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Dingy dusty corners

were once places

where the specks danced in the rays

fluttered to the ground

and sighed deep

a permanent sort of fall.

If I were to gather the specks

in my hands

they’d be stained

and I would start to dance

until the rays pierce

softly through my excitable flesh

Particles, particles,

spread across my palms

dancing, dancing

cutting through light and places

dingy, dusty figures

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Do you believe in your worth

when someone picks you up

from side walks and alleys

and dungeons of guilt?

Is there a way to steer clear

of the singing mermen

with their glistening chests

undoubtedly sprinkled with

laughter and gold?

What age have you reached

where you see and feel

only the froth of the beer

not the rush to your head

even if you’re still an early twenty?

What other words exist

to describe a fallen bird

with a clipped wing and a bleeding eye

and a passion for song?

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“Nurse, hand me the scalpel.”

Mumtaz scowled, wiped her dripping brow and handed her brother the letter opener she stole from her Big Mama’s trunk of of important things.

“Why do you always get to be the doctor?”

It didn’t make sense and it certainly wasn’t fair that after stealing the letter opener and killing the gecko with her own hands, even being careful not to squish it’s vital organs, Shine got to be the surgeon.

“Don’t distract me, I’m concentrating.”

If her mother was around, she would say, “Because boys are not supposed to be sissy nurses.” and that would be the end of that conversation. Thankfully, her mother was away on some mysterious errand, wearing her best dress. Big Mama was at the hospital too and all the other less significant adults in the house were away. Her father brought over their cousin Shine after school on Friday evening so he could spend the weekend with them. Mumtaz and her older sister Nawty never understood why they had to play with Shine during the weekends. He was less their cousin and more their very distant cousin. Mumtaz didn’t verbally complain about him though, because only he was up to playing what she wanted to play, things Nawty would never indulge in. But that day, under the merciless scorch of the July afternoon sun, Mumtaz was losing her patience just standing around and being the nurse. Especially because Shine didn’t have the stealth or strength to wack a pillow at the wall to kill an unsuspecting gecko.

She heard Shine tsk.

“What?”

“It’s too small. The insides are too small. We should have caught a frog.”

“I told you we should have used one of Mama’s big safety pins!”

“Let’s catch a frog!”

He’d already let the letter opener fall to the ground, as he looked up at his sister from a squatting position, squinting at the harshness of the sun’s rays. He was the most ridiculous surgeon Mumtaz ever saw. When she accompanied her Big Mama at the hospital, she saw real surgeons, ladies and even gentlemen who took babies out of mothers. And when she asked if that man was a nurse, to which her Big Mama nonchalantly nodded her head, Mumtaz was elated with a wisdom she knew her own mother did not possess.

“No. It’s too hot. I’m going inside!”

As she made her way back into their small front yard she heard Shine yell, irritation and rejection in his voice.

“You’re so black anyway, the sun has already roasted you!”

Mumtaz ignored her stupid cousin brother. He thought that if he used the kind of insults that the adults used on her, he would seem superior. It never prickled Mumtaz because she was sure of how clueless he was. If she were less thirsty, maybe she would have yelled back.

“Go back to your own house! We don’t want you here! You are not our real brother!”

But those thoughts crumbled away in the dry heat when she entered their small home and saw the clay pot lidded with a stainless steel plate. She licked her lips thinking of how cool the water was in there.

“Nawty?”

Mumtaz thought her sister was inside the house, reading as she often does on the weekends. But their weekends have changed since Nawty turned thirteen. She started to accompany her mother on trips to heaven knows where. They returned late in the evening, somehow, just before Big Mama returned from the hospital. Mumtaz took big painful gulps of the cool water as she tried to imagine where Mama and Nawty could be off to all day. She was a little jealous too.

Her meditation was grossly interrupted by a painful jab around her mouth. Shine had pushed the steel cup towards her face to wake her from her concentration, thereby gracefully sending Mumtaz into a coughing fit while she flailed her arms in an attempt to smack her brother – cousin brother.

“What the hell is wrong with you!”

A question best left unanswered, she thought as she used the sleeve of her blouse to wipe her face. So she asked a more valid question.

“Why does Dada even bring you here? Don’t you have other brothers and sisters you can play with at the Kalubowila house?”

Shine took his own cup of water and sat down cross legged on the cool cement floor, with his back to the ageing wall. He knew the answer to her question. He’d recently overheard a conversation Mumtaz’s father had with his mother. Well, the woman he thought was his mother. His new mother, the one he learned about recently, the real one apparently, was currently off with his oldest sister, somewhere, heaven knows where. Shine really enjoyed coming over to play with Mumtaz and even more now, since he found out that they were real brother and sister. She was annoying but he got to be the boss of the all games, whereas at the Kalubowila house, he had many older brothers and sisters who took turns being the boss.

Still, he liked living in the Kalubowila house. It was big and he always got food to eat and tea with biscuits in the evenings. Here on Fuzzels Lane, food was constantly sparse and as much as he enjoyed nicking his sisters’ food right off their plates, his stomach was never completely full. Never full enough to take a long nap after lunch. Worse than that, he knew that the only real nice person in this house was Big Mama. He’d seen the scars and marks on Mumtaz’ face and arms. He knows that those are what happens to any child who is at this house on the unfortunate night that either Big Papa or Mumtaz’ father comes home drunk. He’d only overheard the stories from the mouths at the Kalubowila house but when he came over one Friday evening to Fuzzels Lane and saw the gash on Mumtaz’ neck and the glowing red lines on her skinny arms, his fears were confirmed. So every Sunday evening, even though he was a little sad, he was mostly relieved to be going back home to his first mother. The one who cares for him and feeds him. The one who has never pulled a belt on him.

“You should just stay in Kalubowila where you belong.”

Maybe she was right. He certainly didn’t want to belong in Fuzzels Lane even if Mumtaz’ parents were also his parents. What did it matter anymore, his sisters would never believe it. Mumtaz would roll around on the ground, clutching her ribs with laughter if he ever told her. He decided to change the subject.

“What time are Big Papa and your Dada coming back?”

He saw his sister retreat from herself. She stood up from sitting on the kitchen chair and slinked to her Big Mama’s tiny bed, where she felt safe from this question.

“How should I know?”

She turned away from him and started to pick at something on the cream colored bed sheet. Shine realized he asked the wrong question in an innocent attempt to argue about something else. The two of them knew and somehow didn’t know that they had far too much to hurt each other with even though they were only eleven and twelve years old.

Fall through

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Perspective

is that soft suggestive breeze

that utters itself

through the mouth

of a friend

who means no harm

Mind the gap between his

two front teeth

as I lean in to kiss him

out of habit.

A force stronger than

the tickle of a breeze

“The kiss, it’s only in your head, “

whispers the wind,

“Memory is just as suggestive, no?”

No!

Memory trickles down into my skin,

embeds in my nerves,

gets to every tip and follicle

Mind the gap

between his presence and his memory

As you lean in to kiss him,

the fog engulfs and

you fall right through.

Black and mould.

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If I had to see you again

I wouldn’t, simply out of fear.

 

Would we still have it?

That soft fluid burning on a thread

between us

each end tied to the pit of our stomachs.

 

And what if it isn’t there anymore?

I would perish all over again, I would mourn,

I would turn to black and mould.

And then there would be the other questions.

 

Did it take a marriage to forget me or just an afternoon?

Did you have to exorcise my memory and feed them

to your demons?

And where do you keep the carcass?

 

Mine sleeps beside me, snuggled,

as you did,

almost every night.

You stay, I’ll go

your future is a map

endless possibilities,

mine doesn’t have you

it simply ends.

 

i have to find something

i have to find an everyday

a sense, some contentedness

 

no, you will stay, i will go

to feel less rejected i suppose

to feel like you were a stop

on the way…

 

…and on the way

to feeling better

i will pass you by

just passing by

 

Glitter,glitter,fake gold.

 

so here’s why

i wrote in a book

and called it a diary

even when i had friends

who said i could tell them

anything.

their secrets

and mine were

different,

their shame was

studded with glitter

and giggles,

my shame was none of that.

the change that

jingled in my pockets

were for three bus rides home,

sometimes my jingles

would merge with the jingles

of all their lost cell phones.

why don’t you want to

hang out,

chill,

have fun,

join us?

i

i don’t

can’t.

i wrote that they had everything

i hate that i wanted their everything

being like them would have been possible then.

i wrote that i was

the break in the link

the bend in the imitation gold

the rusty bit,

the inconsistency in the ring.

my reality was not theirs

their hardships, i failed to see

what fun we had as friends

what frivolity we passed around

my touch lingering

i guess i stayed to feel like them

i left when i went back to read my

own words

in my own diary

of my own life,

echoing my own reality.

Curve, color, repeat

 

Purple. That is what I think the color of ripples are. I don’t know what purple is the way people know what purple is, neither am I familiar with blue, as water is described.But if the ripple of water must have a color, it has to be purple.

I was born from the curse of denatured alcohol, completely blind. Mama has been put away for the knots in her mind. I was also put away for the very same knots many years ago. Since then, I have tried to stay afloat.

Water caresses the thickness of my skin. When I am submerged, the cold fluid embraces the tire rings of my belly, the miles of stretch marks starting from my ass to my well cushioned carpels and all of my chins. I have never seen what I look like, yet being in water is what it’s like to those who seek rewards in mirrors.

My reflection is a bright white. White reflects all colors is the word on the street. I curve into myself, fetal position and uncurl repeatedly, but very slowly. The curve of the curves on my bones will go on curving until I am infinite. There is no trajectory as light bounces off my vessels and veins, hairs and nails, all the colors, slowly and one by one. I am the disco ball in the salty ocean. And since I have no memory of a moon or a sun, I challenge them to match my brightness.

He and his loud friends called me an old walrus when we were all 12. So here I am, I came to the ocean. I met the tide and her waves, and now there is nothing else to hear.

The ocean rumbles and belches, just like I do.

Red.

The ocean gets nervous, starts to think in strong currents, the way I do when I’m alone, and when I’m not.

Orange.

The ocean shivers and shakes and dances to songs of the winds much like the way I can’t help but try to bend, blend, bend in.

Yellow.

The ocean has a bed that goes deeper and deeper and gets softer and softer to stand on. The recesses of my mind and the tunnels in my heart, they start like hot sand and end like cold silt. A little more refined, more knowing.

Green.

The ocean has a temperament that I feel I can match because nobody can see the way I see. They only see what they see.

Blue.

The ocean is fierce on the surface, but once my ears feel the pressure of water, the mighty sea and I sigh and sigh together. We celebrate joy and loss, the subtleties together.

Indigo.

The ocean is all that is there for the ocean. I am all I have too.

Violet.

Where is the purple? It’s somewhere between indigo and violet, somewhere far from sandy shores, miles under water, between my jiggly thighs, behind my hazy cornea, somewhere ensconced in safety. It is also loud and defiant, resonating from the hairs all over my body, making the water ripple. Small ripples first, then waves. Those ripples are purple. Only the blind can see that purple.

 

~fin~