The Art of Shrinking

my lover once asked me
why my hands are always balled up in fists
as if want to punch the person next to me
or if it is a peculiarity that I picked while growing up
or if I simply like how my nails feel against the softness of my palm.

I am afraid I do not have answers.

why do I write poems with a pencil?
why does my heart behave like a madman, wanting to jump off the bridge of my ribs?
why does my stomach knit itself like grandma’s mittens, everytime that I think of living on?

how does one keep living on anyway?

I often find myself thinking of the end.
Not in a gruesome, ‘send-me-help’ kind of way, though.
I think of the simple things I hold dear
and how they would shatter beneath my feet like delicate glass menagerie,
break into stardust and scatter away in the vastness of the universe.

I have been thinking of all the small yet (in)significant deaths,
uncountable funerals of dreams and hopes
that one must host & attend
while they live on.

How profound is the knowledge
that today might be the last time my lips taste the coffee-stained lips of my lover.
or this might be the last glass of wine that I pour with my friends.

how does one live on
in the face of grief and loss
and ephemerality which hangs thick & heavy in the air.

what is living anyway
if not death prolonged?

ramblings of a madwoman

mad might not be an appropriate term to use.
pardon me, what is the most politically correct way
to say that I am going crazy?

Artwork by Philippe Caza

every-(wretched)-day, the afternoon sun rises.
light sieves through the dreamcatcher on my window
whose colourful mesh now attracts flies and nightmares.
the new day, in all its glory
mocks at my miseries.
in my room, gravity works in mysterious ways.
my body – part sadness, part smoke
stays pinned to the bed
as if it has been shackled to the chains of doom.

my mother once said
eating too much salt
can make the bones hollow.
is it possible
that my tears seep through my skin
and gnaw at my bones?
is that why
I can’t walk to the door?
is that why
my syllables melt away & my teeth fall off
before I could cry for help?

my lover says
he is worried for me.
I reassure him.
it’s not like I would try to take my life.

but tomorrow when
I am gazing at the moon with a cigarette between my fingers and friends in my arms-
I am lying on his chest and listening to the lullaby of his heart –
I am grazing my fingers through my dog’s hair and resting on my mother’s lap –
and death comes to me
a gentle push, a burning meteor, a speeding truck
nevertheless, a sweet respite…

what if?

a midsummer night’s dream

Phantom Limb by Aaron Gilbert

on a land faraway
in a quaint village on the hills,
I have built us a home
with straw-bale and sunshine

where all notions of space & time
melt into a puddle in the depth of your eyes.

we eat sausages and beans for lunch
and I dance my day away in your arms.
ocassionally, I touch you from across the room
with a smile.

I have often heard the neighbors complain
‘oh, what a wretched couple!
their house always smells
of hopes and fresh filter coffee
and is abuzz with music, laughter and moans!’

on a land faraway
in a quaint village on the hills,
I have built us a home
with clay and comfort

where, in a state of constant embrace
our bodies heave as one.

I write my name
on the satin of your skin
as you lie in a deep slumber;
my night sky filled with moles and stardust.

I have often heard the neighbors complain
‘oh, what a wretched couple!
what are they so happy about all the time?’

– S, 2021

Rajnigandha

fumes of loneliness seep into my lungs
melancholia makes home in my bones.

it is the time of the year again;
the month of empty streets
when winds blow from the gardens of the Sun.
the month of wilted Rajnigandhas
and weary dreams.

it is the time of the year again;
the winds from the land of Sun
hiss through a crowded platform
blow away a tattered cloth covering a woman’s corpse
and throw dust in the eyes of her child playing beside.
the month of dusty glass panes
and festering wounds.

fumes of loneliness seep into my lungs
melancholia makes home in my bones.

an envelope of dust settles on my books
my grandmother’s old saree
my father’s first polaroid camera
and my heart.

when did I hold them last?

ambulances whiz past
my phone chimes with memories of yesteryear.
another night dawns.
a crescent moon gleams in the sky.

the Rajnigandhas shall bloom again.

– Sanchita Dwivedi, 2021

Daydreams

Starin slowly ‘cross the sky, said goodbye by Ana Segovia

In a different world
we put the stars on snooze
and stay in bed a little longer.
Against the translucent curtains
a streak of sunbeam breaks on your face
into a thousand glorious particles of resplendence.
Your fingers trace the longitude of my spine
as my lips sleep locked with yours;
the quiet of a summer morning
only being disturbed by the whizz of air conditioner
and our intermittent breaths.

In a different world
we throw our phones into water
and waltz to patchy jazz records
endlessly, across the living room
as the air saturate with the aroma of
over-ripe mangoes & thai green.

In a different world
we put our watches away
and wash the dishes a little slower.
I linger on the countertop
dusting ash into a makeshift tray
while we discuss the politics of love.

In a different world
the flames of urgent passion
are doused with the certainty of domestic.
Surfeit with the mundanities of an ancient affair
our bodies lie apart, away
solitary in their togetherness
together in their solitude.
Our feet touch each other
as your hands sheild my face from the sun.
I turn around to fix my eyes on the stray grey brow
and seek refuge in the familiar warmth of your neck.

In a different world
I would stay the night
week, month
and the lifetime after.

In this world
would you wait ?

– S, 2020

Paper-Cuts

Art by Tito Merello Vilar

(tw : abuse, trauma)

On good days,
I define my trauma.
I remember & talk of it
as a stubborn creeper
I have sprayed enough weedicide on
to not bother me anymore.
I walk past the alleys of my past
carefully avoiding the pungent puddles of abuse
pushing past the demons-
some, uninvited
some, of my own making.

On bad days —-
well..

(Pardon, how much trauma qualifies as bad trauma?)

There are days,
the trauma robs me of
my very last syllable.
I turn a prisoner of my own parasites
as they crawl between the membranes of my skin
swiftly marking their pathways red
with delicate cracker-thin lacerations.
Blood & tears vapourise to smoke
only to attain voices that I dread.
The moonbeam breaks into sharp shards of glass
faithfully reflecting upon faces –
faces I had held & trusted
faces I had loved the laughter on.
Among them all
there’s also a face I barely hold any memory of.
As nightmares knock on the back of my head
a stench of tobacco fills my nostrils.
My throat burns with the familiarity of a distinct rum
while a cacophony of muffled sobs hang heavy in the air.

Tomorrow,
I will walk on the lilac skies of hope
hop on a bridge of rainbow that leads to the Sun
and whisk myself a frothy mug of cumulus.
Tomorrow,
maybe, just maybe
I will look my trauma in the eye
and smile my way past it.

But today,
canoeing alone through the velvet labyrinths of the night
has to be enough –
one row at a time.

-Sanchita Dwivedi, 2020

Bullets

• Somewhere in Japan
a craftsman fills the crevices of a broken pot
with golden lacquer:
kintsugi – to repair with gold
a beautiful art of celebrating scars.

Somewhere, a few lifetimes away
my lover kisses the bruise on my calf.

The pot & I are one.

Art – October • Entrance to a Quarry by Tabrez

• A child’s tricycle bell chimes in distance
as we lie against each other
lulled by the gentle exhaustion of lovemaking.
It puts me in awe
how perfectly our hearts, minds, and bodies
are designed to fit-
like specks of stardust
floating independently in a galaxy of solitude
only to come together –
significant in their own insignificance
in the grander scheme of the universe.

• The world is a blueprint of serendipities
a gorgeous mess of people
waiting to cross paths with each other.
Yet what a privilege it is
to stumble upon you-
a pair of arms to collapse in
eyes, to spill dreams into
a heart to call home.

• To write using bullets
is a weird way of writing poems.
To write poems
is a weirder way to manifest love.
One can only hope
that the muse gets them right.

• Again, to call this love
is an understatement.
A strange four lettered word
to suffice for what’s raging in my blood.
Do I love you?
I (will-bruise-and-break-myself-multiple-times-to-be-touched-by-you) you.
I (shall-keep-floating-in-oblivion-until-I-find-the-brilliance-of-your-smile) you.
I (will-build-a-new-world-only-to-run-into-you) you.
I (fuck-bullet-fonts-I-will-take-real-ones-for-you) you.

I love you.

– S, 2020

five ways to kill your lover

1- wake them up with soft kisses
as the sunlight hits their face
and breaks into a thousand particles of stardust.
take their hand and
lead them to the mirror.
undress them slowly and gradually
slowly enough
to let them chew & digest
their own reflection.
make sure that your fingers run
all over their scars:
the thick blue-black one on their left calf
from the time their father pressed their skin
against the exhaust pipe of his bike;
the knot of the tissues
where the slits on their thighs meet;
the stretch marks on their shoulder blade
from an era when anorexia starved them to
‘four-sizes-down’ in high school.
Then, in a blink, all at once,
reveal your body
in all its resplendent pristinity
unscathed, unscarred.
Watch then revel in your body
and look back (down?) on their own.
Leave a kiss on the corner of their lips
and walk away.
Do not speak a single word,
do not.

2- as you both fight
and shatter expensive cutlery and cheap dreams,
make sure that you do not slam doors and leave.
make sure that you stay back
to make them a cup of hot chocolate
and sit by their side
as they cry on your shoulders
and struggle to hide their guilt away
beneath your neck.
take their head in your hand
and hear them apologize
and thank you and apologize
over and over again
and as they do so,
lightly, whisper into their ears
that how you are different from all the other lovers
they had taken in the past.
Repeat it religiously after every single fight
every single day
between gasps of love-making
so that when you leave,
they won’t be able to kiss another pair of lips
without feeling the warmth of your tongue in their mouth
that they won’t be able to frame a sentence
without making it sound like an apology or a thank-you note.
drown them in gratitude.

3- when they go on a trip
stop tending to their house-plants
and
abandon their pets.
give their cat a nice tuna meal
a bowl of warm milk
and leave it to its fate
in a distant neighborhood.
when they get back,
tell them that the cat ran away
and you spent days in despair
searching for it
and you are sorry
for when you were out looking, the plants died.
they will be so busy cooking you a meal
and blaming themself,
that they’ll forget to grieve over their pet.
what could be crueler
than snatching away one’s chance to mourn?
before you eat the food they made
season it generously with remorse
and say how you should have brought
dogs & succulents instead.
make everything about you.

4- listen to them, always.
listen as they tell you
how they spent their nights inside the cupboard
when they were eight
hoping to escape the cacophony of their parents’ arguments.
listen as they tell you how their old lover ridiculed them
for reading too less
for eating too less
for fucking too less
for being, just too less.
and the next time you want to talk,
shout instead.
scream, at the top of your lungs
till they crouch on the ground
eyes closed, hands on their ears.
make sure that there are no cupboards in the house
and ask them if they think that they are enough.
pry & feed on their weakness.

5- and even though you have mastered enough ways,
the trick is never to kill and always to keep.
make love to them in old bookstores
pour them rum in their favorite mug
dance with them to Presley
remember the exact number of peppercorns to grind into their morning tea
and never leave.
with enough time and food,
animals in slaughterhouse too,
begin to believe that they are cared for.
humans are no different.
you see,
some people are hungry for love
or anything that remotely resembles it.
stay. pretend. stay.

– Sanchita Dwivedi, 2019

Art- Tiina Menzel

Absolutes

I see the world in white and black.
I have never known colors.
The asphalt of the night
bites gently into the
vanilla of the day,
swirling gracefully
like edible liquid charcoal
in a glass of white froth;
like a hungry amoeba
engulfing its prey.

I see the world in white and black.
The universe exists in absolutes.
Out beyond the paradox of black hole
lie hidden the theories of a white hole.
No one is in the quest of a unicorn island,
you see?

I see the world in white and black.
The way I like my coffee;
on some days, I go all black, no sugar
on some days, I pour out the bottle of cream
though later that day,
I lock myself in a bathroom and puke my guts out:
anorexia is real.
I have memorised the recipe of my life.
5 tablespoons of melancholy,
a quarter tablespoon of joy;
a dash of Kohl on sleepless white canvas,
there’s no place for grey.

– Sanchita Dwivedi, 2019

Art: Dibyush Jena

The Odds of Falling In Love

What are the odds
that I would die without you?
Zero.

I was 15
when my high school sweetheart
left me on my knees
as I begged him to stay
with a huge greeting card on the floor,
a trembling heart in my hands,
and everything else that I had.
What I had thought
to be wounds from barbed wires
were but mere bruises,
and scars on my wrist from a new blade laced with antiseptic,
which healed with time.

No one dies without anyone,
you see?

I was 18
and this time, god, it was fierce.
It was the kind of love
that kept me on the edge;
a knife whose pointed edge
just dug in deeper and deeper,
and before I knew,
love tore up my insides
put up a crazy ballet show,
except it had bridles on its legs
instead of ballerina shoes.
It bled but love bleeds
doesn’t it; (?)
so, I wore my abuse
as a crown of euphorbia milli
and I used its thorns to prick my eyes;
I understand why Oedipus used the pins
of his wife’s robe to blind himself;
when in love,
even the weapon of inflicting pain
looks like a souvenir of affection,
a bittersweet respite.

No one learns anything from a broken heart,
you see?

So, what if I have laid out
my diseased heart with all its blue-red broken veins,
pieces of an old greeting card,
chunk of a rusted blade,
shreds of my soul,
and an assortment of whatever is left of me,
carefully on a platter for you to relish?
So, what if I have collected
the dust & debris of my heartwrecks,
and put them in a beautiful mason jar
filled with the moonlight of my dreams,
for you to flaunt on the shelf of your living room?

What are the odds
that you would accept my offering?

What are the odds
that you, too, would fall in love with me?

And if, my darling, you do not;
what are the odds
that I would die without you?
Nevermind, zero;
heartbreaks are a cliche, after all.

-Sanchita Dwivedi, 2019

Image Credits: Giulia Rosa