beeswithhoneycombcandacewheeler

 

to give something a name of affection is to control how it makes you feel

blind fools, contentious blind fools!

nothing touches.

spin close to the breath and spin right off.

creating more of what there already was.

distance.

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i’m a mess these days

and these days are melting away

like candles on the back porch

in the heat of july

 

it’s only june still

i’ve leaped ahead of myself

i’ve made notes and revised

and welcomed the crippling fear a few weeks early

 

it comes with perks, the subconscious montage,

it comes with the tune for a morbid little lullaby :

 

who will die, who will die in july

father, step father, friend, feline?

who will die, die and die,

in stationary,

somber, arid july?

 

 

 

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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?

A sheltered hibiscus

I wasn’t trying to be perturbed by his hairy, wide pot belly, or the dirt in his nails. The image only made me feel that way. I took shelter in his cramped shop from the rain. I thought then…

I should have stayed in the rain. 

The grey skies wept and wept that morning, and I had woken too late to catch the report on the radio. I had to rush. The interview wouldn’t wait for the rain. Until the text came in while I fidgeted on the bus.

Aisha, will have to meet you at 10am, the rain is holding me up

I exhaled relief as the congested bus jerked to a stop. I had time to dry off from running to the first bus stand, and maybe find a coffee stall, if anything was functioning on such a hazardous morning, that is. But the wolves in heaven growled, then huffed, then puffed. My dupatta wasn’t pinned to the kameez material on my shoulders. Nevermind the dupatta, I felt lighter than air, ready to be blown away. So I stepped into the shop, because it looked open for business.

Why did he have to look so menacing, hungry? Why was he sweating on such a windy, wet day? He watched me step in, I know he did. He smiled too, which made the acid in my empty stomach intensify.

“Ridiculous, isn’t it, this rain? “

I nodded fast and turned to face the road so he wouldn’t think I wanted to continue with small talk, or any kind of talk, or acknowledgment.

This probably isn’t a good idea. 

If I have my back turned to him, I wouldn’t see an attack coming. I wasn’t so not street savvy. I studied most of the time, inside my two bedroom house. Turning to the side, resting my left elbow on the glass counter, I decided, was the angle at which I would not be ferociously attacked by this shirtless, fat, bald man in his dusty blue sarong. They never wear anything underneath. I shudder. From the cold and other fears.

“You are drenched, daughter. Should I get you a cloth or a towel or something? “

The cheeriness in voice escaped me, so did the concern. I only heard a rasp. I am not his daughter. Why do middle aged people want to own you by titling you as family?

“No. “

He let me by myself, quietly for some time, and retreated to the back room.

Where he could storing some kind of weapon, or some kind of chemical…

He came back out with something long and red in his hand. No, orange.

“I noticed you don’t have an umbrella or a rain coat. This is my wife’s umbrella. Use it. “

I took it.

Say thank you Aisha. 

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it, daughter. I woke up late today, opened up shop late too and I forgot to turn on the radio to listen to the weather report. These days come and go. Strange, uneven days. Don’t they.”

I nod, smiling. That’s when I get a look at what he has in the glass case of his shop. He’s a baker. His fingers are covered in a sticky film of dough, that’s what he smells like too. I wish he had a shirt on though. A wife beater, at least.

“I better get back to the kitchen. The rain will stop soon and customers will come in around lunch time. People get hungry for bread during the colder seasons. You take care now. ”

“I will bring the umbrella back. “

“You can if you want. I don’t think the wife will mind if you don’t though. “

I stayed a while, until the shower ceased. He wasn’t in the front to wish him a good day. I regret not smiling a little more, not doing a little something more to show my gratitude, because I never returned the umbrella. I hope his wife isn’t upset. She must have liked the hibiscus pattern on the rim. I do too.

 

 

 

Chugging chai

The chugging slowed and stopped with a last screech. The suited mustache on the opposite bench stood up to step off the carriage, so I took his seat by the window. The distressed leather was warm from his body, but the air outside chilled the metal window pane, stiffened the black hairs on my arm before I could secure my pashmina over my head and around my shoulders. I wasn’t going to leave the spot. The surest way to travel alone is to stare out through the window until your station arrives.

I wasn’t sure what station we were at and I didn’t bother to look, much less ask. And there was the nine year old shirtless boy, selling ginger chai and biskut along the cold damp platform. It was chilly and early enough for a saucer full, maybe two. I poked my head out, a few centimeters, my drowsy sleep deprived lids folding up, eyes on the chai boy. The chai boy? Chotu? I would buy his chai and ask him his name. Not that it mattered, we may never meet again.

The sleeping man on the bench opposite mine stirs and shifts, his right arm hanging out of the window as if in a sling. I panicked for a second. Will he shift again before the train starts to move? Am I supposed to wake him up now? I look around. Just he and I in this compartment. How do I wake him? I shuffle my dupatta nervously and squirm in my seat. My journey was going smoothly until then. I can’t let this man sleep like this. How can he stand the cold morning winds cutting his bare skin? How is he so soundly asleep? When I start to recall, he’d been asleep the entire time, ever since I got on board. Four hours exactly. I clear my throat, nervously. Not helpful. I drag my shoe on the floor board. Nothing. Is he dead? No, I see his chest rise and fall. His beard is a brilliant black, thick and unkempt. His arms slightly muscular, and I could tell his eyes were large and slightly bulging from the expanse of his eye lids. A sharp nose, even a bow shaped upper lip..and then I saw his clothes. Dirt on what could be a white shirt and worn out jeans. He was dressed the part, exhausted. I began to feel sorry for him. And then.

Akka, did you want some tea? Good tea, warm warm tea. Only 10 rupees one saucer. Akka, will you take?”

I awoke, my co passenger didn’t. The chai boy was here.

“What is your name?”

“Ha?”

He didn’t understand the question.

“What is your name?”

He grins.

“Spiderman, akka.”

I smile back.

“Ey Mr.Spiderman. Will you ask this aiya if he wants some chai too?”

He nods, smile unfaltering. Spiderman taps his fingernail on the side of the train carriage.

Aiya! Will you have tea?”

Nothing.

“Is he asleep, akka?”

“Yes.”

Spiderman taps him on the arm, finally, waking him up with these words.

“Oh aiya. It is not safe to ride a train like this. Your arm will get ripped off…haha!”

The sleeping stranger was awake now. He looked at the boy, annoyed and then at me. He has stunning eyes, masked by a scary frown. His features softened when he saw me, so I adjusted the pashmina and looked away. He stood up and exited the compartment.

“Two cups chai.”

Spiderman obliged, slightly amused by his morning so far. He gave me two saucers and skipped off to the next carriage. When the sleeping stranger returned from the rest room, looking like he’d washed his face, I handed him the saucer in my right hand.

“How much do I owe you?”

His voice was cracking to wake, like sunlight through the clouds.

“Nothing.”

Why couldn’t I look at him. My eyes couldn’t handle the weight of his? It wouldn’t have hurt to look at him when he spoke to me. Would it have? He should have gone back to sleep. I should have never bought him the tea. I could look at him when he wasn’t aware.

“Thank you.”

Quiet. The train picked up and started on it’s way again, both saucers of chai were emptied and nothing more was spoken.