Audio: Read by the author.
The tin roof of the hospital has claw marks—
The kind you left on your thigh
That awful night when no one could come near you.
On the road from the hospital
You pass me the prescription—Same?
I peer then nod, shortsighted already.
You crane your neck, point out rain clouds
Noke—the sky has pink streaks shiny as a shell.
You always saw those things so well
You were the artistic one, keen and lovely.
I was your shadow self, strolling into water
Lying in wait for boys
So they could burn away the hurt in me
My hair black and angular
Cut into wedge shapes, flapping like sails.
At six you hid in the attic
Scrawling half-inch creatures
Scarlet word balloons jostling their lips,
Radiant ciphers no one could tell
Your imaginary friends, Susie Kali with corkscrew curls,
Mad Thoma axe in hand.
Sometimes you gathered stray cats, fed them milk
From Mama’s refrigerator, bits of bread soaked in honey
You sang to them O Shenandoah
Your voice rising to the locust trees.
This road is covered with rocks and dirt
Buses with pilgrims hurtle past
You squint at a boy pedalling his cycle rickshaw
Close, far too close, drops of mud splatter us both.
You lean sideways, touch my cheek—
Let’s live in Kochi by the sea
Find a house with a white balcony,
I think the angels will call on me.