of warm blood
easy cake recipe (for beginners)
i could see how her pale frail
fingers had scribbled it.
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk (or 3/4 cup heavy cream mixed with 1/2 cup water)
-whisk 3 cups flour, the baking powder and salt in a bowl. whisk until they no longer cry. whisk until every last breath is crushed from their ribs. beat 2 sticks butter and the sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed. beat until the bleed to death, like-
no, until they are light and fluffy, yes. about three minutes. three minutes are enough to kill a woman. three minutes are enough to scream out in terror. three minutes are enough to be not heard (or are they?). beat for three minutes. now reduce the mixer speed to medium, (the neighbours must not hear). leave the mix alone, dead things don't talk; now beat in the eggs, one at a time, slowly, deliberately, scraping down the bowl as needed. beat in the vanilla. It must not reek of dead flesh under the sofa. beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, Head Torso Legs alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with flour, until just smooth.
and there is something rotten-
no, why must there always be something,
there is nothing left.
cats and other absurd notions (escapril day 9)
rotten rotten air
down on my neck.
sour metal glints like stars and
blood under floodlights
(or does it? and if it does or if it doesn't then why
does it and why doesn't it?)
and there is something
pale light enters
around the edges-
and gets sucked into the
(can the dark suck in the light?
and if it can or if it can't then why
can it and why can't it?)
& there is something cruel
about the way nails
scratch grey metal
and how it screams back
the fragility of the air is breathtaking
& there is is something odd
about the way yellowgreen lights
press against my nostrils
and how this dying night smells
(can something so alive reek so
outrageously of death?
and if it-
no. when does it end?)
& what happens if
the walls crumble down
before the life in me
seeps out through my eyes.
and i feel it
erode out of me-
cold cold blood
runs in my veins
and i feel my insides
dry up to a crisp;
but surely, this is death.
or is it? and if it is.
kashmir, mi amor
the sun rises over the valley and
bathes her in gold.
and we’ve cradled her in our very arms,
pinched thin stripes of sunlight out of white air
and fed her pure madness.
we’ve folded her edges and
pressed out the creases.
combed her greasy brown hair
and dressed her up for school.
and we’ve kissed her on the cheek,
lisped her name in quiet whispers-
somewhere, a child is born
somewhere, an old bird dies
somewhere, the light fragrance
of tea and leftover wazwan erupts
in a small motel restaurant
and takes the valley by storm.
somewhere, the quiet peace shatters.
somewhere, a storm approaches.
and it was five in the morning
when she woke up to watch in silence
as the men in green walked on her-
wet, dewy grass crushed to paste
under blackheeled blackboots
trampled under sync-
leftright leftright leftright left
barbed-wire fences hung
like christmas lights in backyards.
somewhere, a child was born
somewhere, an old bird died,
somewhere, the stench of fresh blood
and burnt flesh wafted through the air.
her greasy brown hair was plucked off her scalp-
one strand at a time.
her oceanblue eyes were blinded
with rubber pellets,
the sound of metallic bullets rung through her ears,
and as all hell broke loose,
kashmir crumbled underneath.
father flinches a little as he
reads the news, then shakes his head
‘bloody musalman terrorists’
he whispers and sips cold cold tea
from a porcelain cup.
a thousand miles away,
a billion birds flock together
to scream of unexplicable injustice.
and kashmir was dragged on the streets
in the death of the night, mid-song
by her collar for the world to see-
naked. she wept under the apple trees-
(leftright leftright leftright left)
and kashmir was unfolded,
bit by bit, broken into swallowable pieces
for the world to devour.
somewhere, a child was killed
somehwhere, the fragile smell of death
erupted in a small motel restaurant
and took the valley by storm.
and now as we suckle on her teeth for words,
as we kneel on the ground beside her
the soil that holds the blood,
the soil that demands freedom,
she begs us for freedom
and if freedom is what you want
then freedom is what you’ll get,
kashmir, mi amor.
i met god and he stripped me naked
vile fragrance of dying lilacs
wafting through cold white air
stings my throat. coughs
come out, sliced at thin angles
jarring vocal cords.
it brushes past my warm cheek,
His hand: i shudder.
something tingles down my spine the poets
call it love but we
say it like it is: dread.
His mouth smells of rotting grapes-
of old spirits that mother says not to touch
ever. He opens his eyes- bloodshot bloodshot
spits out greed no-
lust. red lust that clings to you
He scratches His grizzly beard.
dizzy hands touch me: His hands-
wrinkled, old, with fear trapped
in the creases of His skin but he calls it
they move down: slowly, swiftly.
i dig my nails inside my palms
bite my tongue and blood spurts out
like the fountains at the mall-
sicksweet sicksweet blood i let it
stay let it flow around
my mouth let it stain my teeth let it
stain my soul.
He watches me
naked in my utter shame-
He smiles He steps closer
closer to me.
His lips neatly sliced into a macabre grin-
He spits in my face.
thick thick saliva-
tastes like rusty metal i
wipe it and He
He digs His claws
in the back of my rib it
hurts and black black blood drips
on the stark white floor-
is this what we call art?
and if we do-
no deep breath deep breaths
i feel the life evaporating out of my lungs
i feel my veins surrendering my
eyes blurring and-
is this what they call beauty?
i pass out.
i move around-
float around the darkness.
i let it engulf me
i let it tear me apart.
and i think i’m alone but-
i open my eyes.
i feel the floor beneath my head
am i dead? no this isn’t eden.
or is it?
i feel Him moving
inside me i feel Him
somewhere, i hear pens scribbling.
somewhere, an infant dies.
somewhere, i hear music.
mozart presses against my burning flesh
and flows in my veins.
i sense a crescendo
(and the life slowly seeping out)
and with every note it
becomes harder to breathe harder
to hold on.
it grows it grows it grows and
i smile i see mozart i see him close his eyes
here i witness me dying here
self/ in slashes/
nostalgia sticks to the roof of my mouth
my tongue excitedly flaps around chapped lips
sounds of whirring printers and cackling staplers
ring in my ears, i tap my fingers on the desk-
half-chewed fingernails on moth-eaten wood,
unhinged tubelights flicker above
and i wander off to dusty memories
of when i was made of milk-toothed youth
and phosphorus, coiled like a fetus in
porcelain bathtubs filled to the brim
with lukewarm water.
stuffy car rides in summers/ sticky fingers/
made of saccharine and/ honey flavoured toffees/
the sun glinted/ through hardened glass windows/
leather seats/ that burned their souls/
plastic waterbottles/ that sang in their watery voices/
air conditioners/ spewed out icy air/
bryan adams/ bled out of the broken radio/
beads of sweat/ crawled through father’s eyebrows/
i wiped my forehead/ with the back of my hand/
moved my tongue gently/ across the rough surface/
of sharp-edged rock candies/ bobbed my head to soft rock/
and it sat there/ hidden beneath seat covers/
packed under bottlenecks/ muffled by lip-syncing lips/
heartbreak/ fleeting childhood/
i swiftly move my fingers through reams of paper,
licking the pale fingertips that taste like starch and death.
my mouth dry like sawdust.
i light up a cigarette,
melancholy madness rises up with heavy,
she enters my ribs.
armed with the ghosts of my childhood,
sweeping gently my diaphgram,
she gnaws at my liver, my right lung,
breaks it into swallowable cubes-
death is a woman, always.
the air was thick/ with jealousy/
yellow coloured/ school buses/
staggering up slowly to the hills/ to remote cottages/
on overpriced school trips/
the seats were torn at the edges/ they spat out yellow foam/
overweight children/ shuffled out of the metal doors/
stretching their arms/ plastic wrappers crunched under their feet/
we slept in warm camps/ in groups of four/
there was something sad/ about the way she had smiled/
i had loved her then/
the chemical taste of sandwiches/ burned through the air/
warm tomatoes and soggy bread/ mixed with amylase/
naked bodies floated around/ in chlorine-rich pools/
i wanted to drown/
and once again/
beneath piles of woolen clothes/
masked under the smell of tomatoes and chlorine/
there it was/ heartbreak/
i cried myself to sleep/ that night/
no one left school trips/ unscathed/
the night is young,
i make my way slowly to the subway,
soft fog looks pretty under
purple neon city lights.
i rub my palms together-
it’s cold outside.
it’s cold inside.
i rub i rub i
sickly smell of soft drinks/ swept through the air/
happy birthday/ the banner said in a happy font/
he blew the striped candles/ drops of saliva/
stuck to the frosting/ it was vanilla/
his mother/ plucked out the candles/
remnants of cake clung themselves/ to the wax/
i would lick them off/ later/
the walls faded/ to a pale yellow/
chairs screeched/ afraid of being dragged around/
i wore a checkered shirt/ red and blue/
wiped my wet hands/ on the soft fabric/
we were served/ cold noodles and warm cake/
i had gulped down the carbohydrates/ shamelessly/
fat thighs burned/ filled to the brim with lactic acid/
the air was moist/ something loomed over us/
mingling with the humidity/ something hideous/
i switch on the lights.
the room glows up in yellow illumination,
i wipe my moist eyes with the back of my sleeve-
i have left something behind,
and replaced it with the grief
of unborn memories.
and once again
i sleep through dimesions
and wake up in vibrant thoughts-
i had always hated the dark.
and once again i was floating
through/ faint yellow birthday-walls/
red wax candles/ i loved to lick/
through yellow school buses/ with the pain peeling off of them/
through old pages/ of worn out leather diaries/
through muddy playgrounds/ in monsoons/
falling off bicycles/ on hard concrete roads/
through broken toes/ that bled so crimson/
through cracked lips/ and torn tongues/
the lips had bled/ and i had sucked on them/
i had loved the sicksweet taste/ that reminded me of home/
this is home/ this is home/ this is